No matters were brought forward at this time.
Mr. Motel said that the cost of sketch plan reviews has created a recurring problem for the Township. The intent of encouraging a sketch plan process is to create a dialogue between the Township and applicant and to provide initial feedback before the applicant goes to a lot of expense engineering a preliminary plan. However, in some cases the sketch plan reviews have become very detailed themselves and are somewhat costly. In some instances there have been complaints from the applicants about reimbursing the cost. Mr. Motel said that since the Planning Commission members are lay people, they need to rely on the guidance from their consultants in order for the sketch plan review to be productive.
Mr. Motel suggested that the Planning Commission Secretary draft a sketch plan policy that states the Planning Commission has discretion over how much guidance is needed from its consultants and that applicants will only be placed on future agendas if their previous fees have been reimbursed to the Township. Ms. Peck said the policy should add that the Planning Commission will try to keep the costs moderate.
Paul Gluchanicz asked, if the applicant is paying the review fees, who is considered the client of the consultant? Ms. Peck said the client is the Township.
Ms. Peck moved to approve the June 9, 2009 minutes and Mrs. Gorman seconded. Mr. Motel called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. Three were in favor. Mr. Motel abstained as he was not present for the June meeting.
Mr. Allen said the DRC asked Dewey Homes not to appear at tonight’s meeting due to the lengthy agenda and the mutual agreement that they need more time to prepare. He said they’ve hired Barton Associates to prepare their design guidelines. The site plan has been recommended by the Committee and Planning Commission, and now they’re working on landscaping and architectural details.
Mr. Allen said that so far into the process, the DRC has realized some ideas to improve the TND ordinance and also recognized some requirements in the ordinance that are impossible to comply with, such as some of the requirements relating to trees and setbacks. He said the DRC will propose alternatives and make recommendations for amendments.
Mr. Allen said that for Spring Oaks, the applicant wants relief from the requirement for a five foot grass strip between the road and sidewalk in order to create a better design. He said the DRC is keeping an open mind.
Historical Commission Co-Chair Rosemary Philips said there are several mature specimen trees near the Quigley homestead, and asked if they would be saved. Mr. Allen said the plan has been altered to save two copper beeches, and if there are other trees they’ll try to save them as well.
Mr. Allen said another question raised while working with the TND ordinance is in regard to lighting standards. The Township had selected a standard from Spring City, Washington for the entire TND zoning district, and now they question whether they want identical lights in all areas, so that, for example, Spring Oaks and Tyler Griffin would be the same. The DRC began to consider that the desire might be more for compatibility in lighting standards rather than conformity. Ms. Peck asked if the lights are shielded, and Mr. Allen said yes, adding they wouldn’t give up that requirement if they varied the standard.
Mr. Allen said he’s concerned with the architectural design for the project and noted that Mr. Comitta and Dale Frens will meet with the applicant on July 23rd to work on it further.
Mr. Allen said that the applicant, J. Loew and Associates, has made minor modifications to their site plan, sketch revision #4. They propose to move the secondary entrance from Charlestown Road further down the hill and create some dead ends within the development. He noted that this seems to work better. He said the applicant has hired Perry Morgan’s architectural firm to prepare the design manual. Although there are only two housing styles, Mr. Morgan has come up with numerous variations on them. Mr. Comitta said he proposes 9 building types and twelve variations.
Ms. Peck said she was concerned about the look of the development from the hillside, with the higher units looking down at roof tops and rear loaded alleys. She asked if the applicant could prepare an artist’s rendering. Mr. Allen said this was already requested from Mr. Philips. Ms. Peck said some front loading of garages may be worth considering, primarily due to the slope on this site which she feels may look denuded with all the alleys. Mr. Comitta suggested she check Google Earth for Southern Village in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for an example of a site similar to Tyler Griffin. He said that development is about 12 years old.
Mr. Motel suggested that both applicants make a presentation before the Planning Commission at their September meeting.
Mr. Motel said the Open Space Director, Aliena Gerhard, has requested an endorsement from the Planning Commission for her County grant application for funds to help acquire a conservation easement on the Hevner and Corrado properties. Ms. Peck asked where the Corrado property is located, and Mr. Philips said it’s a horse farm on Valley Hill Road. A portion of it is in West Whiteland Township with approximately 12 acres in Charlestown. Mr. Motel said the Hevner property contains about 22 acres on Green Lane Road.
