Mr. Motel announced that the Planning Commission members planted trees on Earth Day weekend in the PA Turnpike right of way off Morehall Road across from Whitehorse Road as a beautification project.
No matters were brought forward at this time.
Mr. Allen indicated that the reference to Frank Alleva should be Tom Alleva. With this change, Mr. Motel moved to approve the April 14, 2009 minutes and Mr. Allen seconded. Mr. Motel called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Tim Townes was present from J. Loew & Associates to briefly display a minor change to sketch alternative #4 for the Tyler Griffin Tract showing a reorientation of two buildings along the center green that will be designed with two fronts and a wrap around porch in response to a comment made by Ms. Peck at the last meeting.
Design Review Committee (DRC) Chairman Mike Allen provided an update on Spring Oaks, indicating that Dewey Homes introduced their architectural consultants from Barton Associates from Norristown at the last meeting. Barton Associates will create the design manual for Spring Oaks while Dewey Homes prepares the engineered site plan. Mr. Comitta explained that the Township TND ordinance provides a general manual, but the applicant creates the specific manual for their site.
Mr. Motel asked when they anticipate completing the manual, and Mr. Comitta said it would probably take three to four months.
Mr. Allen noted that the DRC is holding back to back meetings 2 - 3 hours in length with Dewey Homes beginning at 8:00 am for Spring Oaks, followed by J. Loew & Associates for Tyler Griffin. The next meeting is scheduled for May 26th at 1:00 pm.
Mr. Allen noted that the DRC itself will be consulting with an architect when they begin the process of reviewing design manuals for the TND applicants.
Jason Honesty of the Exeter Group, Mike Murray, Esq. and Neal Camens, P.E. of Chester Valley Engineers were present to discuss proposed additional parking to accommodate the flex space at the former Decision One building at 3222 Phoenixville Pike.
Mr. Camens turned over the proofs of notification to abutting property owners to the Secretary.
Mr. Honesty said the building is a 200,000 sq. ft. flex building that is currently supported by 500 parking spaces. They propose a new parking lot with 231 spaces and a reconfiguration of the existing spaces to provide 1,000 total spaces.
Mr. Honesty indicated that aside from some technical items he is in agreement with the review letters from the consultants. Issues involve the reutilization of the back of the building and the green islands at the end of parking rows. He said they can address the routine stormwater management and landscape comments directly with the consultants.
Mr. Motel asked if the preliminary plan will need any conditional use approvals, and Mr. Camens said no. Mr. Kohli agreed, stating that flex space is a principal permitted use in the I/O District.
Mr. Motel said there are still concerns about the truck traffic in the back, and Mr. Camens said he brought a handout to address this.
Mr. Camens said they can’t entice new tenants if they can’t prove the parking is available, and since the tenants can’t wait for future land development approval, the applicant wants to have it ready now to meet the demands of the market. The proposed new parking area would be held in reserve and only constructed if needed.
Mr. Camens referred to four exhibits, including a sketch of the existing conditions, Exhibit A–Preliminary Land Development Plan, Exhibit B and Exhibit C. He showed the location of Aegeon in the northwest corner and Accutone in the opposite corner. (Mr. Churchill arrived at this time). Exhibit C demonstrates how truck access would be handled if needed. He said they don’t want to construct the landscaping islands for one tenant then find they have to be removed for the next. Mr. Reis asked if there was a way to construct the islands without impeding access to the docks. Mr. Honesty didn’t respond to this question but noted the docks themselves can be easily converted to windows for office use and back to bays as needed for warehouse use.
Mr. Allen asked if he anticipates the plan evolving into all office use, and Mr. Honesty said that would be highly unlikely, though in the short term he wants to be prepared for maximum office use.
Mr. Allen said he’s concerned with the large amount of parking, noting that the ordinance requires 4 spaces per 1,000 square feet and the applicant wants 5 per 1,000. In order to create the 5 spaces, the applicant wants waivers from the landscape island requirements, in effect seeking an upfront guarantee they can get the maximum parking without a specific plan for the building’s use submitted for review. Mr. Motel asked if the Township can choose to deny the waivers and Mr. Kohli said yes. Mr. Honesty said much of the asphalt is already there, and they want to preserve the green areas until needed. Mr. Motel asked what the plan would look like if they designed it according to the 4 spaces per 1,000 sq. ft. as required in the ordinance. Mr. Camens said their preference is to eliminate the need for the additional pavement in the wooded area, which would also trigger a new stormwater management plan. They’d rather find a way to utilize existing pavement, hence the request for landscaping waivers. He indicated where they propose islands outside of the truck lanes.
Mr. Motel said the Planning Commission normally wants the applicant to minimize parking, not maximize it and increase the number of people working there. He asked what percentage of the site would be impervious surface. Mr. Camens said if they did the entire expansion, it would be 42.7%, and the limit is 45%. Mr. Motel asked what was netted out from this calculation, and Mr. Camens responded 100% of the rights of way, easements, wetlands and very steep slopes, 75% of the flood plain outside the wetland, and 25% of the steep slopes.
