TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 2017


Planning Commission:
Bill Westhafer, Chairman, Michael Allen, Wendy Leland, and Michael Richter. Andy Motel, Andre von Hoyer and Michael Churchill were absent.
Thomas Comitta
Linda Csete, Township Manager
Carol Armstrong

Call to Order:

7:40 p.m.


Mrs. Leland announced that the Phoenixville Regional Planning Committee (PRPC) is hosting a Community Planning Workshop on June 22nd from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m. at the Kimberton Fire Company. She urged everyone to attend and to take the planning survey prior to the event.

Approval of Minutes

April 1, 2017 Minutes

Mrs. Leland moved to approve the minutes of April 1, 2017 and Mr. Richter seconded. Mr. Westhafer called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.

April 11, 2017 Minutes

Mrs. Leland moved to approve the minutes of April 11, 2017 and Mr. Richter seconded. Mr. Westhafer called for discussion, and Mr. Allen asked that the word “replace” be changed to “join” on page 3 where Mr. Richter will join him on the Design Review Committee. Mr. Westhafer called the vote. All were in favor.

May 9, 2017 Minutes

There was no May meeting.

General Planning Items

Discussion on forming an Environmental Advisory Council

Carol Armstrong was present to discuss how an Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) would work with the Planning Commission and other Township boards and commissions, including the Parks & Recreation Board and HARB.

Ms. Armstrong provided some background on the 1973 PA Law that made provisions for single or multi-municipal Environmental Advisory Committees. Their purpose is to research and make recommendations on environmentally sensitive projects and issues. Charlestown last considered forming an EAC in 2007, and at that time the Board of Supervisors determined that the existing boards, commissions and committees were adequately addressing these concerns. However, Ms. Armstrong stated that since then, there have been changes in the environment and to best management practices that would make an EAC a useful tool through its research and production of meeting minutes and advisory memos. She noted the impairment of both the Valley Creek and Pickering Creek watersheds, which may eventually require a TMDL plan for pollutant management.

Mr. Westhafer asked how many other townships in the county have an EAC, and Mr. Comitta responded 8. Ms. Armstrong said West Vincent and East Bradford Townships have them, and Phoenixville Borough is considering one. Mr. Westhafer said there’s a potential connection to the PRPC and that a regional EOC could be considered.

Ms. Armstrong said the Delaware River Watershed Initiative is a broader way to connect as well, though she doesn’t see these associations as replacing the need for an individual EAC for Charlestown.

Mrs. Leland gave some background on the PRPC’s upcoming June 22nd workshop, where participants will form 7-8 committees, one of which is for environmental resources protection. Ms. Armstrong indicated she plans to attend.

Mr. Allen asked how many members an EAC would have, and Ms. Armstrong said the committee may have from 3 to 7 members with revolving 3-year terms. Members must be township residents. Additional people may be added as associate members who do not have voting rights. She’s spoken to the Green Valleys Association Executive Director, Victoria Laubach, who serves as Chair of the West Vincent Township EAC, and says theirs is a good model to study. Ed Theurkauf has been involved with it and has been a great resource. She added that Mr. Theurkauf supports the formation of an EAC in Charlestown.

Ms. Armstrong said the membership should consist of people of varying skill sets that are committed to the needs of Charlestown. She said she’s spoken to Sally Willig and Nancy Long and would like to have a conversation with Planning Commission member Andre von Hoyer about becoming involved. She said she’s also talked with a Mr. King, an archeologist who may be interested.

Mr. Allen asked how the EAC would work with the Planning Commission and other groups. Ms. Armstrong said the individual EAC members each act as a liaison to a particular board, commission or committee and focus on detailed research in order to assist these groups with specific suggestions and recommendations in an advisory capacity only.

Mr. Westhafer asked about her background, and Ms. Armstrong said she recently retired from a career in cognitive neuroscience and sees her growing interest in water restoration as a new volunteer based career.

Mr. Westhafer said he sees no downside, and would like to find a connection to the PRPC. Ms. Armstrong said the committee can help with MS-4 requirements, and noted that Township Engineer Dan Wright is supportive. Mr. Westhafer said one research task would be to look for gaps in the current SLDO and Zoning Ordinances, and to review sustainability practices.

Ms. Armstrong said she wished to gauge the Planning Commission’s level of interest and asked if they had any concerns or questions. Mr. Comitta said Ms. Armstrong attended the Supervisors’ June 5th meeting where they suggested she speak to the P.C. He gave examples of tasks performed by the Kennett Township EAC, which included an Emerald Ash Bore assessment, development of meadow management techniques, and undertaking a heritage tree survey for the Homeowners’ Associations. He said the Kennett Board of Supervisors directed their efforts by requesting a proposal from them and drafting an ordinance to frame their areas of focus.