Ms. Peck moved to support the County Grant Application for the Hevner and Corrado properties known as the Pigeon Run Greenway Project, and Gorman seconded. Mr. Motel called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor. Mr. Motel said he had letters ready to sign for Mrs. Gerhard.
Paul Gluchanicz was present to discuss a revised sketch plan for a subdivision of Mr. Gluchanicz’s property at 2156 Charlestown Road into two lots. Mr. Motel asked that, since some of the neighbors to the property were present, that Mr. Gluchanicz display the plan and provide a brief overview.
Mr. Gluchanicz said he owns two parcels and would like to change the lot lines under a minor subdivision application. Lot #1, currently 5 acres in size, is to be a 4.38 acre lot containing two existing masonry buildings, a farmhouse, and a garage to be proposed. One of the masonry buildings (garage) is to be removed. Lot #2, currently a 3.2 acre deed restricted lot, is to be a 3.83 acre flag lot with one single family dwelling proposed on the non-restricted portion. Mr. Motel noted that the new deed for Lot #2 will retain the deed restriction, and asked if the existing restriction has language saying the lot cannot be subdivided. Mr. Philips responded no, the deed simply says there can be no building on it.
Mr. Gluchanicz says he proposes to remove the existing one story garage from Lot #1 and replace it with a two story garage that will have a smaller footprint of 28 x 44 feet for a garage and workshop. There will be no plumbing in the building. Mr. Motel asked if he has plans for the existing farmhouse on Lot #1, and Mr. Gluchanicz said he intends to continue renting it out.
Mr. Motel asked how the new home on Lot #2 will be accessed, and Mr. Gluchanicz said through the existing drive on Lot #1. The 50 foot right of way on Lot 2 will be maintained but not used as a driveway. Mr. Gluchanicz referred to items #3 & #4 on Mr. Theurkauf’s review memorandum dated 7/10/09, which indicates that Lot #2 has areas of steep and very steep slope that haven’t been deducted from the net lot area. Also, conditional use approval may be needed for the driveway for impacting steep and very steep slopes. Mr. Gluchanicz said his engineer rechecked his data and determined that all the slopes have been deducted from the net lot area calculation, and added that the entire 50 foot right of way was deducted. Mr. Theurkauf said the ordinance states that use restrictions apply over three contour intervals, but net outs are calculated over one interval. He said the calculations won’t affect Mr. Gluchanicz’s proposed use but some lot line adjustment may be needed to meet the minimum net lot area. Mr. Gluchanicz also said that while part of the existing driveway is in steep slopes, the new portion is not. Mr. Theurkauf said the grading plan will determine this when the preliminary plan is submitted.
Mr. Gluchanicz addressed the comments on Mr. Kohli’s review letter dated 6/24/09 as follows:
Mr. Theurkauf said verification is needed from Mr. Kohli that with two principal uses, the 160,000 sq. ft. net lot area is needed regardless. The farmhouse and fur shop building constitute two principal uses and in addition, the office is operating as an adaptive reuse.
Mr. Gluchanicz asked if, according to Section 1618.B.1.j of the ordinance, the fur shop building could be converted into two apartments. Mr. Theurkauf said he would need 120,000 sq. ft. to do so since the building is an existing historic resource on a complying lot. Mr. Gluchanicz asked for confirmation that, including the farmhouse, he could have 3 dwelling units, and Mr. Theurkauf said yes. Mr. Allen asked if this was why he needed to reserve the 50 foot easement, to get to the 160,000 sq. ft. size, and Mr. Gluchanicz said yes.
Mr. Gluchanicz addressed the comments on Mr. Theurkauf’s review letter dated 7/10/09 as follows:
Mr. Allen asked if Mr. Gluchanicz still proposes an addition on the back of the fur shop, and he said yes. He said that since the bank barn is an accessory structure, he was told by Mrs. Philips that he can expand the Fur Shop building by up to 25% as long as the result is aesthetic. Mrs. Philips concurred, noting he can make changes to the building but not tear it down. Mr. Allen said the Zoning Ordinance seems to say something else. Mr. Allen said the question is whether the current office use of the building is considered an adaptive reuse now, and if not, will putting an addition on it now disqualify it as an adaptive reuse later. Mr. Gluchanicz said it’s important to him that it be renovated. Mr. Motel said this question needs to be answered and should be answered for Mr. Gluchanicz before he proceeds on an assumption that may be incorrect.