Mr. Honesty addressed item #5 on Mr. Kohli’s review letter dated 4/29/09, which indicates the Township has flexibility in considering reducing the parking stall size from 10 x 20 to 9 x 20 feet. Mr. Allen indicated the Planning Commission finds the 9’ x 20’ size acceptable.
There was some question over whether the existing use is an existing non-conforming use that would require a waiver from the zoning hearing board from the landscape requirements due to expansion of nonconformity, or whether the use is conforming and would only require a waiver from the Board of Supervisors.
Mr. Murray said the ordinance requires a minimum of 30% office space in a flex building, but doesn’t provide a minimum warehouse space, thereby allowing the building to be 100% office space. Mr. Churchill said this is why in the past the Planning Commission always asked the applicant if their plan can accommodate 100% office when presenting the initial land development proposal. Mr. Kohli said the original plan shows it was able to convert up to 50% office space, and for more than this, the applicant would have to return to the Township for further approval. Mr. Camens agreed they could bring the building to 50%/50% with existing conditions, but they’re coming in for the further approval as Mr. Kohli described. Mr. Kohli said the Planning Commission has the right to require all islands and other landscaping in the parking areas at the time of redevelopment of the office space. Mr. Honesty said if he knew he would convert to 100% office space, he’d put in the islands now. Mr. Motel said they can increase to 750 spaces without building the new lot. Mr. Churchill reiterated that the Township doesn’t want to see the impervious coverage increase if it’s not necessary. Mr. Allen asked how many additional spaces they’ll yield converting the existing spaces to 9’ x 20’. He said he doesn’t want to see parking built before it’s needed, and asked how to get equivalent green space that works with flex space. He noted the plan shows corner islands but questions how big trucks will get around them. He added these corner islands don’t equate to the islands required by the ordinance. He suggested they design a sketch showing a way to group the landscaping, as well as a sketch showing a by-right parking plan. Mr. Honesty suggested supplying some planting off site, but Mr. Motel said it’s not needed considering the Township’s stringent tree replacement ordinance.
Mr. Motel said if 9’ stalls are allowed to maximize the number of parking spaces, he’s not sure he wants to also allow the additional lot to be built.
Mr. Churchill asked if there’s anything else that can be done to offset the impacts of impervious surface coverage. Mr. Honesty said they could add some green space at the stair openings, but providing landscaping along the center line back parking area remains a problem. Mr. Motel asked about a green roofing system. Mr. Honesty said it’s extremely difficult to retrofit an existing commercial building with a green roof because the structure can’t handle the weight without extensive structural modifications, which are cost prohibitive.
Mr. Motel asked if the applicant can comply with the comments on Mr. Kohli’s review letter, and Mr. Camens said yes. Mr. Motel said he’d like to see them addressed in the next plan revision. Mr. Kohli asked for the applicant to provide the number of extra spaces to be yielded by the change to 9’ stalls, to show where additional green space can be added to the plan, and to address stormwater management. Mr. Kohli said there’s the issue of how to determine the amount of the improvements bond to be posted when it’s uncertain what improvements will be added. Mr. Churchill said the parking could be shown in reserve, to which Mr. Kohli said this can be used to control the occupancy.
Mr. Camens referred to comment #4 in the Stubbe Consulting LLC lighting review letter dated 5/4/09, indicating there was a miscommunication and they can comply with the restriction against wall mounted lights.
Ted Mondzelewski and Walter Kaupp, P.E. was present to continue discussions on the sketch plan for LauraBrooke, comprised of 3 commercial buildings. He distributed revised drawings to the Planning Commission including a revised response letter.
Mr. Mondzelewski said to address comment #7b on Mr. Theurkauf’s review letter dated 5/11/09, he eliminated a parking space at Building A that will now allow cars to turn around. He showed the green roof area for Building A and distributed additional information on the green roof system.
Mr. Mondzelewski said Building B has been combined into one two-story building and showed the garage level in the back, the elevations of the building and the atrium. Mr. Motel asked if people can use the terraced area, and Mr. Mondzelewski said yes, they want it to be an amenity, though he acknowledged it’s not very wide, but usable.
Mr. Mondzelewski showed Building C, with parking underneath and the green roof. Mr. Motel asked how wide the green modular units are, and Mr. Mondzelewski said ten feet. He showed all four elevations of the building to address previous concerns on height, indicating that Buildings A and B are each under 35 feet in height. Building C is 39 feet high but the setback has been increased to accommodate it in accordance with the ordinance.
Mr. Motel asked if Building C is on the slightest grade, and Mr. Mondzelewski said yes. Mr. Mondzelewski said he feels he’s now addressed both Mr. Kohli’s and Mr. Theurkauf’s review comments. Mr. Motel asked what materials would be used on the buildings, and Mr. Mondzelewski said stone and siding, with asphalt shingles and good quality windows that are operable. He added that all three buildings will have green roofs.
Mr. Motel asked how far the closest building is to the Turnpike right of way. Mr. Mondzelewski said Building B is 95 feet to the Turnpike property line, and Building C is 110 feet. Mr. Motel asked if the Turnpike’s future expansion plans will cause any problem. Mr. Mondzelewski said his site is at a far greater elevation than the Turnpike and he wasn’t concerned.
