Planning Commission: Wendy Leland, Chair, Bill Westhafer, Vice Chairman, Michael Allen, Michael Churchill, Andy Motel (arrived later) and Michael Richter. Andre von Hoyer was absent.
Consultants: Daniel Wright, P.E., and Dan Mallach
Staff: Linda Csete, Township Manager
Public: See Attached List
Mr. Allen referred to his email circulated earlier today updating the Commission on the Turnpike Underpass Lights, the Decorative Street Light Luminaires, Sign Posts and Guard Rails all to be installed along the Route 29 corridor and intersections with Route 29, and Residential Street Lights for residential projects in the TND.
Mrs. Leland announced that the Planning Commission learned late after the fact that long time Planning Commission member and one term Supervisor, Vincent G. Kling, passed away. The Township is compiling remembrances of this remarkable man and she asked members to send any thoughts to Mrs. Csete to include in it.
Mrs. Leland noted the next Design Review Committee meeting will be held on January 9th at the Township Office, and that the next Planning Commission meeting will have a very full agenda with reorganization and numerous applications to review. That meeting is scheduled for January 14th at 7:30 p.m. in the Great Valley Middle School Choral Room.
Finally, Mrs. Leland noted that the Planning Commission will participate in a one day seminar with Tom Comitta on February 8, 2014 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for review and update of general planning procedures. She extended thanks to Mr. Comitta, who was offering his time pro-bono for this valuable session.
Mr. Allen referred to clarification needed on page 3, final bullet for Spring Oak relating to tree planting and replacement to be shown on the Whitehorse Estates plan. Mr. Churchill moved to approve the November 12, 2013 minutes, and Mr. Allen seconded. Mrs. Leland called for discussion, there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Dr. Don Meyer, Bill Werkheiser, Jonathan Capeci, Dan Mortensen, Sam Coroniti, Mike Rufo of the Christian College and Michael Bowker, P.E. of Momenee and Associates were present to discuss a proposal for the construction of indoor athletic facilities and a new parking lot at the Valley Forge Christian College, which is located in both Schuylkill and Charlestown Townships.
Dr. Meyer began with some history on the College at the former Valley Forge Army Hospital site and provided an overview of the College’s need for upgraded athletic facilities at the campus in order to meet the requirements they must fulfill to advance to the NCAA Division 3 level. The College is in its second year of provisional status for this advancement. The College plans to obtain University status and will change its name at that time. A sports management curriculum will begin next fall. He said the proposed land development is consistent with the master plan on file with both Townships and one goal is to improve the aesthetics of the site along Coldstream and Township Line Roads.
He introduced Sam Coroniti, who wants to partner with the College to design these new sports facilities for use by both the College and the community at large. Mr. Coroniti said he recognized the need for these outdoor fields and indoor training facilities partly due to his active involvement in coaching.
Mike Rufo mentioned he had project management experience and went on to provide a brief overview of the plan. He pointed out the topographical changes moving from the inner to outer areas of the site, and the intention to work with them in the design of the proposed full-sized athletic field, hard combination courts, viewing areas, concession area, and team rooms that would include space for Mr. Coroniti’s private use, locker rooms and training. Mr. Rufo said there would be a separate entrance for the private use areas. 482 parking spaces are proposed, including some spaces to be left in reserve.
(Mr. Motel arrived at this time.)
Mr. Rufo said the building would not be large, with eaves 20-22 feet high and a center of 40-45 feet high. The building would be long but would not appear warehouse-like. The athletic field would have synthetic turf and would be used for women’s softball, women’s field hockey and lacrosse for both men and women. Mrs. Leland asked about the status of the existing field across from the Stables Bar, and Mr. Rufo said that’s only used as a storage area at present.
Mr. Churchill asked about stands in connection with the fields. Mr. Rufo pointed to two areas on the plan shown as small rectangles that represent movable bleachers. He said there would be no permanent bleachers.
Mr. Rufo said the reserve parking area may be converted to an additional field later.
Mr. Richter asked if the existing trails would be left intact, and Mr. Rufo said yes, plus they would be enhanced after more of a berm was created off Coldstream Road, allowing for better community access. Dr. Meyer said the goal was to connect the trails through both townships and later to the Schuylkill River Trail.
