Mr. Motel announced that he, Michael Allen, Wendy Leland, Kevin Kuhn, Tom Comitta, and Tom Fillippo met with Perry Morgan at Mr. Fillippo’s office to discuss potential road connections between TND Areas 1 & 2. He added this matter to the agenda for discussion this evening.
Mrs. Leland moved to approve the minutes of June 22, 2010 and Mr. von Hoyer seconded. Mr. Motel called for discussion and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Dan Wright said his office at Advanced Geo Services reviewed the plans and hydrological calculations prepared by Jeffrey Bodo, P.E. of Wilkinson Associates for dam abandonment and stream channel restoration at Charlestown Park.
Mr. Kohli explained that the dam has been breached and had been undermined for a long time, creating a dangerous situation with a hole in the concrete at the top of the structure. The Parks & Recreation Board recommends removal of the dam and restoration of the stream.
Mr. Motel asked what the purpose of the dam was originally. Mr. Theurkauf said it appears to predate the Army Hospital’s ownership of the property and was most likely constructed when the Fosters owned the property to create a farm pond. Mr. Motel asked how big it was, and Mr. Theurkauf estimated about ¼ acre, which would be a typical size for a farm pond.
Mr. Motel asked if the project requires DEP approval, and Mr. Kohli said yes. Mr. Wright said the plans show the existing conditions and includes a grading plan that proposes improvements that will create a low flow channel then an upper trapezoidal higher flow channel. He pointed out the water course on the plans and a temporary access drive to be used while the work is done. He said the water flows under Township Line Road after it leaves the park property. Mr. Motel asked if there is water flow all year, and Mr. Theurkauf said yes.
Mr. Kohli said the Parks & Rec Board wanted to show the plans to the Planning Commission as a courtesy. Mr. Motel to recommend that the plan for dam removal at Charlestown Park move forward as shown on the plans presented this evening, and Mrs. Leland seconded. Mr. Motel called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Motel referred to a request by the Supervisors to review a draft zoning ordinance amendment prepared by the Township Solicitor that would basically prohibit all signs in the road rights-of-way. He asked the Administrator to recirculate the information for the Planning Commission to review at the September 14, 2010 meeting.
Mr. Motel informed those present that the Planning Commission is not proposing any action be taken this evening, rather they want to continue the discussion started at the June 8th meeting, which may lead to amendments in the future. He said he asked Mr. Theurkauf to prepare a memo, which has now been circulated to aid in the discussions that will continue into September and beyond.
Mr. Motel said that at the June meeting, the presenters mostly focused on riparian buffer issues although the number of animals per acre was also discussed.
Mr. Motel referred Mr. Theurkauf’s 7/13/10 memo and several points were addressed as follows.
Mr. Motel said the Zoning Ordinance has no limit on the number of agricultural animals that may be kept on properties over 25 acres in size. He questioned why the ordinance may have been written this way and investigated state regulations to see if there were any to preclude local control over 25+ acre properties. He said he could find nothing in either the Clean Streams Act or Nutrient Management Act to preclude it. He said his first recommendation for an amendment to Charlestown’s Ordinance is to extend the animal per acre limits to all properties, including those over 25 acres. Mrs. Leland agreed.
Mr. Motel asked Mr. Theurkauf if he could find anything to explain why 25+ acre properties had originally been excluded from any agricultural regulation whatsoever and he said “no”, although he is aware many municipal ordinances have similar language which leads him to believe there was some “boilerplate” language they used. Mr. Motel said he checked into about eight local townships’ ordinances on line and found several of them had a similar exemption and noted it appeared to be replicated language. He again said he can’t find a reason why those larger properties would be exempted and asked for comments. Mrs. Leland agreed it’s a glaring omission that can’t be explained by any of the research done by the Planning Commission in recent months. Mr. Motel asked those present in the audience if they had any ideas on the distinction.