Mr. Churchill asked how close Buildings A and B are to each other, and Mr. Mondzelewski said they are 90 to 100 feet apart with some parking in between. Mr. Churchill said parking will abut the edge of the terrace. He asked how far the parking is from Building A on the other side, and Mr. Mondzelewski said fifteen feet, which Mr. Churchill thought was tight.
Mr. Motel asked if the applicant had any issues with Mr. Kohli’s review comments dated 5/6/09. Mr. Mondzelewski referred to item #11 regarding width of parking stalls, noting he’d like to provide 9 foot stalls, which translates into a 6% reduction in impervious coverage.
Mr. Motel asked if item #5 on Mr. Kohli’s review letter regarding steep slope delineation has been addressed, and Mr. Kohli said he needs to review the revised plan.
Mr. Kaupp referred to item #6 indicating the retaining walls are a structure that can’t be located within very steep slopes. Mr. Mondzelewski said PennDOT required the retaining wall along the front of the property in order to accommodate the deceleration lane approved in the highway occupancy permit. Mr. Kohli added that the structure must meet the side yard setback of 75 feet. Mr. Motel said it’s permitted to grade within the setback but not have a structure. Mr. Mondzelewski said they can move the wall outside the 35’ planting buffer, but can’t move it entirely out of the setback. Mr. Churchill said the road has the same setback problem. Mr. Motel asked if the applicant is willing to go to the zoning hearing board for a variance if this is the best design solution. He said if the Planning Commission feels the wall is more attractive than grading, they can make a recommendation to the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Churchill asked for the height of the wall, and Mr. Kaupp said 6-7 feet, with Mr. Mondzelewski adding it’s a green wall system. After more discussion it was unclear whether the setback is 75 feet or the lesser 20 feet allowed for accessory structures. This question will be sent to the solicitor for a determination. If the 20 foot setback applies, there would be no need to obtain a variance, just a conditional use approval for construction in steep slopes.
Mr. Motel asked if there will be a planting buffer to screen for the Fiore house, and Mr. Mondzelewski said yes. Mr. Comitta suggested moving the wall, and Mr. Mondzelewski agreed so as to minimize tree loss.
Mr. Churchill asked what the distance is between the cartway and retaining wall, and Mr. Mondzelewski said 15 feet. Mr. Churchill thought this could be shortened, but Mr. Mondzelewski said he wanted to allow room for landscaping.
Mr. Mondzelewski asked where the zoning ordinance references the required dimension of loading areas, and Mr. Comitta said it’s in the off-street loading article. Mr. Kohli said he needs to show the spaces not included in parking for off loading. Mr. Reis said there should be room for turning around.
Mr. Mondzelewski said he’s provided a list of all the recorded easements for the property per Mr. Kohli’s request.
Mr. Mondzelewski questioned item #4 in Mr. Theurkauf’s review letter dated 5/11/09, which provides an estimate of impervious coverage using net lot calculations. He said that in the I/O district, the calculations are based on “lot area” and not “net lot area” and he believes his calculations are correct at 44.83%, or 38.83% if 9 foot stalls are used.
Mr. Mondzelewski said he proposes pervious pavers in front of the buildings, and Mr. Motel asked if he could bring information to the next meeting. Mr. Mondzelewski agreed, and described them as blocks with joints that make them porous. He mainly wants to use them for aesthetics and for LEED points. He’s seeking a Silver LEEDS certification. He invited the Planning Commission members to visit his office at the Oaklands on Route 30, which uses them.
Mr. Allen asked about tree replacement, to which Mr. Mondzelewski said he wants to minimize tree removal and use mature replacement specimens when possible.
(Mrs. Leland arrived at this time.)
Mr. Motel said the Secretary circulated Mrs. Gorman’s spreadsheet researching horses per acre to the planning commission members for this discussion. He said that none of the research supports more than one horse per acre of pasture. Mr. Motel noted that this matter had been tabled by the Planning Commission after being discussed some time ago since it was anticipated that the nutrient management act would supersede it. That act never materialized so the ordinance still needs to be addressed.
Mr. Motel indicated the Solicitor said a change to the ordinance can be supported if the new requirements have a rationale basis. Mrs. Gorman provided the following additional research on stocking rates for horse pastures:
Mrs. Gorman said these three citations indicate the prevailing wisdom on this subject.
Mr. Allen suggested changing the ordinance to require 4 acres for the first horse, including 1 acre of pasture, with one additional acre of pasture for each additional horse. Mr. Reis agreed. Mr. Churchill and Mr. Motel thought the first four acres needed no qualifying pasture acre.
There was some question over grandfathering for those who already have horses that wouldn’t comply with the new ordinance. This will be referred to the Solicitor.
Mr. Kohli said the ordinance amendment will need to include a definition for Pasture.
Mr. Motel said he circulated a list of ordinance amendments to consider and asked that everyone be prepared to discuss them at the next meeting.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:15 P.M.