Mr. Churchill asked about stormwater management, and Mr. Bowker said the next step in their planning process includes performing these studies. Mr. Allen noted there will be considerable impervious surface to deal with.
Mr. Allen asked what the number of proposed parking spaces was based on, as it seems high. Mr. Bowker said he’s working with Mr. Coroniti and the College to determine the number. Mr. Allen asked if the parking study will be based on use rather than square footage and Mr. Rufo and Mr. Bowker said yes. Mr. Allen also suggested looking at whether a space width reduction from ten feet to 9 feet would help. Mr. Rufo added that with bumper blocks, a length of 16 feet may likewise be feasible.
Mr. Westhafer asked if buses would use the parking lots. Mr. Rufo said the school would use buses but the private use would not. Mr. Westhafer was concerned with addressing student drop off areas while considering the large number of student pedestrians in the lot areas.
Mrs. Leland said she considered the view from nearby residences such as the O’Haras on Marian Road and whether there would be light pollution. Mr. Rufo said the lights are on a pedestrian scale using 12-14’ poles that they believe they can shield to minimize disturbance, particularly since there would be a higher berm there. Mr. Motel said there isn’t much space to add more berming. Mr. Werkheiser said there’s no front door along Coldstream Road, which should pose less of a visual nuisance, and that building is closer to Coldstream Road to keep it away from residents as much as possible. Mr. Westhafer said the building is already at the setback line. Mr. Churchill said if the area is bermed and planted it can be well screened. He said both houses on Marian Road are well screened but wasn’t sure about those on Benburb Road.
Mr. Rufo showed proposed plantings that would be 8 feet above the parking lot. Mr. Motel asked if the site will be bermed on the school side as well, as the site inclines upward from the road at a greater angle. He noted concerns years ago about parking and lighting when the Hartwick House conversion took place, but added the lighting in the center of the campus is a great example of good lighting design.
Mr. Richter asked about the large empty parking lot at Building 19, and asked if it could be used as overflow parking. This could allow for access from both directions, although Dr. Meyer said there are drainage and swale issues there. Mr. Motel asked if there’s a use planned for Building 22, and Mr. Werkheiser said it’s just used for storage now that the boilers have been removed.
Dan Mallach referred to the Thomas Comitta Associates review letter dated 12/3/13 and began by asking if the master plan addresses the stormwater management and parking plans. Mr. Meyer said the master plan is on file with both townships and these items are included, although the master plan doesn’t include the additional 19 acres recently acquired by the College. Mr. Churchill asked if they might in the future need a parking structure rather than numerous lots spread around the campus taking up land. Dr. Meyer said they have sufficient land and expect to purchase additional land in the future. He said a lot next to Bongiorno Hall could be converted to a pervious parking lot if needed.
Mr. Motel said it would be helpful for the Planning Commission to have a map key to the buildings so they would understand the uses of each one. Mrs. Leland confirmed that Buildings 23 and 24 were dormitories, and asked whether designated parking areas with stickers will be needed at some point. Dr. Meyer agreed they’ll need refinements to the parking access plan in the future. Mr. Motel referred to the University of Delaware’s current parking challenges, and suggested the Christian College address future student needs now rather than later.
Mrs. Leland said another concern was egress from the parking area after events. Mr. Rufo said uses would be staggered, and agreed they will have to do a traffic study to determine how to best address this issue. Dr. Meyer said the College’s 15 year lease with the Renaissance Academy expires in 2015, and the Academy will be moving out of those premises, which will give the College even more space after they take back those two buildings.
Mr. Mallach went through review comments on the TCA letter as follows:
|1.1||The plan shows a deviation from the standard orientation of a baseball field and must be corrected.|
|2.1||Overlapping fields: Mr. Rufo said the need for overlapping fields is economically driven and can’t be altered. Mr. Mallach asked why then use the more expensive synthetic turf? Mr. Rufo said this is necessary due to the heavy, continual use the field will have. Mr. Motel asked if this material is pervious, and Mr. Rufe said yes, explaining it is a sand-grass-gravel composite that plays as a regular grass field with storage underneath for recharge.|
|2.2||Softball Field Dimensions at 190 feet down the foul lines instead of 210 feet: Mr. Rufo said this was acceptable.|
Mr. Mallach concluded by going over a few housekeeping items to be addressed on the plans. He noted that a conditional use application would need to accompany the preliminary land development plan, as will an EIA report.
