Planning Commission: Wendy Leland, Chair, Bill Westhafer, Vice Chairman, Michael Allen, Michael Richter, and Andre von Hoyer. Andy Motel and Michael Churchill were absent.
Consultants: Daniel Wright, P.E, Thomas Comitta
Staff: Linda Csete
Public: See Attached List
Mr. von Hoyer announced that the Act 209 Transportation Committee won’t meet in June and their next meeting is July 23rd, 7:30 p.m. at the Township Office. This will give Andy Heinrich and Tom Comitta more time to prepare.
Mrs. Leland made the following announcements:
She met with Township Manager Linda Csete on June 5th to review the procedure for taking minutes to focus on facts and include less commentary. She noted the May 28th minutes were drafted in this manner.
The Charlestown Community Day event was a success.
The Historical & Architectural Review Board will meet on June 18th at 4:00 p.m. to review the Charlestown Playhouse sketch plan and other matters.
Mr. Allen moved to approve the May 14, 2013 minutes with recommended changes, and Mr. von Hoyer seconded. Mrs. Leland called for discussion, there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Westhafer moved to approve the May 28, 2013 minutes with recommended changes, and Mr. Richter seconded. Mrs. Leland called for discussion, there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Comitta reviewed the 5/14/13 draft lighting ordinance that included all previous comments. Technical comments have been provided by Mike Allen, Dan Wright and Stan Stubbe. He said the floor is open to additional edits this evening and after the Planning Commission makes a recommendation, the draft will be forwarded to the Solicitor with any additional changes highlighted in yellow.
Mrs. Leland said Part 16 of the Zoning Ordinance refers to the SLDO for detailed lighting regulations and is acceptable. She said the focus this evening should be on Part 5.
Mr. Comitta referred a sheet entitled Additional Supplementary Ordinance Amendments, last item, which proposes to amend the general sign regulations in the Zoning Ordinance to state that illuminated signs must comply with Part 5 of the SLDO.
Mr. Allen asked if the 4,100 K referred to in item 5.K is acceptable to Mr. Stubbe. Mr. Comitta will confirm.
Mr. Allen said to strike item 9.E.1.c.
Mrs. Leland said to change item 9.E.1.d to “There is a change in the use of the property.”
Mrs. Leland said item 7 should capture the safety aspect of lights by adding a phrase stating that lighting “shall not be a safety problem for viewers”.
Mrs. Leland moved to recommend approval of the draft SLDO Lighting Provisions and Zoning Ordinance Provisions dated 5/14/13 with these changes. Mr. Allen seconded. Mrs. Leland called for discussion, there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Allen provided an update from the Design Review Committee as follows:
Mr. Allen said the Zoning Ordinance must be amended to accommodate the change in the Design Manual addressing the utility issues. He confirmed that sprinklers are not required in twin or single homes, and noted that the DRC will work out the lighting plan with the new buyer.
The construction entrance, later to be the emergency access, should not go through Spring Oak nor the Devault Foods property. While Mr. Fillippo has other access, there are sight line problems that may require lights, signs and flagmen when in use. This remains an open issue. He referred to drawing TT1 that will be reviewed by the Fire Marshal. Buildings 50 and 51 won’t be constructed until after this access is in place.
Mr. Allen said Mr. Comitta suggested moving the crosswalk back from a circle on the plan.
Mr. Allen said the basketball courts didn’t connect to the active recreation area but a staircase has now been added.
The HOA documents haven’t been reviewed yet since the new buyer is currently doing so. Mr. Mostoller noted there would be one HOA for both Spring Oak and Fillippo Residential.
Mr. Allen referred to a setback area mentioned by Mr. Comitta, who indicated a zoning change would be needed if the setback is less than 20 feet. Mr. Allen said Mr. Philips was opposed to moving the houses, and the developer wasn’t happy with the possibility of losing two units. A different option would be to remove those two plus units 23 & 24 and construct a four townhouse cluster instead. Mr. Comitta said the solicitor should be asked to interpret the setback issue.
Mr. Allen called lots 1, 2 and 3 orphan units that should be turned to face the community.
Mrs. Leland was concerned about the visual impact if they were turned.
Mr. Allen pointed out 10 parking spaces on which he’d like to receive feedback from the Commission.
Mr. von Hoyer said to make sure the area near the cell tower easement is secure. Mr. Allen said there will be a railing, but no details have been provided yet.
