There were no announcements.
No matters were brought forward at this time.
Mr. Motel moved to approve the October 13, 2009 minutes and Mr. Reis seconded. Mrs. Gorman said she had a change to email to the Secretary. Mr. Motel amended his motion to include the amendment and Mr. Reis seconded. Mr. Motel called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. Mr. Motel, Mr. Allen, Mrs. Gorman and Mr. Reis were in favor. (Ms. Peck arrived at this time.)
John Mosteller and Eric Schrock from Dewey Homes, Martin Shapiro and Doug Olsen from Barton Partners, and Jason Engelhardt, P.E., from Langan Engineers presented the Spring Oak Preliminary Subdivision Plan.
Michael Allen, Chairman of the Township’s Design Review Committee (DRC) that has been working with the applicant, said that while there have been numerous sketch plans before the Planning Commission, tonight is a formal presentation that starts the process toward final approval of the project. He said the applicant will make a presentation and address some of the comments on the Township consultants’ review letters. The Planning Commission members will ask questions, followed by an opportunity for the public to do the same. He said tonight is the start of the process and the Planning Commission will not be making a recommendation to the Board of Supervisors this evening as the review will take some time and there is still additional work to be done.
Mr. Shapiro began by explaining that a Traditional Neighborhood Development (TND) is a mixed use community. He said last month his group made a more exhaustive update on the design and tonight he’ll review it more quickly. He displayed and explained the following pictures and graphics via PowerPoint:
(Mrs. Leland arrived at this time.)
Jason Engelhart introduced himself as the site engineer for the project and displayed an aerial map of the site and the surrounding properties. He pointed out a substantial buffer along Rees Road, which abuts the eastern property line. He showed the wetland area along Whitehorse Road and its buffer area, also substantial.
Doug Olson of Barton Partners displayed the following graphics:
Mr. Engelhardt then showed the Master Post-Construction Stormwater Management Plan. He pointed out the following Best Management Practices employed by the design:
Mr. Olson described the seed mixes, higher grasses and other species of plants that will be used for the various basins, with plant selection depending on how wet the ground will be for the different basin types. The ponds will have trees along the southern border to keep the water cooler. The infiltration basins, where water is not expected to stand, will feature species selected for their textures, colors, heights and bloom times.
Mr. Olson then showed graphics and photos relating to the lighting plan.
Mr. Motel called for questions from the Planning Commission on the presentation. Regarding the Landscape Plan, Ms. Peck asked if there could be more buffering of Rees Road in the area of the community gardens. Mr. Olson said they can add trees along Rees Road.
Ms. Peck said the horse path in the northern portion of the site is very close to the homes, and thought it should be closer to Whitehorse Road. She said this would be better both for the homeowners and the equestrians. Mr. Allen disagreed, saying he liked this feature of the plan. Mr. Schrock noted they don’t anticipate a great many horses on the trail. Mr. Olson said the trail was pulled away from Whitehorse Road when it was decided not to include a sidewalk there. There are also the wetlands to consider, for which a buffer zone of 150 feet must be maintained.
Mr. Motel asked about the plan designating passive and active recreation along with the center greens. He said what’s shown so far is tremendous but he wants to ensure there’s enough active recreation, for example, softball, basketball, areas for skateboarding and pick-up sports. Mr. Mosteller was concerned with where basketball courts could be placed, thinking they didn’t fit in with the entrance and community center area. There was some discussion on the merits of basketball courts. Ms. Peck thought they would draw the community together. A resident from the Whitehorse @ Charlestown community agreed with those who felt basketball courts would be desirable, saying her three boys would definitely use such an amenity.
The applicants then addressed items on Mr. Comitta’s review memorandum dated 10/21/09.