Carolyn Desfor said the number of animals that can be sustained on a property depends on how the land is used, and she suggested requiring that the larger properties adopt a nutrient management plan regulated by the county rather than imposing township regulations. Mr. Motel said, however, that if the state law doesn’t trump the local ordinance, the Township can’t require them to administer local land use regulations. Mr. Theurkauf said the Nutrient Management Act generally focuses on concentrated operations relating to the storage and disposal of manure and wouldn’t address animals per acre or other local concerns. Mr. Motel said he would hope all larger landowners would bring in the County Conservation District to create a nutrient management plan, but acknowledges this is voluntary and the NMA relates only to the mechanical application and storage of manure and has no application to the number of animals.
Michael Desfor speculated that when the ordinance was originally written, there were more 100+ acre farms in the area and the need to regulate them may not have been recognized.
Mr. Motel said the current ordinance, Section 1614 requires one have a minimum of four acres as a prerequisite to agricultural uses. The number of animals allowed is based on gross acreage of the parcel and the type of animal in question with additional animals permitted for each additional gross acre. He said one alternative contemplated several years ago and discussed in this ordinance review process was to consider dispensing with the “gross acreage” measure and adopt a measure tied to the available pasture area dedicated to the keeping of the particular animal which seemed more rational than basing the number of animals allowed on a gross acre measure which would include land not dedicated to keeping the animals, however, Mr. Motel stated that he’d learned that many who keep horses for example do not rely on the pasture grasses alone for sustenance and/or often bring the horses in to barns and stables which also diminishes the impact on pastures. Thus he looked at the ordinances from neighboring municipalities to see how they regulated the number of animals and saw that most measured by gross acreage with the exception of Willistown Township which allows 1 horse per acre of “dedicated pasture”. He said he’s now concluded that a gross acreage method, which is a more relaxed approach, is in his view the better measure and had also concluded that simple headcounts should not be the only focus, that it was wiser, as was suggested by Alix Coleman, to focus on how livestock was kept. He asked the Desfors, who have 46 acres, whether a limit of 42 horses on their property would be reasonable which would be the case if the 1 horse per 1 gross acre measure was applied to their parcel (at present, 1614 would not impose any regulation on a 46 acre parcel). Mrs. Desfor said they’re only permitted 35 horses because of the conditional use approval they received for the construction of the riding center which stipulated that maximum number. Mr. Motel asked if that limitation had proven to be a hardship, and Mrs. Desfor said no, because of the nature of their business in which they move their horses in the winter to Florida.
Mr. Motel said he’ll speak with Mr. McErlane about the Williston “dedicated pasture” measure effect since he is the solicitor for both townships.
Mr. Desfor said he thinks the requirement of 1 gross acre per horse is very fair, as it takes into consideration that people with show horses use their pastures less. Mr. Motel noted he’d like to consider any ordinance amendment that would prevent harm at the extremes. Mrs. Leland said the Planning Commission should consider the terminology it wants to use, for example, “animal equivalent units”. Mr. Motel said he prefers to list the requirements by type of animal and keep it somewhat generous given the practical problems in judging and monitoring AEU which are based on animal weight. Mr. Theurkauf said Penn State provides recommended density per acre for various categories, for example, “hoofed livestock”.
Mr. Desfor asked what the Township’s main goal is, reduction of pasture degradation or manure management? Mr. Motel said the main objective is to prevent denuded, overused pastures that lead to excessive runoff into streams that includes animal waste. In this respect, the Planning Commission is also considering protection of perennial streams and other year-round waterways through the use of riparian buffers. Mr. Desfor suggested that since different animals and uses create different problems, the ordinance should specify that good practices are required and will be enforced after 3 warnings. Mr. Motel agreed that this is the desired result but said an ordinance must include specific standards, so any person could then read the ordinance, understand what’s required and comply. Subjective standards are inherently unfair and thus unenforceable.
Brett Kreiter asked what if a landowner has fewer animals than permitted but the land is degraded? Mrs. Desfor noted that a high strung horse can rip up a pasture quickly, and she has several horses not put in the pasture for this reason. Mr. Motel said he thinks it’s fair to impose restrictions if the use creates negative offsite impacts such as the degradation of a riparian buffer, adverse impacts on aquatic life and drinking water, but he questioned whether the Township should be regulating something like a farm pond that is contained on the individual’s property. He said it’s reasonable to impose good management practices on agricultural uses that have offsite impacts, for example, by impacts on the Pigeon Run, Pickering Creek or their unnamed tributaries. Mr. Theurkauf defined those as any first order tributary running perennially.
