No matters were brought forward at this time.
Mr. Churchill moved to approve the July 14, 2009 minutes and Mrs. Gorman seconded. Mr. Motel called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. Four were in favor; Mr. Reis abstained.
Mr. Allen said the September 22nd Planning Commission meeting will be reserved for TND plans only. He said that for Spring Oaks, Dewey Homes will present their modified site plan only. The design manual won’t be ready until the October 22nd meeting, partly due to a change in engineering firms to Langan Engineers. On October 22nd, they’ll present the design manual and the preliminary site plan. They anticipate submitting the preliminary plan application to the Township on October 6th.
Mr. Allen said that J. Loew & Associates will present their revised site plan at the September 22nd meeting. There’s no date set for presentation and review of their design manual at this time. Mr. Allen noted that until preliminary application is filed, the design manual is considered proprietary to the developer and is not public information.
(Ms. Peck arrived at this time.)
Mr. Motel referred to a spreadsheet updated on 9/11/09 by Mr. Comitta listing the various ordinance amendments and new ordinances under consideration by the Planning Commission. He said that there are various TND-related amendments that need to move forward. Other ordinance revisions relate to Home Occupation and Net Lot Area. Mr. Motel inquired on the status of the Planning Commission’s recommendation to the Board made at the July 14th meeting that the definition of “Net Lot Area” be amended to require applicants net out “land subject to a deed restriction that limits or prohibits development.” Mr. Motel also mentioned that another item not yet recommended was whether to apply the Net Lot Area definition to development and land use in other zoning districts, not just the FR Zoning District as is presently the case. He offered his opinion that such an extension was not warranted. Mrs. Csete stated the definition recommendation was now before the Supervisors for action on the Planning Commission’s recommendation.
Sue Staas was present from the Open Space Commission to ask the Planning Commission to review the existing Horseshoe Trail Ordinance to consider expanding it to include all trails on Township property or under easement with the Township. This would include the trails at Charlestown Park, Pickering Preserve, Brightside Farm, and McDevitt property. Mr. Kuhn said the trails on the Kling and Solda property should also be included.
Mrs. Staas said the recently eased McDevitt land will contain a loop trail that has already been located on the property. Access has to be worked out from the Longwood School, which involves obtaining access through the American Tower property. She said that although the McDevitt property abuts Bodine Road, any access there would be through very steep terrain and is therefore unsuitable. Mr. Motel said he may know Eagle Scout candidates who can work on the development of the McDevitt trail.
Mrs. Staas said in the future there will be a trail on the Thompson property that should be covered by the trail ordinance. Mr. Motel asked if the current ordinance, which addresses the Horseshoe Trail only, would need any modifications to apply to the other trails. Mrs. Staas said she didn’t believe so. Mr. Motel asked if there was signage available yet, and Mrs. Staas said yes. Mrs. Csete said she has samples in her office.
Mr. Kohli asked which entity will be responsible for the trail at the Deerfield development. Mrs. Staas said there’s an agreement with the Horseshoe Trail Club for the Club to maintain it.
Mr. Churchill asked if the rules will apply to private trails such as those at Charlestown Hunt. Mrs. Staas suggested the ordinance address only trails owned or maintained by the Township or those that are part of conservation easements that were sponsored by the Township. Mr. Reis suggested that the ordinance not identify the trails by name; otherwise the ordinance will have to be amended too frequently. Mr. Churchill suggested language to the effect of “such trails as designated by the Township from time to time by resolution.” Mr. Kuhn said they could be referenced from the Official Map. Mr. Motel said he’ll check with the Solicitor for recommended language.
Mr. Motel asked Mrs. Staas to draft a list of proposed changes for the Planning Commission to consider at their October 13th meeting.
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 had reviewed the proposed amendment in April but didn’t make a recommendation. After it was adopted, the Planning Commission discussed the amendment in May, 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, it was discussed further at the July meeting, and Mr. Theurkauf proposed changes. Mr. Kohli felt that some of the amendments were too broadly worded, so another meeting was held at his office in August that included himself, Supervisor Charlie Philips and Ed Theurkauf. Mr. Theurkauf then generated the draft to be discussed this evening. Mr. Motel said the latest draft inserts a new Section 302.D with the previous 302.D now listed as 302.E. He asked Mr. Theurkauf to give an overview of the changes.