The Applicant will return to the DRC before coming before the Planning Commission.
John Smirga, Engineer and Karen Beam, Architect, presented the sketch plan for construction of a new low-volume driveway and parking facilities for the Charlestown Playhouse at 2478 Charlestown Road.
Mr. Smirga said the plan proposes to eliminate the roadside parking, parking across the street and in the lower area. The existing driveway access will continue as a limited access for deliveries but not for parents or students. A total of three highway occupancy permits will be needed. He pointed out the first of two new access areas that will require a PennDOT permit. McMahon & Associates is working on the permits application and has performed 8 hour traffic studies in both directions. There is a 300 foot sight distance for the upper limited access driveway with a 320 foot sight distance in the opposite direction. If one tree is removed, these distances would change to 1000 feet heading north and 400 feet heading south.
Mr. Smirga said the second new access point is needed for general accessibility, leading to a new parking area that will provide a drop off and pick up point that would be out of the weather and would provide parking for teachers, visitors and for special events. The drop off and pick up traffic would be one way. This access will require the relocation of one of the two school blinking lights further north. A second new parking lot is also proposed, but engineering is still to be developed for both lots. He indicated the stormwater management will be designed for a 100 year storm.
Mr. Smirga said both consultants mentioned environmental impacts to be addressed in their review letters, including construction in steep slopes at an 11% grade. He said he recently received the review letters and needs time to go through them.
Ms. Beam referred to the “Bike Yard” where they propose building a steel or wood structure as an open air pavilion and staging area for pick up and drop off. This will be reviewed by the HARB next week. The plans are still being worked out with the teachers and school administration. This area is an add-on to the parking lot.
Mr. Smirga said once the main structure is passed, the grading change is just a few feet so there’s no need to excavate before putting down macadam.
Mr. Smirga addressed comments on Mr. Wright’s review letter dated 6/7/13 as follows:
Comments were addressed on TCA’s review memorandum dated 6/6/13 as follows:
Questions from the Planning Commission were solicited from Mrs. Leland. Mr. Allen asked if the parking spaces could be diagonally positioned, stating it would be safer. Mr. Smirga said this wouldn’t add to the number of spaces but could be considered. Mr. Westhafer asked how the number of spaces was determined, and Mr. Smirga said they tried to maximize the number, coming up with 49 spaces.
Mr. Westhafer asked if the intention is to drop off students or to park. Ms. Beam responded, some of each. Mr. von Hoyer asked if this means only one car can pass. Mr. Smirga said the drive is 18 feet wide so two can pass.
Mrs. Leland asked if the parents are happy with the plan, and Ms. Beam said yes, as are the school staff members.
Mrs. Leland asked if the railroad ties along Charlestown Road will be removed, and Ms. Beam said yes, but they’ll be reused to act as steps. The gravel will be removed from along the road. Mrs. Leland said she’d like to see screening for the Andersen property.
Mr. Smirga asked if the Supervisors have discretion to waive some requirements for them since this property is in the Historic District. Mr. Comitta said waivers from the Zoning Ordinance can’t be granted by the Supervisors; relief would have to be sought from the Zoning Hearing Board.
Mrs. Leland asked for comments from the public. Liz Andersen, 2432 Charlestown Road said maintaining the viewshed is very important, and Mr. Andersen said they’ve had access through the Playhouse property in the past for farm equipment. Mr. Smirga said this should be able to continue, as no changes are planned for that area other than possibly moving the gates.
Mr. Andersen asked if there would be curbing, and Mr. Smirga said no.
Mr. Smirga said there’s one tree in front of the Andersens’ property, possibly in the PennDOT right of way, that they’d like permission to remove. The Andersens agreed.
Mrs. Leland called for a recess at 9:00 p.m. and reconvened at 9:15 p.m.
Paul and Julie Marshall, John Snyder, Esq. and Planner Tim Cassidy were present to respond to comments received at the May 14th Planning Commission meeting and to present a revised proposed zoning ordinance text amendment.
Mr. Snyder said revisions to their proposed amendment were submitted after the last meeting on May 14th, and they include the addition of a definition for “Farm to Table” and reduced the maximum seating to 24.