Mr. Westhafer said water quality is a potential focus, and questioned whether a study of the aquifer would be desirable. Ms. Armstrong said Charlestown isn’t in a vulnerable geologic area but is next to an area of concern in East Whiteland Township, which contains superfund sites. She noted that the County Water Resources Authority has concerns and the Stroud Water Research Center has been working on stream water quality standards.

The Planning Commission expressed its interest and support for the formation of an EAC. Ms. Armstrong will return to the Board of Supervisors on July 10th for further discussion. She said the next step would be to post a volunteer application on the website and in the next newsletter seeking interested candidates should the Board decide to move forward.

Plastic bag ordinance

Mr. Westhafer said that with more retail use coming to the Township, Mr. Allen has expressed concerns that an ordinance banning carryout plastic bags in the TND District should be developed. He quoted a statistic of 100 billion bags used per year in the U.S. Mr. Allen referenced a 5/12/17 article in the Philadelphia Inquirer that he views as political pushback from the industry on the adoption of these ordinances, and was likewise critical of the County Solid Waste Authority’s recent lack of support for a ban, citing questionable logic on consumer behavior when a ban is in place.

Mr. Allen said the issue needs to be researched further due to the long life cycle of the bag material and the carbon footprint impact. A compromise is to focus on a business and commercial ban. Another option is to charge for bags.

Two suggestions brought forward were to have reusable cloth bags available on Charlestown Day as a giveaway item, and to have a discussion with Frank and Kim Boyle, owners of the Office Bar & Grille, to see if they’d be interested in supporting the Planning Commission’s efforts.

Ms. Armstrong said this issue would be an appropriate project for an EAC.

Regional Comprehensive Plan Update

Mrs. Leland again referenced the PRPC workshop scheduled for June 22nd. She referred to the 6/7/17 progress report from the Phoenixville Regional Planning Commission and presentation materials prepared by Ed Theurkauf, which provided a number of maps and other helpful visuals. She read through the Agenda for the June 22nd meeting, which will begin with an introductory presentation before breaking into work sessions. Each session committee will then present its findings for discussion before moving on to the next steps in the update process.

Mr. Westhafer explained that the Township is engaging in the regional comprehensive plan update process rather than perform a 10-year update on its individual comprehensive plan. If necessary, a supplemental plan can be appended to the regional plan, but he noted that may not be necessary.

Mr. Richter said there are concerns expressed by Phoenixville Borough residents that the PRPC is concentrating all the development in their area, creating what they perceive as negative demographic and traffic impacts. He anticipates that similar remarks may be heard at the upcoming workshop.

Ms. Armstrong noted that the County’s Landscapes 2 plan shows a geographic plan for urban development and asked if the PRPC was developed as a result of that plan. Mr. Comitta responded no, providing some history on regional planning. He noted that as early as 1956 there were 13 regional planning groups that were active for 50+ years, focusing on issues of regional significance. In 1950, Charlestown adopted its first Zoning Ordinance, and was associated with the Schuylkill Valley Planning Commission. He said the PRPC reviews plans from member municipalities that meet their criteria for density, scope or other set parameters, and part of their purpose is to provide checks and balances on development.

Mr. Westhafer said the PRPC has an advisory role only, and is helpful when dealing with planning for regional amenities such as the Devault Rail Trail. Mr. Allen said that as a member of a regional group, each individual municipality doesn’t have to provide for all uses, allowing those uses to be more strategically placed.

Mrs. Leland said in general, the Charlestown Planning Commission would like to find ways to foster more communication and cooperation with its neighboring townships.

Review of Design Review Committee Meeting on Devault Village at Spring Oak

Mr. Allen provided an update on DVSO issues discussed at the last DRC meeting that took place two weeks ago. He said there were two issues that the DRC could not address, so it was suggested to John Mosteller that he go before the Supervisors to seek a response. Mrs. Csete indicated she received a request from Jason Engelhardt to be added to the July 10th Supervisors’ agenda. She requested an outline of what issues were to be brought forward.

One issue involves the individual house architectural designs. The Township had expressed that they want the designs to follow the Design Manual, but the developer wants some leeway.

The second issue involves the approval for the applicant’s NPDES permit. The applicant is requesting that the Township accept, via waiver, the amendments to what was originally submitted to the County for review and approval.