Mr. Theurkauf said the language of the ordinance was changed to recognize that in some situations, above ground systems may be more desirable than underground systems. The burden of proof is on the developer to prove this to the satisfaction of the Supervisors. Part of the proof is to demonstrate there are aesthetic and environmental benefits to an above ground system.
Mr. Theurkauf said Mr. Kohli put together the language on design and performance criteria. He said a design manual displaying various applications and photos of facilities has been added at the end of the ordinance to provide examples of stormwater infiltration, biodiversity and the use of 100% native species.
Mr. Theurkauf said that the ordinance permits a more gradual grading system of a 4:1 slope instead of 3:1 to allow the system to appear more like a naturally occurring land form. Mr. Churchill stated that this would take up a lot more land. Mr. Theurkauf said this would be more pronounced for the deeper basins. Mr. Motel asked if the difference would be noticeable and Mr. Theurkauf said that it would, and it would serve to create a more subtle presentation for the shallow basins. Ms. Peck asked if above ground basins are netted out in open space calculations and Mr. Theurkauf said no, as attempting to calculate a net out for a system not yet designed would be problematic.
Mr. Motel said that the current ordinance allows for lesser run off calculation requirements for projects creating between 100 – 1,500 square feet of impervious coverage. Mr. Kohli confirmed that for those smaller projects, just a simplified calculation is required.
Mr. Churchill said a critical difference in the latest revision is the language to construct underground systems “where technically feasible”. Ms. Peck asked how this is determined. She said the language on geology in the ordinance is nonspecific, for example, stating to “avoid sinkholes”. Mr. Motel proposed changing “where technically feasible” to state that underground systems “are preferred” as technical feasibility could nonetheless mandate very onerous systems that are “technically feasible” but financially impractical and/or unduly burdensome.
Mr. Motel introduced Eric Lowry, P.E. from Pennoni Engineers, who came at Mr. Comitta’s request to provide his expertise on stormwater management as a water resource and civil engineer who designs these systems and teaches courses on them. Mr. Comitta said questions to consider for above vs. underground systems are aesthetics, longevity, maintenance issues, and whether the feasibility of underground systems changes depending on size and/or geology. Mr. Churchill said information on the cost differential would be helpful too.
Mr. Lowry said underground systems are more costly to construct, but typically create a smaller footprint that may yield more lots for a developer designing, for example, a residential subdivision. Ms. Peck said she was always told the larger underground systems take up more area than above ground ones. Mr. Lowry said the state Best Management Practices manual, if followed literally, may do so. He said instead, current practice encourages a small basin for each lot rather than a giant basin for the entire subdivision at the bottom of a hill. With a rain gardens or bioswale design, it may not appear as a stormwater management system at all. Some systems can include additional retention or infiltration underground. For small basins on private property in a residential subdivision, the Township must enforce the maintenance of the systems.
Mr. Theurkauf said the revised ordinance provides a hierarchy of most desirable types of above ground systems. First is a wet basin, which is a pond. Second is a dry basin that infiltrates the water. Third is a detention basin that holds water temporarily as it slowly infiltrates the ground.
Mr. Motel asked which systems are easier to maintain, and Mr. Lowry said the above ground systems, as underground systems often have a lack of maintenance since they can be overlooked. Mr. Motel asked how to tell when an underground system fails, and Mr. Lowry said usually there’s an observation point such as a manhole. Mr. Churchill asked what generally causes failure, and Mr. Lowry said sediment build up, or in some cases, poor geotechnical investigation that led to the system being placed in an improper location. Mr. Reis asked about the cost of repair to an underground system. Mr. Lowry said each failure has to be investigated, but sometimes the system may have to be re-constructed or moved. Mr. Kuhn asked if the underground systems are destined to fail, and Mr. Lowry said not necessarily.
