CHARLESTOWN TOWNSHIP
PLANNING COMMISSION MINUTES
GREAT VALLEY MIDDLE SCHOOL
255 N. PHOENIXVILLE PIKE, MALVERN, PA, 7:30 P.M.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 13, 2009

Present:

Andy Motel (arrived later), Chairman, Mike Allen, Vice Chairman, June Gorman, Sarah Peck, Wendy Leland (arrived later), Rick Reis, Michael Churchill, Surender Kohli, P.E., Tom Comitta, Ed Theurkauf, Linda Csete and those on the attached list.

Call to Order:

7:38 P.M.

Announcements -

Mr. Allen said he’d chair the meeting until Mr. Motel’s arrival.

Citizens Forum

No matters were brought forward at this time.

Approval of Minutes

Sept. 15, 2009 Minutes

Mr. Churchill moved to approve the Sept. 15, 2009 minutes and Mr. Reis seconded. Mr. Allen called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. Five were in favor.

Sept. 22, 2009 Minutes

The following edits were proposed to the Sept. 22, 2009 minutes:

p. 2, 3rd paragraph: change “Mr. Shapiro added that the townhouses in this section have detached garages” to “Mr. Shapiro added that some of the townhouses in this section have detached garages”.

p. 2, 5th paragraph: Insert before the last sentence, “There would be some sort of covered shelter.”

Mr. Motel arrived at this time and Mr. Allen relinquished the chair. Mr. Reis moved to approve the Sept. 22, 2009 minutes with the edits as discussed, and Mr. Motel seconded. Mr. Motel called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. Five were in favor. Ms. Peck abstained as she was not present at the meeting.

Design Review Committee Updates

TND-1 Spring Oaks

Mr. Allen said Dewey Homes submitted their Preliminary Plan and Conditional Use Application for the Spring Oak TND on October 6th, and it is scheduled for the October 27th Planning Commission meeting for review. The design manual won’t be ready until shortly prior to that meeting and will only be briefly reviewed then. He reminded the Commission members that the plan is entitled Spring Oak and not Spring Oaks.

Ms. Peck asked if the landscape plan was reviewed at the Sept. 22nd meeting. Mr. Allen said not specifically; the applicant gave a presentation on the overall site plan at that meeting.

TND-2 Tyler Griffin

Mr. Allen said that J. Loew & Associates has yet to schedule the presentation of their design manual and he doesn’t have an anticipated submittal date. He said the next DRC meeting is scheduled for Nov. 2, 2009.

Mr. Motel indicated there are numerous proposed TND ordinance amendments to be considered and that he’d like to see them all together for review by December.

Review of Applications

Bruder Equestrian Training Facility - Conditional Use Application

Property owner Alexandra Bruder, property manager Dan Aquilante, and trainer Dominique Damico were present to discuss Ms. Damico’s plan for an equestrian training business at the Bruder property at 166 Mine Road. Mr. Allen said he’ll participate in the discussions but is recusing himself from any vote because his son has a business relationship with Mr. Aquilante.

Mr. Motel said the Planning Commission received the narrative that accompanied the conditional use application and asked for more details on the proposal.

Ms. Damico said she runs the Ramble On horse training facility at 166 Mine Road. There are four pastures and a horse barn with 12 stalls. She said 12 is the maximum number of horses as well. She has a small client base of six customers who come to the property two to three times per week for training to compete at horse shows. All lessons are private or semi-private, with no more than 3 people at one time. Her hours are Tuesday through Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m., with varying hours on Saturdays.

Mr. Motel asked if there would be any outdoor lighting as the fall and winter season approach and Ms. Damico said no. Mr. Motel asked how many cars are parked at the property for the business at any one time, and she said a maximum of 3.

Mr. Motel asked what the total number of acres of pasture land is, and number of acres of total land and Ms. Damico said 11.5 and 27.5 acres respectively.

Mr. Churchill asked about disposal of manure. Ms. Damico said she has a company that removes it once a month. Between times it’s stored in a designated area at the far right of the pasture. Mr. Churchill asked if the stream was located near there, and Mr. Aquilante said it’s down the hill. Mr. Churchill asked if there was any run off problem. Mr. Aquilante said there had been a problem previously, but the area has now been cleaned up, stabilized and seeded. The storage area was moved to level ground. Mr. Allen referred to Mr. Theurkauf’s review memorandum dated 10/7/09, in which he indicates the storage area is suitable.

Mr. Theurkauf said his memo outlines suggested conditions of approval, and asked if the applicant had any problem with them. Ms. Damico responded no, they are acceptable. Mr. Theurkauf indicated the narrative should include additional details.