Mr. Allen said the developer has the next move. Although they have complained of delays, the Township has consistently expressed willingness to hold meetings at their request and any delays have been on the applicant’s part.

When completed, the Design Manual will be reviewed by the DRC and PC before going to the Supervisors for final approval.

Parking Regulations – Restaurants

At the April meeting, the ordinance was close to being finalized, with Mr. Comitta to insert flexibility factors providing a sliding scale from 10 to 14 parking spaces based on square footage. Mr. Comitta circulated a Schedule of Off-Street Parking and Loading Requirements last revised 6/8/17. The schedule shows a scale for 3 sizes of restaurants based on square footage. Flexibility is built into the notes for this schedule indicating the Township may allow a lesser number of parking spaces if the Applicant can demonstrate its sufficiency. This unused parking would then be shown on the plan as reserved parking and must be landscaped. A provision is included for the Zoning Officer to inspect the property after the business is operational to determine if any of the reserved parking is needed.

Mr. Comitta said these changes reflect his research along with Mr. Wright’s research on parking needs for various types of restaurants.

Mr. Allen said he sees no downside to this approach. Mrs. Leland asked if shared parking has been addressed. Mr. Comitta said although they’ve researched it, it’s not included in the current ordinance, noting there was no need for shared parking prior to the adoption of the TND ordinance.

Mr. Comitta suggested that if the Planning Commission is agreeable, he’ll forward the proposed amendment to the Solicitor for drafting and to obtain a review from the Chester County Planning Commission.

Mr. Allen moved to recommend that the parking ordinance amendments be forwarded to Mr. Thompson for drafting and county review, subject to confirming with Mr. Wright that he has nothing further to add. Mrs. Leland seconded. Mr. Westhafer called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.

Follow Up Discussion from Strategic Planning Session

The Planning Commission reviewed action items from the April 1st strategic planning session. It was confirmed that the following items were addressed:

  1. A member of the Planning Commission, Mike Richter, has been appointed to the Design Review Committee.
  2. Mr. Wright has developed a flow chart demonstrating the building permit application process in the TND districts.
  3. The Open Space Map has been updated.
  4. The Devault Rail Trail Committee has drafted a letter to the County Commissioners expressing the importance of the proposed trail.
  5. Mrs. Csete confirmed that the Department of Corrections no longer provides prisoners for roadside cleanup.
  6. Mrs. Csete forwarded an article to Mr. Motel for distribution to residents prior to Earth Day.
  7. Mr. Theurkauf provided a list of Open Space inspection sites.
  8. Mr. Thompson provided a memo on ADA compliance for the Township Office, which advised that signage be provided in the lobby indicating visitors with mobility issues can receive township services on the first floor.

Other Business

Sidewalk at Morehall Rd (Route 29) and General Warren Blvd.

Mr. Comitta said the he, Mike Allen, Andy Motel and Debbie Abel (East Whiteland Planning Commission) walked along the P.J. Whelihans site under construction to review sidewalk and crosswalk connections. It was determined that a connection to the new Wawa in East Whiteland Township is advisable as they viewed several people attempting to cross Morehall Road to access it.

East Whiteland Township indicated it would be amenable to including this connection in their Act 209 Transportation Plan if Charlestown Township would send them a letter requesting it. Mr. Comitta noted there would be no funds available for it from the 209 plan, however.

The Planning Commission agreed with Mr. Comitta’s suggestion that he draft a letter for Mrs. Csete to send requesting that the connection be considered in East Whiteland Township’s Act 209 plan.

Charlestown Outdoor LLC

Mr. Comitta announced that the curative amendment hearing for Charlestown Outdoor, LLC has been scheduled for June 27th.

Tunnel Lights under the Turnpike Tunnel on Morehall Road

Mr. Allen said he spoke to Armour & Sons about adjusting the two street lights in the Turnpike Tunnel so they turn on and off at the same time. They presently operate by turning on depending on the amount of light detected, causing a lag between the two.

Kimberton Fair

Mr. Richter announced that the Kimberton Fair begins the week of July 24th , and noted that July 26th is Military Appreciation Night.


Mrs. Leland noted that another Wawa has been approved in the area, this one to be located in Schuylkill Township at the end of Whitehorse Road.

Administrative Note

Any documents referred to in the minutes are available to the public upon request to the Township office.

Action Items

No action items were identified this evening.


There being no further business, Mr. Westhafer adjourned the meeting at 9:02 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Linda M. Csete
Township Manager