Mr. Motel asked how other townships enforce maintenance of underground systems. He said Charlestown has a maintenance agreement but would have to expend man-hours to enforce it. Mr. Lowry said funding is a common issue, and most townships enforce on a complaint basis. Mr. Churchill asked if larger developers, such as for commercial properties along Phoenixville Pike, have any financial incentive to maintain their systems. Mr. Kohli said that under the MS4 program, Charlestown Township requires a recorded maintenance agreement when a development is approved. The owner or property association is required to provide an inspection report to the Township every two to three years. The Township will send out letters to those who haven’t complied. For enforcement, a lien can be placed on the property if necessary. He said the Township will first focus on systems that required an NPDES permit, not on small homeowners. Mr. Churchill asked how large a project is before an NPDES permit is required, and Mr. Kohli said disturbance of one or more acres. He said the Conservation District inspects NPDES-permitted systems for sediment and water control, while the DEP looks for water quality issues. The Township focuses on the design of the system.
Ms. Peck said that the DEP and Chester County Conservation District (CCCD) already enforce stormwater regulations. She said the Township should focus on aesthetics and not reinvent the wheel. She said the design exhibits included with the revised ordinance are a good addition. Mr. Lowry said the DEP and County are encouraging Best Management Practices but they aren’t enforceable. Mr. Kohli said the County is working on a countywide Act 167 plan, and when it is passed, it will supersede the local inspection requirements. He said that because Charlestown and six other municipalities were required to develop their own stormwater management plans, and that Charlestown did so, these specific regulations were adopted by the state and must be incorporated into the county plan.
Mr. Motel suggested changing the first sentence in newly proposed Section 302.E. to replace the statement subsurface systems “are required” to “…are preferred”. Bill Davison asked why the Commission can’t consider Ms. Peck’s suggestion to focus on aesthetics. Mr. Kohli said that when he reviews applications, he notifies the applicant when an NPDES permit is required but that many applications are too small to trigger NPDES which requires a disturbance of , 1 acre. The model ordinance passed by the state required systems with impervious coverage greater than 1,500 sq. ft. to fall under more exacting regulations, especially because of the watersheds we are in, thus without the local ordinance there would be no oversight by NPDES.
Mr. Churchill said the Commission is struggling to determine when an underground system is technically unfeasible, which is the necessary trigger to allow the Township to consider alternative, above ground designs. To what extent does the Township want to impose expense on the developer by requiring an underground system?
Mr. Davison said he’s spoken to two developers who estimate a cost of $26,000 for an underground system for an individual house. He said requiring underground systems isn’t in the spirit of the Municipality Planning Code or the national building code. He said it would force all applications to go through the land development process and appear before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. Mr. Kohli reminded him that, for projects creating an additional 1,500 square feet of impervious coverage or less, there is a simpler path with fewer requirements. For a new home disturbing under an acre, no NPDES permit would be required. Mr. Davison said that the ordinance will require that the developer or builder go through all the steps for an underground system or go to the Township for a waiver to allow an above ground system. Mr. Kohli agreed that a study would be needed.
Mr. Motel returned to the cost issue, asking what the cost is for an above ground system for a single house compared with the underground cost Mr. Davison provided. Mr. Davison said about $2,500. Mr. Kohli and Mr. Lowry disagreed. Mr. Kohli said he’ll check with the builder of a house on a lot at Union Hill and Whitehorse Road for an idea of the cost of that underground system, which the owners preferred. Mr. Kohli said most new homes and additions have at least some underground facilities. He said all the Ashwood homes have underground systems, adding that most builders of higher end homes choose them. Mr. Davison disagreed. Mr. Churchill asked about the Deerfield subdivision, which has unsightly detention basins. Mr. Kohli said that four of those basins will be replaced with underground systems, with the remainder continuing as above ground systems.
Mr. Motel said he spoke to the Solicitor to ask if the proposed amendments to the ordinance may impose additional requirements over the DEP model, which doesn’t regulate aesthetics but was concerned that Act 167, which is concerned with water quality and recharge, provides no license at all regarding aesthetics. So is there any license by virtue of Act 167 to delve into aesthetics at all? Mr. Churchill says he believes it to be supportable. The ordinance states “you shall use underground retention” but does allow for some alternatives. Mr. Motel said he feels his suggestion to change the language to “prefer” underground systems allows enough leeway for the applicant coupled with the second sentence which provides adequate power for the Township to either obtain an aesthetically acceptable system above ground, or mandate that it be placed underground. Mr. Theurkauf noted the amendment to allow above ground systems isn’t just for aesthetics but includes environmental benefits not realized by below ground systems. Ms. Peck suggested stating that the applicant has a choice of systems, but that an above ground system must have a letter of support from the Township planner and be consistent with the design manual.