Ms. Peck asked who Mine Road Partners LP is, and Mr. Aquilante said it’s owned by the Bruders. He said he has a ten year lease for 166 Mine Road.

Mr. Motel asked if horses are moved on and off the property, and Ms. Damico said only to go to horse shows.

Mrs. Gorman asked about pasture management. Ms. Damico said she rotates the pastures. Since the horses are competition horses, they’re not out in the pasture much. Mr. Theurkauf said the pastures are in far better condition than two other large horse farms in the Township.

Mr. Allen asked for the age of the students, and Ms. Damico gave a range of 8 – 16 yrs.

Mr. Allen said he’s a neighbor to the property and has seen a fantastic metamorphosis over the past 10 years. Resident Bill Davison, 2252 Pickering Road, said he toured the farm and finds it to be one of the nicest horse farms in the Township. He said they run a clean operation and that the fencing was in good condition on the property. He said he’s in favor of the application.

Tom Fillippo said he’s been a Mine Road resident for 15 years and the property looks like a postcard now. He said he’s never seen such a clean and neat place, which provides this very niche equestrian operation. He said everything is as it should be on the property and he can’t say enough about it. He said he’s glad the Bruders bought the property. The equestrian operation is very low key and an asset to Mine Road and the Township.

Gary Pilgrim, 121 Mine Road, asked what happens if the property begins to deteriorate after the application is approved. Is there a monitoring system? Mr. Motel said the Board of Supervisors will have enforcement power if they grant conditional use approval. Mr. Kohli added that the conditions placed on the approval have to be monitored, and anyone can lodge a complaint. The Zoning Officer would enforce the conditions, which might include a maximum number of horses and specifications on pasture conditions. Mr. Pilgrim added that he’s pleased with the good things that have happened at the Bruder property.

Ms. Peck asked Mr. Theurkauf if his recommendation is for a maximum of 12 horses. Mr. Theurkauf said he didn’t provide a number, just indicated that the existing facilities are adequate for 12 horses.

Lee Haller, 4255 Whitehorse Road, commended the Bruders for their purchase of this beautiful gem of a property. He asked to see a copy of Mr. Theurkauf’s memo, which Supervisor Kevin Kuhn provided.

Mr. Haller said that in the past, the manure was stored on a steep slope where it leached into the stream. He said there is presently no containment facility and was uncertain as to whether one is warranted. He said this has been a great year for pastures due to the amount of rainfall this summer. He noted that the pasture just west of his property has a poor quality of orchard grass that will need maintenance in years with lower rainfall. He said this area would have been in dire straits during the drought a few years ago. He also noted there are 4-5 horses outside all the time, to which Ms. Damico agreed.

Ms. Damico circulated about 15 photographs of the facility for the Planning Commission’s review, including photos of that pasture.

Mr. Haller suggested that a maximum number of horses and the requirement to fertilize, lime and reseed the pasture in bad years be two of the conditions of approval.

Mr. Motel took this time to explain that the Township is presently considering a zoning ordinance amendment to address an oversight in the current language that doesn’t provide for a maximum number of horses on properties over 25 acres. The ordinance amendment also proposes to change the number of horses permitted per acre to the number permitted per pasture-acre. He said a hearing is scheduled to consider this amendment at an upcoming Supervisors’ meeting.

Mr. Fillippo said he disagrees with the proposed ordinance, pointing out that the acreage needed to support a horse depends in part on how the horse is fed. Horses fed more hay and left more often in their stalls require less land.

Mr. Haller asked if there was an indoor riding ring proposed. Mr. Motel said no, that issue isn’t before the Planning Commission this evening. Mr. Haller asked if there was an expansion of the facility, would the applicant have to return to the Township for further approvals, and Mr. Reis said yes. Mr. Churchill said Mr. Haller can be sure there will be some limit set on the number of horses permitted. Mr. Motel said this is best addressed by the Supervisors.

Mr. Haller said another issue in the area is the use of equestrian trails from the Dairy Farm over the former Kun property. He said the trails are used by both equestrians and walkers. Since Mr. Aquilante has taken over management at the Bruder property, there are now ATVs and dirt bikes on the trails. He requests that the Township add a prohibition against motor vehicle use on the trails. Mr. Motel said the trails are private property and are used by others at their benevolence. He doesn’t see how they could link trail use to this application. Mr. Churchill said this is a matter for the property owners to work out amongst themselves since they are a relatively small community that uses the trails in common and have mutual interests. Ms. Damico said Mr. Aquilante has enhanced the trails, making them more usable for horses now. Mrs. Bruder said her husband and she walked the woods this past weekend and noted that Mr. Haller is referring to a trail they created and had paved on their own (Bruder) property. Two other trails are equestrian trails. She said they don’t ride themselves but welcome riders on those trails, which they help to keep clear. She said the ATV trail is well maintained for safety, with no ditches or standing water.