Mr. Motel said he attended a seminar in Honeybrook in May of this year at which Alix Coleman was also present, and learned that farm ponds fouled by manure and animal waste often contain high amounts of salmonella bacteria and the giardia parasite, yet if those toxins do not have offsite impacts he doesn’t feel comfortable legislating different uses or practices whereas negative impacts offsite, for example, on brown trout habitat in a watercourse extending beyond an individual property or drinking water, are legitimate areas for ordinance regulation.
Ms. Coleman suggested the Township try to get access to Aqua PA tests to obtain baseline documentation on water quality coming into the Township and arriving at the Phoenixville reservoir in order to compare that water quality to what it is after any ordinance changes are made. Mr. von Hoyer said testing can be affected by storm events so timing would have to be taken into consideration.
Mr. Motel said he wants to keep the numbers for animal limits generous while maintaining cleaner perennial streams. He directed the discussion back to the number of minimum acres to keep livestock. He said 4 acres is the minimum in Charlestown, while some other municipalities have a 3 acre prerequisite to keeping a horse and asked why Charlestown should likewise lower the arbitrary acre number from 4 to 3. Mrs. Leland noted that her development, Whitehorse @ Charlestown, has lots between 3 and 4 acres in size, but the HOA covenants preclude livestock so they wouldn’t be affected by a lowering of the acreage requirement.
Mr. Westhafer said he thinks the four acre minimum is the right size. Ms. Coleman said people who attempt to keep a horse on a smaller property usually run into problems and won’t have the horse very long. Mr. Desfor said it comes down to the property owner’s practices. One acre can be plenty for one horse if managed properly. Mr. Motel said the Planning Commission has to consider conflicts with neighbors and he’s beginning to agree that the 4 acre minimum is the proper size for larger animals, though he questions why a property under two acres can’t have chickens as long as there are no roosters.
There was some discussion on ACRE (Agricultural Communities & Rural Environment Law) and whether local ordinances can supersede it if a landowner is compliant with ACRE by having a nutrient management plan. He said he’ll circulate a memo from the solicitor on this subject. He asked Ms. Coleman if her farm has a nutrient management plan and she said yes. Mr. Motel said the Township’s interests seem to correspond to those of the landowners present, that they can either comply with the township regulations or comply with ACRE.
Mr. Motel questioned the reasonableness of the state law, called the Clean Streams Law, that disallows fencing of streams for the purpose of excluding livestock whereas the same law imposes a mandatory duty on all municipalities to prevent the entry of “sewage” (defined as human or animal waste) into any “waters of the Commonwealth”. Charlestown has an ordinance stating that no structures are permitted within 100 feet of a stream to encourage a vegetated buffer, yet there’s nothing to prevent animals from fouling that stream. Mr. Theurkauf said the reference to not requiring fences along streams to exclude livestock may mean that fences can be required so long as the ordinance allows a landowner to install water crossings and drinking areas. Ms. Coleman asked how to maintain a vegetated buffer without fencing and Mr. Motel acknowledged it wouldn’t be easy.
Mr. Theurkauf suggested that the Township consider requiring a buffer for agricultural practices along perennial streams, and although a wider buffer would be desirable, he notes that a 35 foot buffer on both sides of a stream would be in keeping with the PA Nutrient Management Act. It won’t keep all the nitrogen out of the stream but would still be a big improvement. Mr. Motel agreed that any buffer is better than none.
Mr. Motel said at the last meeting, Liz Andersen asked how, if riparian areas were required, could a landowner control the growth of invasive species in a vegetated buffer, like multi-flora rose. First, having a vegetated buffer keeps the livestock and animal waste out of the stream, once mature it also reduces the stream temperature through shading which in turn increases oxygen levels and by its presence slows the rate of runoff into the riparian area which reduces something known as “stream scour” which damages banks and promotes silting. Mr. Theurkauf added that it also provides a habitat corridor for birds and animals. Ms. Coleman addressed a comment from the June meeting that someone objected to that because wild animals bring rabies in contact with the livestock, but she said all horses are vaccinated against this anyway and it isn’t a real concern.
