Mrs. Leland announced that she’ll be attending the Nov. 30th Traffic Management Association of Chester County (TMACC) luncheon and encouraged other planning commission members to join her. Mr. Motel said that organization has taken a great deal of interest in the improvements to the Route 29 corridor between Route 202 and the on ramps to the Turnpike slip ramp and up to Charlestown Road, as well as focusing on Route 30 and Route 100.
Mr. Allen moved to approve the minutes of Sept. 13, 2011 and Mr. Richter seconded. Mrs. Leland called for discussion and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor. Mrs. Leland thanked Mrs. Csete for including the checklist they developed for the Spring Oak project.
Mrs. Leland said Spring Oak was removed from tonight’s agenda per DRC chairman Mike Allen’s request. They intend to come in for the November meeting, but timing may be an issue and there’s no real commitment from John Mostoller that they will be ready. He’s incorporating comments from the township consultants and the DRC into the final plan, and may want to return to the DRC for additional feedback prior to submitting it for Planning Commission review. She asked the commissioners to review the Spring Oak 9/13/11 summary packet and provide any final comments to Mr. Mostoller as soon as possible.
Barry Buckley, Jr., Allen Mummert, Mummert Construction, Larry Knopf of Mortgage Network Inc., Chuck Dobson, P.E., and Kristin Camp, Esq. were present to discuss Mr. Buckley’s sketch plan proposing land development for this property he now has under agreement of sale with Genterra Inc.
Ms. Camp said Mr. Buckley is one of the equitable owners of the property, and they propose to build an indoor sports center and a 60 room hotel on the site along with a bank. She said the sports center is the driving force for the land development, and she believes it fits into the Township’s definition for recreational facilities, although it’s not a permitted use in the I/O District. They seek feedback from the Township as to whether the Board would be amenable to changing the zoning to accommodate this use.
Mr. Dobson displayed the sketch plan, slightly modified from the one submitted earlier to the Township, and described the property for the newer Planning Commission members, located at the northeast corner of Yellow Springs Road and Phoenixville Pike, sloping fairly uniformly up from Phoenixville Pike with a couple of areas of very steep slope. He said BDB Properties approached him asking if their plan is feasible. He noted that only the proposed bank is a permitted use in the I/O District at present.
Mr. Dobson showed the proposed recreation center, which would be banked into the slope at the rear. 519 parking spaces are shown for all the uses, with 29% to be held in reserve. He noted that 25% is permitted in reserve. The 60 unit hotel would be a two story structure, and the bank would be approximately 2,500 square feet. The site would have one entrance and one exit off Phoenixville Pike. An access onto Yellow Springs Road would be for emergency only, and they can demonstrate that the grade makes this feasible. The hotel location has shifted slightly since the original sketch.
Mr. Dobson pointed out the existing historic house, the Supplee house, which Mr. Kohli indicated in his review letter dated 10/11/11 should be served by the existing driveway, and combined with the western access from Phoenixville Pike. Mr. Dobson said there may be difficulty achieving this, as there are some wetland areas, and the required 50 foot buffer from them would have to be waived. Otherwise, a separate entrance would be needed from Yellow Springs Road. He said they’re open to suggestions. He acknowledged the Township’s strong interest in preserving the historic building.
Mr. Dobson said the two driveways as shown on the sketch plan have good sight distances. The sketch shows 20 acres of disturbance, but noted 16 acres of this is woodlands that have been harvested in the past, leaving a mix of mature and emerging growth. Woods on the steep slope areas would be left alone. Mr. Dobson said they are seeking feedback on the proposed uses.
Mr. Knopf said he and Mr. Mummert have been involved in youth athletics for over ten years, and in particular, with in-line hockey starting about 8 years ago. This sport has become more popular, and teams and groups throughout the country have expanded. They began to see growth in both girl and boy youth groups as well as adult groups, which demonstrates a need in the community, particularly as schools tighten their budgets. The sports have a club-style status with out-of-pocket costs for the families participating, although some schools support the activities. He said they saw a need for more space with an indoor focus for year round use. They would have preferred adding just one building on the site but need the other uses to support the costs.