Ms. Peck suggested the Planning Commission make a recommendation to approve the conditional use application subject to the comments in Mr. Theurkauf’s memo. Mr. Kohli said the applicant must still provide an overall site plan showing the structures, pastures and manure storage area. Mr. Motel suggested they use the old Yerkes subdivision plan to work from, and also suggested they bring the pictures for the hearing.

Ms. Peck asked about Mr. Theurkauf’s comment 2.a regarding the requirement that the location of the manure storage be at least 150 feet from any property line, stream, etc. Mr. Theurkauf said it meets all those requirements.

Ms. Peck asked about Mr. Haller’s suggestion to add pasture management requirements to the conditions. Mr. Churchill suggested this would be better addressed by limiting the number of horses. Mr. Fillippo asked if he would have the same restrictions on his property for the number of horses. Mr. Motel clarified this topic involves two different items. One is the specific Bruder conditional use application being discussed tonight and the other is a proposed zoning amendment now before the Supervisors proposing a change to the method for determining how many horses a given landowner may keep with the number of horses permitted being governed by the number of pasture-acres, which has been under discussion for a couple of years. Mr. Churchill said the conditional use process recognizes that some uses are appropriate for a specific property but the Township needs to ensure their suitability. Mr. Motel said that the Planning Commission is trying to act consistently with this application and the proposed ordinance. Mr. Peck pointed out the maximum number of horses, 12, is acceptable to the applicant.

Ms. Peck moved to recommend approval of the conditional use application for an equestrian center on the Bruder property at 166 Mine Road, subject to the conditions outlined in Mr. Theurkauf’s memorandum dated 10/7/09 and a maximum number of horses permitted of 12. Mr. Churchill seconded. Mr. Motel moved the same recommendation of approval but without a maximum number of horses, stating he preferred that the Supervisors determine the number of horses. Mr. Churchill said he didn’t accept the second motion. Mr. Motel called for further discussion, and there being none, called the vote on the first motion. Five were in favor; Mr. Allen did not vote.

Ordinance Review

Ordinance Amendment – Horseshoe Trail Ordinance to Include other Trails

Mr. Motel circulated an edited version of existing Horseshoe Trail Ordinance #138-2006 that proposes to expand the regulations to include all trails in the Township.

Ms. Peck said it should be made clear that the use of the trails remains at the permission of the landowner. Mr. Motel said this proposal doesn’t change that status.

There was some discussion on the definitions included with the ordinance, as some of them are defined elsewhere. (Mrs. Leland arrived at this time.) The Planning Commission decided to keep the definitions for “trail”, “use”, “user”, “camping”, “permitted” and “prohibited” and to eliminate the others. The definition of “Trail” will be amended to indicate they refer to trails legally accessible to recreational users in Charlestown that are designated by the Board of Supervisors.

Mr. Reis questioned references to lands “owned or controlled by Charlestown Township”, stating that some rules should only apply to these lands and not to those privately owned, such as permitting use only between ½ hour before and ½ hour after sunset. Mr. Churchill suggesting adding “except as the Board of Supervisors may designate by separate regulation”, which the members found acceptable.

Mr. Kuhn asked about the rule for “no hunting or trapping”. Mr. Motel said there’s an exception for landowners. Mr. Reis suggested adding “and their guests”.

Mr. Allen asked about the violations and penalties, which include jail time. Mr. Motel said these are the maximum penalties allowed by law.

Mrs. Csete suggested indicating in the ordinance title that this ordinance amends ordinance #136-2006. The ordinance title will be changed to “Trail Use Ordinance” instead of “Horseshoe Trail Ordinance”.

Ms. Peck moved to recommend the proposed amendments to the Horseshoe Trail Ordinance as discussed, and Mr. Reis seconded. All were in favor.

Ordinance Amendment – Stormwater Management

Mr. Motel circulated the amendment that Mr. Theurkauf compiled, last revised 9/9/09 that includes his edits to it. He said he left in the 601 waiver, and suggested that they review the new section 302.E. on design guidelines, the design manual (Appendix B), and the stormwater maintenance agreement this evening.

Mr. Motel noted that the state model ordinance focuses on the handling of ground water and groundwater recharge. The Planning Commission is trying to add aesthetic guidelines to avoid unsightly systems. He began with discussing proposed section 302.E.