Mr. Kuhn asked why not leave the wording as it is. He said that the engineer determines technical feasibility of underground systems and he interprets this to mean financial feasibility too. He said he would add the proposed design manual to the ordinance.
Mr. Theurkauf suggested adding reasons why underground systems are more desirable. Mr. Churchill said the ordinance should outline what the developer must do to demonstrate the standards to allow an above ground system. Mr. Comitta suggested the language “subsurface systems must be provided unless…” followed by examples.
Ms. Peck said she disagreed with the requirement for underground basins from a maintenance standpoint. When the system fails, it’s difficult to tell, and cost and enforcement are issues. Mr. Kuhn said Mr. Kohli indicated 80% of new home builders put in underground systems anyway, and if maintained properly there’s no higher failure rate compared to that of surface systems.
Mr. Motel said if the ordinance expresses a preference for underground systems, the applicant can still demonstrate alternatives. Mr. Churchill asked if underground systems allow for better infiltration, and Mr. Lowry said not necessarily. He said either type should perform the same under the same conditions.
Mr. Davison said everyone agrees that aesthetics can be achieved with above ground systems, so why legislate the most expensive system that’s most prone to failure. He said that to sell a property with an on-lot septic system, a septic certification is required, but for a failed underground stormwater system, no such certificate would be required.
Mr. Churchill asked if the proposed ordinance would prevent builders from creating the type of above ground systems seen now in the Township. Mr. Theurkauf said yes. There would be additional requirements at installation and an ongoing maintenance plan. He said the installation costs would be higher than the traditional above ground system but maintenance costs would be lower.
Mr. Davison said that on a small single lot, how could a builder comply with the underground basin setback requirements. He said it would be easier to find room for a basin, and he wants the “preferred” language Mr. Motel suggested along with a list of alternative systems.
Mr. Comitta said sometimes a system is a combination of the two types and the ordinance may want to indicate this. He gave examples of the Penn State expansion at the Great Valley campus and the Willistown Woods development.
Mr. Churchill said he was beginning to agree with Mr. Motel’s approach as he sees that requiring all underground systems has a weaker argument than he previously thought. He said now he thinks providing alternatives is a sensible way to go, and he’d like to see more of the design standards that deal with aesthetics.
Ms. Peck said she disagrees with the requirement for underground systems and with Mr. Motel’s suggested language but she does agree the above ground systems should be attractive. She again suggested the ordinance state that any above ground systems must follow specified design guidelines with a letter of support from the planner. Otherwise, the system must be underground.
Mr. Kuhn asked the Commission members if they agree that underground systems look best. Most of the members disagreed. Mr. Kuhn said he thought stronger language would be needed to provide the aesthetics. Ms. Peck suggested flipping the language to state that the Township prefers aesthetic above ground systems, but if the conditions can’t be met, the systems shall be subsurface. She said this reversal will prevent an applicant from going through a long, expensive process to prove an underground system is unsuitable before moving on to an alternative. Mr. Kuhn questioned the cost of the process, stating that perc tests are required regardless of the type of system ultimately designed.
Ms. Peck said a system for one house compared to a system for an entire development is two different things. In a big development, underground systems are highly problematic, yet she doesn’t want above ground basins like those at the Pulte development.
Mr. Churchill said he wants more balance to the language between above and below ground systems, and the descriptions for the alternative systems must be clearer. He confirmed with Mr. Kohli that slower infiltration rates translate into higher quality water downstream, and suggested this be encouraged. Mr. Theurkauf said he doesn’t think a retention system (pond) should be above a meadow system in the hierarchy in every situation. Mr. Lowry noted that soil and vegetation can handle water better than anything that can be designed.