Mr. Cassidy said parking was increased to 16 from the previous 11 for guests and employees, considering an average of 12 cars per 24 guests and 4 employees. 3 residential parking spaces remain the same. Conceptual drawings show landscape screening and buffering around the parking. Mr. Snyder noted that screening requirements were added to the amended text. Mr. Allen said the ADA space shouldn’t be included in the total parking space count, but Mr. Cassidy disagreed. Mr. Snyder said it’s unlikely there will only be two people per car, though Mr. Allen said it could go either way, with one person arriving separately or many people together. Mr. Snyder said the calculations are allowed to be done this way but they can expand the parking if the Planning Commission wishes. He said these calculations exceed the Township’s requirement for restaurants and cafes.
Mr. Allen said there can’t be any parking on the driveway unless it’s expanded. Mr. Snyder said there were 14 cars parked there the other night, adding that this would be addressed at the land development stage.
Mrs. Leland said she, Mr. von Hoyer and Mr. Churchill met at the site on June 7th and spent significant time there. She said the concept isn’t clear without a site visit. Unlike a café or Bed & Breakfast, patrons would all arrive and depart at the same time or within a window of 15 minutes.
Mr. von Hoyer said he previously had an issue with parking but not so much now. If parking looks tight, they won’t come. He asked how to prevent headlights from shining into the neighbors’ home above and across from the property. Mr. Snyder said guests will arrive and depart in a circle. Mrs. Marshall said when she and her husband leave their property their SUV lights hit the hillside, not the home across the street. Mr. Snyder said the driveway can be re-graded or turned.
Mr. Westhafer said this proposed ordinance change would apply to all eligible properties in the Township. He asked how many would meet the provisions. Mr. Snyder responded two. Mr. Allen said a property owner could acquire additional adjacent acreage to meet the 10 acre minimum as the Marshalls did. Mr. Cassidy showed a map pointing out the current eligible properties.
Mr. von Hoyer asked if any employees would live on the property, and Mr. Snyder said no. Mr. von Hoyer asked if the County Health Department certification for the sewer system includes the employees, and Mr. Snyder said yes. Mr. Westhafer asked if the whole facility is licensed by the county, and Mr. Snyder said yes.
Mr. Richter asked about the maximum seating of 24. He said he’s concerned that the proposal lends itself to other uses and the term “seating” should be changed to “patrons”. Otherwise, cocktail parties or cooking classes wouldn’t apply. Mr. Snyder said certain events wouldn’t be considered part of the business. Mr. Richter said they would still be an element of the business. Mr. Cassidy argued that a patron is a paying customer, but Mr. Richter said this is a delicate line. Mr. Snyder suggested referring to the 24 seats as “paying customers”. Mr. Richter said a wedding would have one paying customer but 100 guests, though Mr. Cassidy countered that a private club is allowed now. Mr. Allen said his concern is that this use opens the door to other uses the Township can’t control, and the Marshall property is in a difficult location so contingencies must be considered. Mr. Cassidy said this proposal is so specific that others wouldn’t want to do it. It requires interest, passion and ability.
Mr. von Hoyer said he’s concerned with the impact to the neighbors but otherwise loves the concept. He said that other than the adjacent neighbor he doesn’t think it will significantly impact others. He said the maximum seating of 24 people is still high, considering that there’s the potential of patrons leaving as late as 10:30 p.m. on weeknights and the business being open 6 days a week. He suggested scaling back to 5 days a week. Mr. Snyder said the Sunday business would be a brunch.
Mr. Westhafer said item #11 of the proposed amendment references activities “not generally compatible with residential uses”, and he sees buffering as a challenge for these uses, particularly since the lane is shared. Planting trees wouldn’t be an effective buffer for noise. Mr. Snyder said the Township already has standards in place for noise. Their original proposal exempted noise issues but the revision doesn’t. Mr. Allen said outdoor dining will be noisy, more so for those uphill from the facility. He said it’s a serious problem, noting he hears neighbors who are 800 feet away when they have a party. Mr. Snyder said this can be addressed during the conditional use process, perhaps by adding a wall. Mr. Marshall said they can reduce the limit to 12 people, though Mr. Allen said 12 people can still make a lot of noise.
The driveway access was discussed, with Mr. Snyder saying his client can widen the driveway without the owner’s permission. He said the driveway now meets the standards for minimum use, but the PennDOT permit would have to be changed to allow for the increase in use. He said his client has the right to the whole fifty foot right of way. Mr. Allen questioned this assertion. Mr. von Hoyer said the Cloeters own two of the three lots accessing this driveway so it is possible they have the right to two-thirds of the 25 trips allowed by the current permit. He asked if their permission would be needed to re-classify the driveway use. Mr. Snyder said no, his client has the right to file an application for a “low volume driveway”.