Mr. Motel said he believes the Township can mandate that the applicant conform to certain aesthetic standards by allowing them to choose from an array of options aside from the underground systems now required after the Board of Supervisors amended the ordinance in April 2009. Ms. Peck said she endorses the idea that the applicant be given the option of choosing the best alternative, and that the above ground alternatives focus on environmental benefits since Eric Lowry, the engineer from Pennoni who spoke at the Sept. 15th meeting, confirmed that recharge for above and subsurface systems is comparable. She said the Board should take a holistic approach, considering planning, engineering and design issues. She agrees that Supervisor Charlie Philips has legitimate concerns with the look of above ground systems over time, and that this is why the maintenance agreement is critical. Mr. Motel agreed, noting that even without an amendment to the SMO, this agreement is needed. Mr. Kohli said that the agreement requires that the owner or property association provide an inspection report to the Township every two to three years. The Township will follow up with those who haven’t complied. Ms. Peck suggested requiring an annual report with photographs and a certification that the system continues to meet its requirements. Mr. Motel asked for confirmation that the requirement of a maintenance agreement and the reporting requirements only apply to developments disturbing in excess of 1 acre of land, and Mr. Kohli said yes.

Mr. Churchill said the 9/9/09 edits to the amendment are a good start, but he has a problem with the language “to minimum disturbance of natural features. A developer could argue that an underground system maximizes disturbance. He said he’s concerned with the interpretation of this section. Mr. Theurkauf notes that this phrase was struck from the latest revision. He said the ordinance indicates the type of basin the Township approves must be naturalistic in appearance and compatible with the surrounding uses, and a hierarchy of preferences is given.

Mr. Reis said he wants to eliminate all language relating to aesthetics and use objective standards only for the sake of consistency. Mr. Allen said he agrees up to a point. Mrs. Gorman said she read the entire SMO from beginning to end and it’s somewhat convoluted. She said she doesn’t want to take a straitjacket approach and believes the problem lies in defining the objectives as she questions whether the Board’s objectives are aligned with the body of the ordinance. Mr. Churchill agreed with her statement, saying the first section of the ordinance is meant to reinforce the remainder, but some objectives are not spelled out in the beginning but left until later. He said the promotion of good water quality should be included as a criterion to assess. He agrees that the rest of the ordinance is too restrictive.

Ms. Peck said that the various agencies, the County through its NPDES requirements, the State through the DEP and the Township are all focused on water quality. She said filtering the stormwater with above ground plantings could be linked to this objective. She said she doesn’t think the ordinance should force a sequential priority, and reiterated that the developer should decide what the right approach is. Mr. Allen said this is risky, as some developers will focus on cost savings only, giving several projects along Howell Road as examples, excepting developer Michael Main, who created an extremely well done above ground retention basin at Spring Meadow Farm.

The discussion returned to the dilemma of combining aesthetics in an ordinance that seeks objective standards. Mr. Theurkauf gave the 4:1 slope and native species requirements as examples of standards that improve a basin’s appearance. He said these frame the concept but agreed some fuzziness remains. Mr. Churchill said that if water quality is the main focus, they’ll always have developers choosing the lowest cost system. He said some criteria other than water quality are needed. He said there is other language in the proposed ordinance that prescribes parameters, such as designing the system to be compatible with the surrounding area.

Ms. Peck again said the developer should have the option of choosing the system. Mr. Kuhn disagreed, stating the Township needs to maintain the upper hand, and considers that he was elected by the residents of the Township to serve their best interests and so the focus on approving a stormwater system should be made by the Board members who are invested in doing what’s best for the Township. He said the Board’s objective is to avoid the creation of ugly basins. He applauds the work the Planning Commission is doing on bringing aesthetics into consideration, but what’s to ensure the Board has the leverage to get the developer to do the right thing? Ms. Peck said that this approach can lead the developer down the wrong path by moving forward with the design process and learning it’s not going to be accepted, and being sent back to the drawing board after much time and expense. Mr. Allen disagreed, saying it’s not difficult to determine the type of system in conjunction with the site plan, and that objective costs can be determined for both underground and above ground systems.

Mr. Davison said he’s been thinking on and researching this subject since the last meeting, and obtained some costs on underground systems and rain gardens he can share. He said the underground systems being touted are old technology that the state and county are getting away from by promoting swales instead. He gave an example of high-end builder Bob Griffiths, who has constructed 5 underground systems at a cost range of $25,000-30,000, but designed a rain garden for a 20,000 sq. ft. house for $12,900. He said it’s irresponsible to require that all systems be underground for aesthetic reasons when this can be accomplished through alternate means. He gave an example of where an underground system may be unwise, when the soils are suitable but a neighbor’s shallow well might be affected if the system fails.