Mr. Motel said the CCCD representatives suggested limited intense grazing in riparian areas would control invasives, noting that goats take care of multi-flora rose. Ms. Coleman agreed that flash grazing can be effective provided the conditions are right.
Mr. Motel referred to Peter Weller’s property in Unionville, which is a beautiful property with 75-100 foot wide riparian buffers that were planted using a subsidy under CREP (Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program). Mr. Weller installed concrete slabs for animal crossings which stabilizes the bottom and prevents damage to the stream bed from livestock but Mr. Motel noted they can be expensive (Mr. Weller estimated about $800 per slat) and he wouldn’t be comfortable imposing a requirement for their use or similar measures of like cost on landowners. Gravel is cheaper as a bottom stabilizer but not as effective as concrete slats because it tends to wash away in storms. Mr. Desfor said CREP is a good program but has a lot of restrictions that disqualify many properties.
Mr. Motel said discussions would continue in September, including what to consider if a mandated buffer takes away usable land from the property, how to prevent invasives, and other items on Mr. Theurkauf’s memo, which he’ll circulate among interested landowners.
Mr. Desfor said he didn’t hear anything this evening that concerned him, reminding the Planning Commission that many larger property owners are struggling in this economy and since his property is permanently protected, he needs to be able to maintain a viable equine use without onerous laws imposed on him that may create added expenses. Mr. Motel said the Township is trying to approach the issue with sensitivity, and thought they might be able to provide assistance with riparian buffer installation but that would have to be discussed. Mr. Desfor said the discussions tonight seemed very reasonable. Mrs. Leland said the Planning Commission has been going through an education process on agricultural uses and have brought in several experts attempting to generate dialog between the Township and the landowners.
Mr. Motel thanked the landowners for attending the meeting this evening and for the useful feedback they provided.
Mr. Motel said that after the meeting last week with Perry Morgan, Mr. Morgan prepared a drawing to show how TND Areas 1 and 2 might be connected. The drawing was prepared with the aid of a CAD plan of the Devault Foods property that was provided by Tom Fillippo’s engineer, Mike Keffer, at Mr. Fillippo’s direction.
Mr. Motel said at the meeting, they determined that Devault Foods is allowed to expand under the underlying LI Zoning and is not required to meet TND ordinance standards.
The drawing shows how a connector road from the Tyler Griffin tract would cross Route 29, then cross Whitehorse Road at a signalized intersection, afford truck access to Devault Foods and then curve left or east and enter Spring Oak at the midway point perpendicular to the north south property line it shares with Devault Foods. This connector road would accommodate truck traffic into Devault Foods, allow adequate parking for the Plant as envisioned by the existing approved expansion plan for the Plant, and buffer the plant from the TND areas to the north. Additional parking is shown for Devault Foods that is in line with the number of spaces they stated they will need. Parking in the remainder of Area 2 provides 4.5 spaces per 1,000 sq. ft. of retail/commercial space, which is standard.
Mr. Motel showed the location of a large building that would have space for a municipal office while the remainder of the 30,000 sq. ft. building could be leased to others, including any County uses or as a location to accommodate the Pennsylvania State Police.
Mr. Westhafer suggested keeping the retail shops and restaurants away from Whitehorse Road to encourage pedestrian traffic and outdoor dining and uses as he felt such would be less than optimal along Whitehorse Road due to automobile traffic, which Mr. Motel said he’d pass along to Perry Morgan, who will be brought in to the Planning Commission soon for further discussion on the layout of the area.
Mr. von Hoyer suggested the Township try for a gold or platinum LEED certification for any municipal building, which would then make it eligible for some grant funding. Mr. Motel said this has already been raised by Board members and is considered a serious goal and part of any municipal building objective.
The meeting was adjourned at 9:53 p.m.