Dan Wright briefly went through comments on his review letter dated 12/3/13. He noted the need to obtain a zoning variance for construction of the building in very steep slopes, even though these are manmade. He also noted that the Zoning Ordinance has a specific definition for parking for this Institutional use at 6 spaces per 1,000 square feet of building area. A detailed parking study will be needed to support any waiver of this requirement.
Mrs. Leland asked for the College’s timeline for this project. Dr. Meyer said they hope to break ground in spring 2014. Mr. Motel asked of the 2,000 students anticipated in the long term, how many can the College accommodate now? Mr. Meyer responded 850.
Mrs. Csete asked for an updated copy of the master plan, since the one on file is from 1999-2000, and Mr. Werkheiser said he’ll send a copy and a PDF.
Mr. Westhafer said stormwater management needs must be addressed for the long term so no serious problems develop down the road. Mr. Motel said this will be a big challenge.
Mr. Churchill asked if there was stormwater hookup to send it offsite. Mr. Werkheiser said no, noting that some of the stormwater planning was deferred since last addressed when Bongiorno Hall was constructed. They’ve considered utilizing a wetland at the Park as part of an ongoing science project to handle some of the stormwater. Mr. Motel said this is included in Best Management Practices and can look very nice. He asked how Charlestown’s stormwater ordinance compares to Schuylkill’s, and how the applicant will coordinate between the two.
Mr. Churchill said the use of the site is an intense use and the Planning Commission should consider whether the current zoning is consistent with it. He said he’d like to see minimal parking with maximum green space to the extent possible.
Mrs. Leland asked what the applicants see as the next steps. Mr. Rufo said they’ll consider the comments from this evening and begin community meetings to get the neighbors’ input as well and start preparing the preliminary plan. Mr. Churchill recommended they prepare cross sectional sketches for those meetings. Mrs. Leland suggested they consider a pedestrian crossing over Coldstream Road. Karen Beam, 329 Buckwalter Road, asked that they consider reducing chemical treatment of the fields that runs off the site.
Dr. Meyer asked if a spring groundbreaking is feasible. Mr. Churchill responded that this is not enough time to go through the entire planning and approval process.
Architect Karen Beam and Engineer John Smirga presented preliminary land development plans for the expansion of the Charlestown Play House parking lot in the Historic District.
Mrs. Leland, also a member of the HARB, noted that the applicants did meet with the HARB as recommended in the Thomas Comitta Associates review letter item #5.
Mr. Wright said he met with Mr. Smirga to go over the engineering issues on his review letter and they’re able to comply with the comments with just a few items to be addressed this evening.
Mr. Smirga gave an overview of the proposed plan, noting the severe parking and access problems for the school, and parents parking across Charlestown Road along the road, then crossing the street to the school. This plan will eliminate that parking along the road. He said three items are needed from PennDOT, including approval of a limited use permit for the existing driveway, approval for a new limited access driveway, and relocation of one of the two blinking school signals. McMahon and Associates is working on the PennDOT approval items, but PennDOT approval is contingent on Charlestown’s approval of the stormwater management plan and E & S Plans.
The plan will include paving of both the lower and upper parking lots, connection of the two access roads, and improvements to the existing student drop-off area to include ADA compliance. He said the plans have been revised to address the stormwater management comments and will be submitted to the Township this Monday in time for review at the January Planning Commission meeting.
Mr. Smirga said both parking lots will be striped. Stormwater management will include 60” perforated pipes that will hold and release water, with all water contained on site. He said the stormwater requirements have driven up the cost of this plan, and Mr. Motel pointed out those requirements come from the state and not the Township. Ms. Beam said the cost of the project will be covered through existing funds, grants and financing, all being overseen by the Board of Directors.
Ms. Beam confirmed the turnaround across the street at the Revolutionary War Cemetery will be abandoned. Mr. Churchill asked if more parking is being proposed than what is needed, but Ms. Beam said the need comes in bursts even though it’s not a daily need. Mr. Smirga said there are 60 families with 92 children attending the School.