Mr. Philips said a conditional use approval is required to construct the addition, and he suggested that approval, along with adaptive reuse approval, could be sought at the same time. Mr. Gluchanicz said he wants to perform the subdivision first and use the proceeds from the lot sale to finance the addition to the Fur Shop building. Mr. Motel said he just wanted this clarified now so it doesn’t pose a problem for Mr. Gluchanicz later.
Mr. Allen said that under adaptive reuse, the person operating the business must live on the property. Mr. Gluchanicz said he’ll accept that stricture if necessary. Mr. Allen said he wants to be sure any future property owner understands that.
Mr. Motel asked for questions from those present.
Robert Findlay, 2171 Charlestown Road, asked if he’s correct that if a new garage at 50% the footprint of the principal structure is built, the front lot can’t be further subdivided. Mr. Theurkauf said that is correct. If he wished to subdivide in the future, the garage would have to be removed.
Tom Strohmetz, 2157 Charlestown Road, asked the following questions:
Mr. Gluchanicz said his next step will be to begin soil testing in order to prepare a preliminary subdivision plan. He asked if the Planning Commission felt he should move forward. Mr. Motel said the Planning Commission has provided all the feedback they can relative to the sketch information presented. He said Mr. Gluchanicz is getting close, but without a fully engineered plan to review, the Planning Commission can’t comment further.
Mr. Motel indicated this item has been removed from the agenda at the applicant’s request in a letter received earlier today.
Mrs. Csete said the Zoning Hearing Board asked that the Planning Commission consider whether Pine Drive, Crestview Road and the upper portion of Mary Hill Road should have its zoning changed from Farm Residential (FR) to Residential 1 (R-1). The question was raised after a Pine Drive property owner applied for a variance to permit an addition to their house. The house would encroach upon side and rear yard setbacks and increase the existing non-conforming use due to the 40,000 sq. ft. lot size that is under the 80,000 sq. ft. minimum in the FR District. Because the lots on these three streets are non-conforming due to their lot size, any footprint increase to a home triggers the need for a variance.
Mr. Comitta recollected that at the time the Zoning Ordinance was being amended to add PRD districts, a PRD-4 was being considered in this area of the Township that would have included these properties along with other larger tracts. Because the underlying zoning for a PRD is FR, the properties were converted to FR at that time to make them compatible with a PRD. Later, the PRD was taken out of consideration but the FR zoning wasn’t changed back to R-1. Mr. Motel asked Mr. Comitta if he thought there were any issues to changing the zoning to R-1, particularly whether by doing so the Planning Commission would be creating subdividable lots, and he said no.
Mr. Motel moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors that the zoning for properties along Pine Drive, Crestview Road and the upper part of Maryhill Road be changed from Farm Residential to Residential-1, subject to further review by Mr. Comitta, and subject to confirmation by Mr. Comitta’s office that none of the properties would be sub-dividable under the proposed zoning. Ms. Peck seconded the motion. Mr. Motel called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Motel said that in May of this year, the Supervisors adopted an amendment to the Stormwater Management Ordinance (SMO) Section 302 requiring that all systems be underground. The Planning Commission discussed the amendment at their May meeting, and he, Mr. Allen, Mr. Comitta, Mr. Kohli and Mr. Theurkauf met on June 29th to discuss further amending the ordinance to allow applicants to demonstrate they could meet aesthetic requirements to allow for above ground systems in some cases. After that meeting, Mr. Theurkauf proposed the changes to be discussed this evening.
Mr. Motel referred to Mr. Theurkauf’s mark up, page 23, 2nd sentence of D.1, and proposed changing “Surface basins associated with construction activities shall be converted to underground basins” to “Surface basins associated with construction activities shall be converted to subsurface basins.” He said he prepared further amendments in his email dated 7/14/09, which included a change to 1.a, 1.b and 1.c on page 23 which listed a decreasing order of preference to types of surface basins that may be constructed. He said additional language is needed to explain what has to be done to obtain a waiver from the underground requirement and so he proposed expanding this section to include the standards for each type of surface basin.
Mr. Philips said the intent of the Supervisors, which was unanimous, was to have all basins subsurface, but the proposed amendments would allow alternate surface basins if they can’t do underground ones. Mr. Motel stated that section 302.K be specifically mentioned within 302.D which would emphasize allowing surface systems if subsurface systems will render the property unusable, unsuitable for development, or if the alternative is more aesthetically acceptable. Mr. Philips objected to the last item. Mr. Motel said Mr. Theurkauf provided the Planning Commission with pictures of attractive surface systems. One challenge for them is enforcement, for example, ensuring that meadows are not mowed.