Mr. Mosteller referred to p. 9, item #4, which lists the various modifications they want to make that would require a change to the ordinance or a variance approval. There was some discussion about the best way to approach these modifications, and the Planning Commission determined they would prefer to amend the ordinance rather than send the applicant to the Zoning Hearing Board for specific reliefs. Mr. Motel said there are already a few items to change in the ordinance and a running list can be maintained to take care of it all at once. (Mr. Churchill arrived at this time.) Mr. Comitta indicated he’s keeping track of the changes needed. Mr. Motel said the plan has been to address all the accumulated amendments by the time the December meeting is held and make a recommendation on them at that December 8th meeting.
Mr. Engelhardt explained items 4.A.1 and 4.A.2, for which they’d like to increase the lot size beyond the maximum permitted. Not doing so creates some odd geometries for corner lots and a few around curves. Ms. Peck asked what percentage of the lots would need relief, and Mr. Schrock said less than 12 of the 184 lots, or 6-7%. Mr. Frens said the expansion of lot size primarily takes place in the back of the lots and doesn’t affect the street widths so he doesn’t see a problem with it. Mr. Engelhardt said he still thinks the intention of the maximum size is met. Mr. Comitta asked to be provided the exact specs. Discussion took place on waht the best approach was in providing this relief: to do so by ordinance amendment that changes the maximum lot size or by calling out the peculiarities that lead to the need for relief. Mr. Comitta felt describing the peculiarities avoided the unintended impact elsewhere that would be caused by amending lot size.
Mr. Mosteller then referred to item 4.A.3., for which they’d like to have an increase from 4 feet to 8 feet for the allowable offset at the build-to line. Mr. Engelhardt said that since some streets are narrower than others, they need the extra space to work with. Mr. Mosteller said the streets with bump outs affect this offset too. Ms. Peck thought the variations might look odd, but Mr. Comitta said this can be seen at Eagleview and he thinks the slight idiosyncrasies add to the community. Mr. Schrock said he wanted to stress to the residents that the need for the increase is a mathematical necessity to make the plan work.
Mr. Engelhardt then discussed item #4.A.4, where they request a sidewalk width reduction from 5 feet to 4 feet-6 inches. Ms. Peck said she felt a 5 foot width should be the minimum, noting she wasn’t at the last meeting when this was discussed. Mr. Schrock said Mr. Allen did research on this issue and it had been discussed several times with the DRC as well as at the last Planning Commission meeting. Mr. Comitta said he measured various sidewalks for the discussion, and Mr. Allen brought wooden templates to the DRC to compare widths. Mr. Comitta said that considering the combination of the grass strips and right of way width setbacks, the DRC decided to reduce the sidewalk width to 4.5 as a good compromise. Ms. Peck said the Planning Commission will regret it, that the space is available, and she doesn’t think the 4.5 width will promote walkability. Mr. Allen said he found 4 feet to be a standard, and that they felt 4.5 feet was sufficient. Mrs. Leland agreed with the narrower width, saying that the community is intimate enough to support it.
Mr. Churchill then raised the question of the Planning Commission’s role versus the Design Review Committee’s role, noting that when there’s a significant issue it’s important that the Planning Commission have the opportunity to weigh in. Mr. Motel responded by agreeing with Mr. Churchill but noting that the Planning Commission had addressed the issue of sidewalk widths at a prior meeting and that important issues had been brought to the PC by Mr. Allen, sidewalks being just one example. He said that as Planning Commission Chairman, he felt it was important to strike a balance between the opinions of the Planning Commission and that of the DRC.
Ms. Peck said she acknowledges the difference between major and minor engineering changes, but she said that changing the width to five feet isn’t a major one. She named a section of sidewalk at Green and Jefferson Roads in Downingtown as an area with 5 foot sidewalks that should be checked out. Mr. Allen stated that this issue was previously addressed in prior meetings and the Planning Commission endorsed the reduction from 5 to 4.5 foot width for sidewalks and the process. Mr. Motel stated that that was the consensus at the last meeting but since Ms. Peck felt so strongly the issue could be addressed again at the next meeting.