Mr. Mummert said he started an in-line hockey league a few years ago in a Lancaster County township that started with 200 four to eighteen year old participants and quickly grew to 600 until they were turning people away. In-line hockey is much less expensive than ice hockey, yet prepares players for ice hockey and has sent some to the National Hockey League. In-line hockey started in California, and has now gone national. The sports center would also provide for basketball, baseball, laser tag, lacrosse and other uses. Ms. Camp said they hope for long-term tenants, with the building also providing indoor play areas, a pro-shop and a restaurant that supports the players and families. She said BDB would own the land and property and lease to tenants. The hotel and bank are needed for a more steady revenue stream. She said the bank is a permitted use, and she believes the hotel is a use that would fit with this proposal. She represents Caln Township, which is considering a similar project. She asked for comments.
Mrs. Leland said the indoor sports use is one they’ve talked about for some time and have had interest in. She asked how many rinks there would be. Mr. Knopf said they would begin with two rinks and would ultimately need three for national draw, plus football, lacrosse and basketball areas. Mrs. Leland asked what material is used, and Mr. Knopf said it’s a hard plastic, 85 x 185 feet for regulation play. Walls can be moved to change the rooms for other uses. Mrs. Leland asked for the height of the building, and Mr. Dobson said 35 feet, noting that to increase this by ten feet the setback must also increase ten feet. Mr. Knopf said there is at least 30 feet in height needed to play the sports.
Mr. von Hoyer asked how they convert the use from in-line hockey to lacrosse or soccer, and Mr. Knopf said they use roll out turf. Expansive grandstands aren’t needed, there are stepped areas where spectators can stand and watch the games.
Ms. Camp said they may want feedback on whether to include a regular restaurant rather than a snack bar or cafeteria. Mr. Dobson said a restaurant is a permitted accessory use.
Mr. Allen asked if the parking held in reserve was primary for the sports facilities and not the hotel, and Mr. Dobson said yes. Mr. Allen said there would be a lot of traffic coming in and out of the site, and he thinks the entrance from Phoenixville Pike will be a big bottleneck. Mr. Dobson said the entrance may be moved, but there would be grading considerations.
Mr. Westhafer said he spends a lot of time at the U.S.T.C. and there’s a great deal of pedestrian use. He said the entrance should face the main parking area. Mr. Dobson said when they work on details they’ll be looking at this along with sidewalks, crosswalks, walkways, etc. Mr. Allen said in order to attract youth there should be an extension of the sidewalk to the Great Valley Middle and High Schools and to Charlestown Oaks. He said the complex will be a huge draw if it goes forward.
Mr. Allen asked if they have competition, and Mr. Knopf named Marple Sports in Broomall, and complexes in Feasterville and Bensalem. He noted that U.S.T.C. is not their competition as they don’t focus on soccer or lacrosse. Mr. Mummert said he travels all over the country with his two children and they love to go to those venues where everything is together in one complex.
Mrs. Leland said the Yellow Springs Road and Phoenixville Pike intersection is very bad now, and while it’s located in East Whiteland Township, Charlestown is responsible for its signalization.
Mr. von Hoyer said he wouldn’t ever want the Yellow Springs Road emergency access to be opened, and Mr. Dobson said it would be well secured.
Mr. Westhafer asked why the hotel is shown so high on the slope. Mr. Dobson said this is a more open area and has nice views.
Mr. Motel said his first impression is that the use is not allowed, but then considered that this proposal doesn’t load the hillside like previous plans, so it works from that aspect. Previous plans showed deep cuts in the slopes, which this proposal avoids. He said the bank use doesn’t seem to fit the other uses. Mrs. Leland asked if a restaurant could be considered there. Mr. Knopf said the mezzanine level would have an area to sit and eat, with glass so people can watch the sports area.
Mr. Westhafer again asked if there would be two or three fields, and Ms. Camp said there would be two to start, but three would be needed. Mr. Mummert said they’d like to allow for four, with one to be kept as turf all the time. Mr. Westhafer asked them if they would build it all, but not fit it all, up front, and Mr. Knopf said yes.
Mr. Allen asked about the time of use, noting it would be heavier on weekends and evenings. He asked when the facility would close at night. Mr. Knopf said since the bulk of the use is by youth, many would come to the complex after school as part of school team practice, but other use would be in the hours of 5:30 or 6:00 to 10:00 p.m., with the building opening at 6:00 a.m. and closing as late as midnight.