Ms. Peck said subsurface systems have other problems in the long term. Even with percolating soil they are likely to eventually clog, and it’s not evident until it’s too late. Subsurface systems are very expensive to fix. She said she agrees with Mr. Motel that there are lots of attractive alternatives. Mr. Theurkauf said his personal preference would be to create a surface system that has a natural look to it and provides a habitat. Some of them would be strict detention systems, such as in limestone areas. He said underground systems work well where there’s a large amount of impervious surface, such as a parking lot, but in a farm residential area, surface systems can look good if done the right way.
Mr. Motel asked for clarification on the size needed for subsurface systems, which Mr. Kohli had previously stated are about 90% as efficient as surface systems. (Mr. Kohli was not present this evening.) Mr. Theurkauf said newer techniques for subsurface systems have less of a space penalty than they did in the past, so he agrees with Mr. Kohli.
Resident Liz Andersen said that looking from an agricultural perspective, water is valuable, and surface systems can provide irrigation and create biodiversity.
Ms. Peck said the proposed amendment requires too many burdens of proof with no real standards for the applicant to meet. She suggested the Planning Commission have experts come in to speak with them. Mr. Theurkauf said in the June 29th meeting, they were striving to show that subsurface systems are the first preference, but surface systems can be done if the application can provide it’s aesthetic and environmentally more desirable. The burden is put on the applicant to provide this. Mr. Kuhn said the Township would need to require a performance bond from a developer in case of problems, as a Homeowners’ Association couldn’t support the cost of mitigating them.
Mr. Motel suggested an appendix to the SMO that includes design guidelines or standards, plus pictures. Ms. Peck was in support of that idea, but she said she doesn’t agree with requiring subsurface systems as the first preference. Mr. Theurkauf said the maintenance requirements could be included in this appendix.
Bill Davison, 2252 Pickering Road, said he’s very concerned with the ordinance that was passed in May. There was no recommendation from the Planning Commission and no comments from the Township engineer. Mr. Motel said the Planning Commission did review the ordinance on April 14th, and did not recommend adopting the change which had come from the Supervisors, but that the Supervisors have the prerogative to disagree. Mr. Davison said he asked around why the ordinance had been adopted so quickly, and the answers he received were that it was done in reaction to unattractive surface basins at Deerfield, and because one Supervisor was pressing it. Mr. Davison said the basin at Deerfield isn’t finished yet, and will look much different when it is. He showed a picture of a similar completed basin on Valley Hill Road. Mr. Allen said they don’t compare because they’re two different designs.
Mr. Davison said as a real estate broker and a developer/builder, he’s aware of numerous problems with underground basins. He said they’re a huge cost burden on the developer and their efficacy is unproven. Both Mr. Philips and Mr. Kuhn responded that they have underground basins on their properties and have had no problems with them. Mr. Davison said in Easttown Township, some require concrete inlets and manhole covers. Just as septic systems fail, these do too and could cost thousands of dollars to repair. He referred the Planning Commission to DEP fact sheet 167 and gave an example from the County’s stormwater management guidelines. He said that townships that don’t comply with 167 will lose state funding. Mr. Motel said he checked with the Solicitor as to whether the Township can require more than the DEP’s minimum standards, and the answer was yes. The state wide mandate, he explained, was therefore a “floor” and the state funding is predicated on meeting the minimum standards but doesn’t prevent a township from exceeding them.
Mr. Motel said they should work on the criteria for above ground systems. Mr. Theurkauf said it’s important to play up the environmental aspect as much as aesthetics. Mr. Philips said the Supervisors wanted to establish a marker by passing the underground requirement and had the intention to amend the ordinance afterward.
Mr. Davison said he built a house on Howell Road where the above ground system is in the north slope. An underground system at this location would have had major silting problems and would have greatly impacted the wooded lot. Instead, he was able to fit the berm in between the trees. He also gave an example of Larry Ferraro’s property in the Merriwether subdivision, which said is very attractive. Ms. Peck said there’s a big difference between an individual lot and a community design, which would have more failures. Mr. Davison suggested sending any proposed amendments to the DEP for their comments.
Mr. Philips suggested the Planning Commission form a subcommittee of their members with one or two supervisors to put together an outline for this ordinance. Ms. Peck said she hoped the result would be to provide alternatives to subsurface systems that would be the equivalent of subsurface systems and would include defined aesthetic guidelines.