Mr. Engelhardt then referred to item #4.A.5, requesting an adjustment of the required pedestrian trail widths from 6 to 4 feet in a few tight areas. Mr. Allen noted this is a new request that the DRC hasn’t reviewed. Mr. Olson said the reduction is needed in the southern portion of the site. Mrs. Gorman said she thinks the reduction is significant in this section of the plan, which is already near the meat packing plant and has stormwater facilities in the open space. She doesn’t want to see the trail width reduced for those residents. Mr. Mosteller said this will give them more space in each individual backyard between the garage and the house. Mr. Churchill asked what that space is, and Ms. Peck said 16 feet, which would increase to 18 feet. Mr. Churchill said that’s relatively significant. Mr. Schrock pointed out areas where the path is next to the alley so the decreased width isn’t as notable. The consensus of the Planning Commission was that the trail width reduction is acceptable.
Mr. Mosteller referred to item #4.B.1, where they seek to reduce the width of the grass strips between the sidewalks and curb from 5 feet to 3 feet, which would be a modification from the General Manual of Written & Graphic Design Guidelines, Item 4.6. He said this would be on streets with bump outs, some of which have rain gardens. Mr. Motel indicated this would be acceptable. Mrs. Gorman said she doesn’t care for the columnar shaped trees. Mr. Shapiro displayed pictures of these trees, but she asked how they would look in situ, saying she needs to see what they look like. Mr. Shapiro said they give a formal look, which Mrs. Gorman said isn’t appealing. She’d prefer a more intimate look. Mr. Olson said columnar trees are only shown on streets where the grass strip next to the on-street parking is 3 feet wide. Ms. Peck asked if the species can be varied, and he said yes. He gave an example of a type of Pin Oak that would be suitable.
Mr. Mosteller referred to item #4.B.2, a request to eliminate the bike path and sidewalk from the Whitehorse Road frontage as depicted on Exhibit 'E-1' of the TND Ordinance. The Planning Commission found this acceptable, with Mr. Allen stating a future connection can be provided if the Township finds a way to provide a safe crossing for Whitehorse Road. Mr. Motel said this can be discussed with PennDOT. Mr. Reis said he wanted the bike path to be in the road, not adjacent. Ms. Peck suggested requesting an easement from PennDOT, but Mr. Motel pointed out there is sufficient room there now, and it’s simply an issue they can work out with PennDOT at a later time.
The applicants then addressed items on Mr. Kohli’s review letter dated 10/26/09. Mr. Comitta pointed out issues on pp. 6-7, items #23-32, in which Mr. Kohli notes street design and street gradient issues not identified until the plan was engineered by the applicant. He said some of these items will have to be considered in the TND ordinance amendment. Mr. Motel said he’d like to defer discussion on these until the Nov. 30th meeting.
Mr. Engelhardt referred to item #7, where Mr. Kohli points out that alleys were omitted from the requirements for streets that allow them to be the build-to line distance away from the boundary line (10 feet) in accordance with Zoning Ordinance 2202.O.1. Alley 4 has been designed in this way, but alleys aren’t specifically included. Mr. Kohli said it’s more desirable to have a 20 foot setback for alleys. Mr. Churchill asks who is being buffered from whom, noting that he’s not concerned whether Devault Foods is buffered from the residences. Ms. Peck noted that the garages act as a buffer. Mr. Mosteller said they have the same situation adjacent to the Fillippo residential tract for lot #79-89, and that he’s meeting with Mr. Fillippo next week to discuss it. From a marketing standpoint, he and Mr. Fillippo need to work together, since that tract will ultimately be designed as another TND. Mr. Kohli said he doesn’t have an issue with allowing the same setback for alleys as for streets, but the ordinance would have to be amended. Mr. Motel suggested this item be added to the amendment punch list.
Mr. Reis said Devault Foods has additional buildings planned in several phases for their complex. Ms. Peck said if the ordinance doesn’t address buffering between two different uses, something is needed. Mr. Allen said there are buffering requirements in the ordinance with regard to LI zoning, which Mr. Kohli confirmed. Mr. Shapiro said buffering would be counter to TND planning. Mr. Churchill said the buffering will be pushed onto Mr. Fillippo’s property in effect and that it’s not unacceptable in this circumstance since he’ll get some benefit from this plan. He encouraged Mr. Mosteller to work it out with him.