Mrs. Leland said she received several letters from citizens in the community, which were shared with the other Commission members. She stated however that the Planning Commission hasn’t developed its policy yet on the reading of letters at the meetings.
She read the following email from Planning Commission member Michael Churchill, who was unable to be present this evening:
“Wendy, I will not be back for the meeting. I have read the Cloeters’ analysis. I am not concerned with the traffic or safety issues they raise. I also think the parking is not as big a problem as originally I thought. The insurance issue raised can and should be handled by an indemnity policy from the Marshalls. I do believe, however, that there are issues of the appropriate level of impact. I believe the single seating/serving requirement is essential and key to controlling the impact. Because the house is a full 200 feet away and considerably above the farm the impact is limited but the possibility of noise from outside operations is real. I would reduce the impact by restricting further the seating to 20 persons, limiting operations to five days a week with serving no later than 10 pm and buffering the outdoor seating area.
I know we will learn things at the hearing so these views are tentative and of course I have no vote but I did traipse through the rain to talk with both parties. I think this solution is respectful of both party’s interests, their reasonable expectations, and the township’s interest in maintaining historic properties and preserving residential neighborhoods.”
Mr. Allen referred to Section 18 of the Zoning Ordinance outlining conditional use standards, specifically section 1809.E which states the applicant must insure that “The proposed use is consistent with the nature of the uses existing on any immediately adjacent lots; and, it will not detract from or cause harm to neighboring lots and will be maintained in a manner in keeping with the character of the neighborhood.” He said this proposal clearly doesn’t meet this standard. He further stated he believes the use will devalue the neighbors’ properties.
Mrs. Leland opened the floor to comments from the public at this time as follows.
Mrs. Leland closed the public comments at this time.
Mr. Westhafer said that by building code and county health department standards, this proposed use is a restaurant.
Mr. Snyder said that 95% of the people who have spoken say this is a good idea. It’s a good adaptive reuse the township should support. The applicants know the business and should be trusted. Mr. Marshall revised his proposal to lower the number of guests at a seating. He asked they pass along their recommendation to the Supervisors this evening.
Mr. Allen commented on Mr. Churchill’s email read into the record earlier this evening. He said even if the Cloeters are indemnified against liability, they would still be involved in any court case regardless. He said it’s a great idea in the wrong place, and the neighbor’s concerns haven’t been addressed. Mr. Snyder argued that his clients have a right to use the driveway easement, and he doesn’t understand why insurance is being discussed.
Supervisor Kevin Kuhn said his understanding of the conditional use process is that the burden is on the Supervisors if they deny an application. He wanted to clarify that the applicant is presenting asking the Board to consider a zoning ordinance amendment, not a conditional use approval. If the zoning amendment is approved, the burden will be on the Supervisors to deny what can be considered a vested right when the applicant returns with a conditional use application.
Mr. Westhafer sees item #11 of the proposed amendment regarding impact, particularly noise, as the biggest question to consider. Mitigation hasn’t been addressed at all.
Mrs. Leland noted two Planning Commission members are absent this evening. She asked the others if one wished to propose a motion. Mr. von Hoyer said no and noted the operation proposing 24 people seated 6 days a week was a concern.
Mrs. Leland said she appreciates the adaptive reuse concept. She said she’s not comfortable sending a recommendation to the Supervisors when there are still issues in the text to iron out, specifically item #11 and the shared driveway issue. She said the next meeting is July 9th, and before then she needs to meet with the Planning Commission’s counsel. She thanked the public for their comments and for listening to one another.
Mr. Allen questioned whether the Planning Commission should be considering the zoning amendment at this juncture, feeling it’s wasting people’s time. They should first have an understanding of whether the Supervisors are interested in entertaining the amendment. The Planning Commission should focus on the use, not the amendment. He suggested Mrs. Leland review this question with counsel.
Mr. Snyder said they’ll look at item #11 further and develop a section on screening. Mr. Westhafer said noise should also be addressed, though Mr. Snyder said this is addressed elsewhere in the zoning ordinance.
Mrs. Leland made a motion to adjourn the meeting and Mr. Richter seconded. Mrs. Leland called for discussion, there being none, adjourned the meeting at 11:25 p.m. The Planning Commission’s next scheduled meeting is July 9, 2013 at the Great Valley Middle School, Room 154.