Mr. Allen asked, with all the constraints on the site, if the School ever considered relocating. Ms. Beam said no, the families have an intense devotion to this location.
Ms. Beam pointed out the future pavilion, located where the original one room school house stood. By adding a roof to the foundation structure, it creates an outdoor classroom and play area. Mrs. Leland said the HARB has been complimentary of the pavilion design, which is in keeping with its current natural gateway appearance.
Mr. Churchill said item 2 on the TCA review letter calls for screening of the parking lot from abutting neighbors, but due to the nature of the area, there are no abutting neighbors as such. Ms. Beam said they will request a waiver from this screening requirement, and Mr. Wright said he fully supports that request.
Resident and Parks & Rec Board member Bob Jones asked if the School is considering future expansion, and Ms. Beam said it hasn’t been discussed.
Dan Mallach went over comments on TCA’s review letter dated 12/3/13 as follows:
|Item 1:||Mr. Mallach said he believes they can comply with the tree protection requirements and the configuration is acceptable.|
|Item 2:||Parking Lot Screening – already addressed this evening.|
|Mr. Mallach said he’s satisfied with the existing landscaping except some
tree replacement needed. The new planting islands are adequate. Mr. Motel asked if the requirement
for planting islands can be waived, but Mr. Wright said no, this would require a variance. Mr.
Smirga said it’s easier for them to keep the islands than go through that process. Mr. Motel
said the Planning Commission can waive the parking space width and allow 9’ width spaces.
|Item 4:||Existing street trees are adequate to satisfy the ordinance.|
|Item 5:||Meeting with the HARB has been addressed.|
|Item 6:||A limited EIA report would be acceptable. Mr. Wright confirmed that a full waiver isn’t permitted but a waiver allowing a limited report is.|
|Item 7a & 7b:||Tree disturbance – already addressed.|
|Item 7c & 7d:||Applicant to show which trees are to be removed.|
|Item 8:||Access path transitions to be reviewed by the Engineer. Mr. Westhafer suggested a painted line so parents dropping off children know where to stop.|
|Item 9:||not discussed|
|Item 10:||Mr. Mallach said the landscape plan could be combined with another sheet in the plan set.|
|Item 11:||There was considerable discussion on lighting, with Mr. Mallach suggesting the applicant meet with Stan Stubbe for recommendations on how to provide minimal lighting that will address safety concerns. Both Mr. Allen and Mr. Motel indicated that while some special consideration may be allowed due to the location of this property within the Historic District, the Township must address lighting requirements consistently for all applicants. Mr. Churchill disagreed that lighting was necessary, although supervisor Kevin Kuhn felt the need could be addressed with minimal lighting that was only switched on as needed for evening functions. Mr. Allen said ultimately the lighting issue is one for the Supervisors to decide.|
Mrs. Leland referred to item #6 on the County’s review letter, and agreed that in the future, the larger size plan must be submitted rather than half size sheets that were unreadable.
Mr. Wright addressed items on his review letter dated 11/14/13. He said he met with Mr. Smirga and went over all the engineering items. They’ll revise the plan in order to avoid going to the zoning hearing board to seek any variances.
|Item 3:||Mr. Wright said the conditional use application has been filed and he discussed the procedure with Mr. Smirga.|
|Item 11 & 12:||Mr. Wright said he would support waivers from lighting, screening and landscaping requirements.|
Mr. Allen asked for clarification on PennDOT’s Highway Occupancy Permit paperwork that states the Township must be co-signer on the stormwater system plan if the applicant can’t meet their requirements to keep drainage onto Charlestown Road equal to or less than existing levels. He said this must be addressed, as the Township will not co-sign. Mr. Wright said he’ll make sure this is addressed.
Ms. Beam said they hope to start construction this summer and will be looking for a recommendation from the Planning Commission in January. Mr. Churchill thought that this would be possible, along with obtaining conditional use approval. Mrs. Leland thanked them for meeting with Mr. Wright to address the engineering issues prior to this meeting.
Mrs. Leland adjourned the meeting at 10:04 p.m. The Planning Commission’s next scheduled meeting is January 14 2014 at the Great Valley Middle School, Room 154.