Mr. von Hoyer asked if there is need for security, especially if the complex is open late on weekends. Mr. Knopf said they recognize it’s needed in certain venues, but they don’t see their uses as being as much of a problem. Mr. Mummert said security is needed more during open use sessions.
Mr. Motel asked if they see the Turnpike Slip Ramp having an impact on the hotel use, with travellers staying there mid-week. Mr. Knopf said he sees more mid-week stay when the national tournament would come in, every four years. Mr. Motel asked if they expect the hotel visitors to mainly be people involved with the sports programs, and Mr. Knopf said yes. Mr. Dobson said any hotel company wanting to occupy the space will have to make it work from their economic model, and he acknowledged they’ll have to market outside the sports group. Mr. Motel asked about ancillary uses at the hotel. Mr. Dobson said usually there is a bar and breakfast bar. Mr. Motel asked the planning commissioners if anyone was opposed to there being a restaurant in the hotel, and there was no response other than Mrs. Leland saying she didn’t oppose it.
Mr. Richter said they don’t want a Chuck E Cheese type use on the mezzanine, and asked what they mean when they mention an arcade. Mr. Knopf said they’re referring to a vending machine area, not a game area. He said they can work with the Township on this. Mr. Dobson said Mr. Buckley’s idea was more a café style restaurant.
Mr. Allen spoke of security again, noting that on Sunday mornings he sees several East Whiteland Township police cars outside the Marriott near the Desmond and there seem to be youth activities going on at that time. He said security is a real concern, particularly since the Township relies on the State Police for services. Mr. Knopf said security would be private.
Mr. Allen said this site is an odd one for a bank, and noted there are three primary uses proposed here. He would want the site restricted to just these uses if it went forward. Mr. Mummert said hotels can grow. Mr. Dobson said they arrived at a 60 room capacity but 100 rooms is more viable. If the Township likes the use they can discuss this further.
Mr. von Hoyer asked if the security lights from the hotel will beam down on Yorktown Road in Charlestown Oaks. Mr. Dobson said the hotel would be 400 feet from the road.
Mr. Buckley said the sports center has an obvious community benefit, but they can’t tell if it alone can sustain itself, so he asked the commissioners not to assume the other uses can be eliminated. He said BDB Properties is simply a real estate enterprise; the complex will be leased and operated by others. He said they need other tenants to make this profitable and they won’t be quick to relinquish the other uses. He said they’re still doing research, and that maybe they can meet their targets and maybe not. He said his son’s idea was that a restaurant be an ancillary use, with more of a broader scope that would attract outsiders. Mr. Allen said this isn’t necessarily a problem; the Planning Commission’s concern is if the complex doesn’t succeed, it will bring in less desirable uses.
Mr. Motel said he’d assume the multiple uses are better than one single user, noting that 60 units may be too small for the hotel. Mr. Westhafer said he thinks the hotel could be three stories. Mr. Dobson said banks often pay a lot for a desirable location.
Mrs. Leland asked to wrap up and whether there were any other comments. She said they’re all energized by the proposal and encouraged the applicant to continue research and dialogue with the Township. Mr. Allen suggested they bring their sketch to the Board of Supervisors before they go much further, and Ms. Kamp said she’s already requested time on the November 7th agenda from Mrs. Csete.
Mrs. Leland referred to a 9/23/11 draft list of possible ordinances and ordinance amendments that had been circulated to the Planning Commission, and both Mr. Allen and Mr. Motel had added comments to the draft that were re-circulated to the group. The ordinances were numbered on the list and discussed as follows:
Mrs. Leland asked if there was an update on J. Loew & Associates’ offer of two small out parcels adjacent to the Commons at Great Valley to the Township at no cost to use as trail links. Mrs. Csete said the Board was in favor of accepting but has asked if the Commons maintenance crew could continue to mow these small areas. She’s waiting for a reply.
Mrs. Csete said the November meeting needs to be rescheduled due to a conflict with her required to attend the County’s annual emergency management drill on November 15th on behalf of the Township’s Emergency Operations Center. The meeting was rescheduled to November 8th.
The Planning Commission provided general feedback to Mrs. Csete on the 2012 budget.
Mr. Westhafer moved to adjourn and Mr. von Hoyer seconded. Mrs. Leland adjourned the meeting at 9:30 p.m.