Mr. Davison said the township engineer should be the individual to determine what type of system is used. Mr. Allen said he thinks the decision should rest with the Supervisors, who will rely on the Engineer’s recommendations anyway.
Mr. Motel asked Mr. Theurkauf to re-edit the proposed changes incorporating the comments from this evening for discussion at the October 13th meeting. The changes should provide some deference to the wishes of the homeowner, provide examples of reasons for deviating from the underground requirement, and add a reference to the design manual. Mr. Theurkauf said he’ll get them out within ten days. He asked the Commission members to email him with any further comments within the next few days. Mr. Kohli noted that when finalized, the draft amendment will have to go to the DEP for review.
Mr. Motel summarized the problem with the current ordinance, which doesn’t set a limit for the number of horses per acre permitted on properties larger than 25 acres. Also, the number of horses per acre should be based on pasture acres. He said it wouldn’t be difficult to determine how much pastureland a property owner has. Either the owner can communicate this, or it can be estimated using Google Earth. Mr. Churchill was concerned that some property owners could take down trees to create more pasture.
Mr. Motel referenced university research studies provided earlier by Mrs. Gorman, of which none recommend a density higher than one horse per pasture acre. Some use the term animal unit instead of horse, with an animal unit representing 1,000 pounds. He feels the one horse per pasture acre is very conservative especially since horses often weigh more than 1,000 pounds.
Ms. Peck asked if the amended ordinance would be retroactive, and Mr. Reis said yes, since it affects health and safety.
Ms. Peck moved to recommend to the Board of Supervisors the following amendments to Section 1614:
Mr. Motel seconded the motion and called for discussion. Mr. Reis suggested expanding the motion to include the recommended language provided by Mr. Comitta that addresses all livestock and poultry.
Ms. Peck amended her motion as follows: to recommend to the Board of Supervisors the following amendments to Section 1614:
Mr. Motel seconded. Mr. Motel called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Ms. Peck circulated a spreadsheet she prepared listing common elements from sample wind and solar ordinances to begin some discussion this evening, with more in-depth review planned for the October 13th meeting.
Ms. Peck said one question to consider early in the process is the Township’s position on these uses. Do they want to encourage these alternative energy systems or respond more defensively? Mr. Kuhn said he wants to accommodate the uses but be aware of any concerns.
Ms. Peck gave an overview of her spreadsheet notes, stating that since wind systems are more visually intrusive she would start with those. She said people install them to save money, particularly in consideration of the upcoming deregulation of the electricity industry that will increase costs, and from a sense of environmental responsibility.
Ms. Peck said that limiting the height of windmills too much defeats their purpose. Mr. Kuhn questioned whether many sites in the Township were suitable for wind systems. Mr. Allen said his oil supplier recently sent a flyer to his customers offering both wind and solar energy systems, and it includes roof top turbines that harness wind energy without blades. He offered to get more information.
Mr. Churchill asked about the noise from windmills, and Ms. Peck said it’s considered an ambient sound, a white noise. She noted that wind energy systems work better in winter and solar powered systems in the summer, so some people may seek a combination. Excess power can be sold back to the grid.
Mr. Reis asked why the example ordinances only allow one system per property, and Mr. Motel said this may be more evident after they see some on site.
With regard to solar energy systems, Ms. Peck said East Whiteland Township’s ordinance states that panels can’t be higher than 8” from the rooftop. Ground arrays must be 20 feet from the property line. Other requirements are that none are permitted in the front yard, and glare must be directed away from neighboring properties.
Ms. Peck said she’ll find a few places where these systems have been put into use so Planning Commission members can check them out. Mr. Comitta said he’ll send Ms. Peck a copy of an ordinance from Lititz.
Mr. Motel thanked Ms. Peck for the research and said a draft ordinance will be needed. Ms. Peck said she could draft it after getting a better idea of what the Commission wants to include. Some questions would include whether to require annual inspections and whether wind systems should be 10 or 15 feet off the ground.
Mr. Motel scheduled additional meetings for October 27th and November 24th, and referenced the schedule of ordinances prepared by Tom Comitta for the items to be discussed.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:45 P.M.