Ms. Peck said the sticking point seems to be determining the mechanism for selecting the type of system. Mr. Motel said that under the current proposed ordinance that employs language like “compatible with surrounding area” and other like amorphous and subjective terms, the Township Supervisors have the power to make the ultimate determination based on aesthetics. The developer could construct an underground system or be permitted to construct above ground subject to the Board’s determination that it’s environmentally or aesthetically preferable. Mr. Davison suggested allowing the developer to obtain his own third party reviewer.

The Planning Commission further discussed the challenges of inspection and enforcement. Ms. Peck said education of the prospective property owner at the beginning is key. Mr. Davison said most land development plans require a conditional use approval, and that can be used as a stick.

Mr. Motel asked how to go about developing criteria to include in section 302.E. He suggested that Mr. Churchill and Ms. Peck had articulated the various arguments so well that they form a subcommittee and discuss possible language via email. Mr. Allen said this is only a minor part of the changes needed to the SMO, which he thinks needs a major re-write. Mr. Motel suggested the above-below surface basin issue be addressed first.

Ms. Peck asked if the subcommittee can utilize 2-3 hours of Mr. Theurkauf’s time, which Mr. Motel authorized.

Ordinance Amendment – Wind and Solar Ordinance Discussion

Ms. Peck said she’d first address wind systems, since there are greater concerns with those as compared to solar energy systems. Mr. Allen indicated he’d not heard back from his oil supplier, whom he contacted for information on both wind and solar energy systems.

Ms. Peck circulated the spreadsheet she prepared listing common elements from sample wind and solar ordinances from other municipalities and was first discussed at the Sept. 15th meeting. There were 23 items relating to residential districts and 6 relating to commercial & industrial districts.

She asked for feedback on the first few residential items as follows.

  1. Procedure for approval: The Planning Commission agreed the windmills should be permitted by conditional use.
  2. Where to allow them: the ordinances from the sample municipalities all permitted them only on a lot with a principal use. Mr. Churchill indicated he didn’t care if the lot had a principal use or not, but after some discussion this was left as is.
  3. Number of windmills per lot: She said the intention of the ordinance is to provide for small wind generation systems and suggests Charlestown also stay with this number.
  4. Power Capacity: Ms. Peck noted that the power capacity, shown as 10 KW for two of the sample ordinances and 100 KW for the third, are directly related to the size of the blades, which is limited by item #5, maximum height of the structure. Mr. Reis suggested going to 20 KW so as to tie in to the capacity being rewarded by the State under its rebate program.
  5. Maximum height: The sample ordinances provided heights of 35 feet, 45 feet and no height limit. Ms. Peck said the higher windmills are more efficient but more noticeable. She said a 250 watt generator needs 30-50 feet of height to the top of the blade, and a 10 KW system needs 80-100 feet. Mr. Reis noted that a 10 KW system can power a house, and Mr. Motel added higher windmills would probably be quieter.
  6. How the Height is measured: The group found the standard of measuring to the blade at the highest point to be acceptable.
  7. Pole Type Allowed: Ms. Peck said a guy lattice is cheapest. Other options are a guide tower or monopole. Mr. Kuhn suggesting specifying a monopole for aesthetic purposes, and Ms. Peck agreed.

General discussion on a wind generation ordinance followed. Mr. Motel asked if the sample ordinances might be trying to discourage theses uses via their parameters. Ms. Peck said this is a key issue for the Planning Commission to consider. She suggested they go on a site visit if they can find a nearby location with a residential system. Mr. Motel suggested showing the parameters to someone who installs these systems and ask for comments regarding feasibility. Mr. Comitta provided a contact name, and Ms. Peck said she’ll contact him.

With regard to solar power systems, Mr. Kohli said these need to be addressed soon since a few individuals have already installed them. Ms. Peck noted that the solar generators are better for producing a small amount of power.

Mr. Reis provided some details on the system at his home which includes a geothermal system and a 7.2 KW solar power system installed on his roof.

Other Proposed Ordinance Amendments

The following discussions were tabled to the November 10th meeting due to the lateness of the hour:

Article XV Section 1504: Open Space Provisions – Performance Standards
Article XIV: Roof Top Signs
Article XVI: Section 1613: Home Occupation
Article XVI Section 1615 & Article VII Section 707: EIA Report
Recycling Ordinance: Prohibition of plastic bags and containers in retail operations

Adjournment:

The meeting was adjourned at 10:50 P.M.

Respectfully submitted,


Linda M. Csete
Planning Commission Secretary