Mr. Kohli reminded the applicant that the rain garden near Devault Foods must be far enough away from two detention tanks used for industrial treatment at that complex. The treated waste is eventually pumped into the public sewer system, and they must ensure the rain garden water doesn’t percolate into the tanks, which are quite deep. Mr. Engelhardt said they’ll look into this. Ms. Peck asked if there was an odor from these tanks, and Mr. Allen said no, because they’re contained.
Mr. Engelhardt said they may be asking for waivers from the minimum 150 foot radius required for the centerline of roads E and F in accordance with SLDO 502.C.9. Mr. Kohli said they can just list where the noncompliances are located and it shouldn’t be a problem to obtain a waiver. Mr. Shapiro said the minimum is stated as 50 feet in the TND ordinance and that the two ordinances conflict. Mr. Motel said the Township will waive the higher minimum if needed to avoid an amendment. Mr. Kohli said they also need to show which roads are planned for dedication to the Township. There was a question in particular about 2-3 small pieces of roadway and whether they’d be offered and accepted for dedication.
Mr. Kohli noted he hasn’t completed the stormwater portion of his review yet and it will have to be addressed later.
Mr. Mosteller said that with regard to item #13.a. on Mr. Kohli’s review letter, there are nine homes shown on the delineation map as being in high ground water areas, which triggers the need for conditional use approval in order to include basements. However, field testing shows they are not in high ground water area. Mr. Kohli said if the Township agrees with the report, the conditional use will not be necessary.
Mr. Motel said item #12, stating that the utility plans must be revised to show the locations of all boxes, meters and lines is a pet peeve of his because the utilities don’t provide the information on location and appearance until very late in the final planning stage and the visual result can be very unpleasant, citing Eagleview and Lantern Hill. Mr. Engelhard said it’s difficult to get cooperation from PECO on this until final plan approval but they’ll try to push it. Mr. Motel said that if any push from the Township would help, that the applicants should let the PC and DRC know.
Mr. Allen said he has a number of comments and questions, and it was decided they would be addressed in a DRC work session scheduled for November 2nd at 10 a.m. at the Township Office. Mr. Motel asked the other Planning Commission members to email any questions they may have to Mr. Allen prior to this meeting so they can be addressed at that time.
Mr. Allen said they still need to go over the Environmental Impact Assessment report and the Traffic Report.
Mr. Motel asked for questions from the audience. Mark Melso, Great Woods Lane, asked about traffic on Rees Road during rush hour. Mrs. Leland said there will be a 4-way stop intersection created at Rees Road and Blackstone Lane and the new access road from Spring Oak. Mr. Melso asked if Rees Road will be widened, and Mrs. Leland answered no. Mr. Melso asked if they anticipated most of the traffic would go out the main entrance onto Whitehorse Road. Mr. Motel said that’s the Township’s desire, but difficult to predict. Mr. Allen said they can only go by the data in the traffic study at this point.
Mr. Allen gave some data from the study as follows:
Mr. Melso asked if there would be a traffic signal at Whitehorse Road and Rees Road, and Mr. Allen said no. Mr. Melso said there’s a back up every morning at that intersection even now, and he’s concerned this will send more Spring Oak residents to Rees Road to exit there. He asked why there would be no signal at Whitehorse and Rees. Ms. Peck explained how approval is only obtained from PennDOT if certain warrants are met, and that this intersection simply doesn’t meet the traffic count requirements.
Mr. Motel said that Spring Oak is one part of the five part TND in Devault, and that road configurations, particularly for Whitehorse Road, will change as the planning for the area moves forward.
Mr. Motel called for adjournment at this time, stating that the review would continue at the November 30th meeting, 7:30 p.m. at the Great Valley Middle School.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:15 P.M.