The Administrator said that the Open Space Commission has requested that the Planning Commission review the existing Horseshoe Trail Ordinance to consider expanding it to include all Township trails. Mr. Motel said he would contact the Chairman of the Open Space Commission, David Greer, and ask that someone representing the OSC be present when this matter is discussed so that the PC has a better understanding of what new areas would be added to coverage.
The Planning Commission reviewed an ordinance amendment relating to net lot area definitions as proposed by Mr. Theurkauf in his memo of July 7, 2009. Mr. Motel said the amendment would add deed restricted property to the square footage to be netted out when calculating net lot area. Mr. Allen referred to section E of the definition, stating he didn’t like the phrasing “the terms or conditions of which restrict or limit the nature, dimensional characteristics, or intensity of development or development activities within the said easement…” Mr. Comitta suggested omitting a portion of the sentence so it would read “the terms or conditions of which restrict or limit development or development activities within the said easement…”
Ms. Peck questioned why deed restricted property should be netted out, and a lengthy discussion followed. She believed netting this out would create a disincentive for property owners to conserve their land. Mr. Motel, Mr. Allen and the two supervisors present believed omitting deed restricted land from the net out creates a loophole whereby a developer could purchase unrestricted land adjacent to restricted land and claim that the restricted land qualifies for open space. This would allow approximately double the density on the unrestricted parcel, circumventing the intention of the deed restriction.
Mr. Motel moved to amend the definition for Net Lot Area to include deed restricted land, and to omit the phrase “the nature, dimensional characteristics, or intensity of”. Mr. Allen seconded the motion, and Mr. Motel called for discussion. Mrs. Gorman asked if Paul Gluchanicz’s proposed subdivision would be exempt from this change, and Mr. Allen said yes. Mrs. Gorman was unsure this would hold up legally if the amendment was passed before Mr. Gluchanicz submitted a preliminary plan. Mr. Motel called the vote. Mr. Motel and Mr. Allen were in favor, and Mrs. Gorman and Ms. Peck were opposed. Mr. Motel amended his motion to include that the Planning Commission recommends approval of the proposed ordinance amendment provided that it specifically does not affect Paul Gluchanicz’ proposal for his property on Charlestown Road. Mr. Allen seconded, and Mr. Motel called for discussion. There being none further, he called the vote and Mr. Motel, Mr. Allen and Mrs. Gorman were in favor. Ms. Peck remained opposed. The motion carried.
Mr. Motel said that recent discussions with a developer in the Industrial/Office District brought to the Planning Commission’s attention that net outs apply only to the R-1 and FR residential districts, which made them question whether a net out provision was needed in the commercial zoning districts and the Residential Cluster district. He stated his opinion that further amendments to the impervious or building coverage in these districts is unnecessary since the ordinance amendments made in 2004 served to reduce the percentage of allowable impervious coverage in those zones. This change took place when the former Limited Industrial zoning districts were changed to Industrial/Office, Business-1, Residential Cluster and later, Traditional Neighborhood Development.
The Planning Commission reviewed an ordinance amendment relating to net tract area definitions as proposed by Mr. Theurkauf in his memo of July 7, 2009. Mr. Motel said the amendment would mirror the amendment recommended earlier this evening for net lot area, to provide the same requirements for calculating net area in the Residential Cluster and Traditional Neighborhood Development zoning districts as those used in Residential-1 and Farm Residential.
Mr. Motel moved to amend the definition for Net Tract Area to include deed restricted land, and to omit the phrase “the nature, dimensional characteristics, or intensity of”. Mr. Allen seconded the motion, and Mr. Motel called for discussion. There being none, he called the vote and Mr. Motel, Mr. Allen and Mrs. Gorman were in favor. Ms. Peck was opposed. The motion carried.
Mr. Motel said the Board of Supervisors has requested that the Planning Commission research ordinances that regulate alternative energy sources such as windmills and free standing solar panels. This discussion was tabled.
Ms. Peck asked why Schuylkill Township opposes Charlestown’s request for a stop sign study at the intersection of Ashenfelter and Whitehorse Roads. Since the intersection is in both townships, the request for the study to PennDOT must be made jointly by both Charlestown and Schuylkill. Mr. Motel suggested that a letter be requested from the Charlestown Board of Supervisors to the Schuylkill Board of Supervisors explaining that they are extremely concerned with safety at this intersection, particularly making a left turn from Ashenfelter onto Whitehorse Road. Further, the Charlestown Planning Commission requests that Schuylkill Township review the intersection. The letter should again request they join Charlestown in the application for a study, or in the alternative, ask for a written response on why they do not support it.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:40 P.M.