Mr. Allen announced that the Design Review Committee will meet with Frank Boyle of SMF Properties to discuss the sidewalk requirements relative to his land development plan for an apartment above office space at 1028 Yellow Springs Road. Greg Richardson of Traffic Planning & Design will join the discussion and may be able to shed light on why PennDOT didn’t install the crosswalk at Morehall Road (Rt. 29) & Yellow Springs Road as shown on the signal plan during the installation and upgrade of the Route 29 corridor signals. Various options were suggested for Friday’s discussion.
Mr. Allen said the Township realized the requirement for the sidewalk, which is part of the Traditional Neighborhood Development regulations, later in the review process than desirable, and the Planning Commission discussed how to prevent this from happening in the future.
Mr. von Hoyer opened the floor to nominations. Mr. von Hoyer nominated Michael Richter for the position of Chairman of the Planning Commission and so moved. Mr. Westhafer seconded. There were no further nominations. Mr. von Hoyer closed the nominations. Mr. von Hoyer called for discussion and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Richter opened the floor to nominations. Mr. Richter nominated Matt Rogers as Vice Chairman of the Planning Commission and so moved. and Mr. von Hoyer seconded. Mr. Richter closed the nominations. Mr. Richter called for discussion and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
The Planning Commission opted to hold its 2022 meetings on the second Tuesday of the month at the Great Valley Middle School, Room 154, but were undecided on whether to keep their 7:30 p.m. start time or move to 7:00 p.m. This matter was tabled to February 8th.
Mr. Richter moved to approve the minutes of December 14 2021, and Mr. von Hoyer seconded. Mr. Richter called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Comitta presented the 1/10/22 Draft Tree Preservation Ordinance Amendments for review and discussion following revisions made after input was received from Ms. McLean, the Environmental Advisory Committee, and Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission members. Ms. Csete noted that previous discussions were listed as Natural Resource Protection Ordinance Amendments in the 2021 minutes but are in fact the same matter.
Mr. Comitta noted some of the changes from the prior draft, including changes to the list of approved street trees. Some of the suggestions made by the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) were included, but others were not, including the Silver Maple, Dogwood, Black Cherry, and Choke Cherry, which the Planning Commission thinks are better suited for buffer areas.
Mr. Comitta said the EAC suggested the change to item 4.A. to require 3” nursery stock caliper trees instead of 4” stock to be planted to replace each 6” diameter at breast height (DBH) tree rather than 12” DBH. The reason was that 3” trees would acclimate more quickly.
They also recommended requiring additional trees for each additional 6” DBH “and every increment thereof”. This would mean that a 36” DBH tree would need to be replaced with six 6” nursery stock caliper trees. Mr. Comitta said he’s not comfortable with this requirement for practical and cost reasons. Mr. Westhafer said there may not be enough area to replace a 24” DBH tree with four new trees and allow for proper spacing. Mr. Comitta said the Township has a tree fund option that could be used as an alternative in some cases. He said that on Friday, Jan. 7th he met with several experts via Zoom to get input on this requirement.
Ms. McLean responded that she’s familiar with the multiplier concept through her environmental sciences degree and serving on various land management committees. She said that to achieve a long term sustainable woodland, the canopy can’t be maintained at 100%. Open areas within a forested area provides an opportunity for regeneration from the floor and mid-story, deer problems notwithstanding. In some instances, a regeneration area could be fenced out for deer. She added that replacing a big tree with a smaller variety tree many be beneficial to wildlife by providing a diversity of trees.
Mr. Comitta noted supervisor Charlie Philips’ concern for maintenance and monitoring of the proposed tree preservation amendments and the imposition on the property owner. Mr. Comitta agreed some of this would be self-enforced and asked how then to ensure a successful outcome. Ms. McLean said enforcement is a problem with conservation easements as well, and often comes down to a report or complaint from a neighbor.
Ms. McLean referred to an email sent late today from EAC member Pete Goodman where he suggested making tree age a criterion rather than caliper, as various trees grow at different rates. Mr. Comitta said to determine age you’d have to perform borings, although Ms. McLean added there are charts that can translate diameter to age by tree species.
Discussion was held as to whether all the tree regulations should be in the Subdivision & Land Development Ordinance (SLDO) or whether some should be in the Zoning Ordinance as well, to help with enforcement. Mr. Motel noted that Schuylkill Township has both. He said that these discussions on tree preservation started after a property owner clear cut approximately ten acres of land along Howell Road prior to a future intention to subdivide the property, thus circumventing the current tree replacement requirements. The proposed ordinance would prevent this within 2 years of submitting a SLDO application, but he asked if it would affect a building permit application for a house on a single lot which doesn’t trigger an SLDO review. Ms. McLean said it would involve a review if there was a need for conditional use approval. Mr. Motel said if the tree removal causes increased runoff, the Stormwater Management Ordinance (SMO) would come into play. He said at some point “woodland disturbance” constitutes “forestry, ” which then requires a DEP forest management plan. The general consensus was to keep the tree preservation ordinance requirements in the SLDO only.
Mr. Allen was concerned with a new owner becoming liable for clear cutting performed before they bought a property, per the 2-year look back period for subdivision included in item 4.B.1. Ms. McLean said this is akin to the impervious surface coverage that continues to accumulate through the years when various improvements are made to a property. Eventually a new property owner is faced with reaching the maximum allowed and would be prevented from making additional improvements that increase impervious coverage. Mr. Richter said it would be the new buyer’s responsibility to research the purchase prior to deciding on it, and other members agreed this is a case of “buyer beware.”
Mr. Allen asked why two terms for tree size are being used, “nursery stock caliper” and Diameter at Breast Height. Ms. McLean said trees to be replaced are typically measured by DBH while replacement tree diameter is measured six inches above the ground. Mr. Walker said this is a standard industry term.
Mr. von Hoyer asked why the look back period for subdivision was 2 years and suggested they consider a 5 year period.
Mr. Westhafer asked why the term “the Board of Supervisors may require” is used rather than “shall require,” and it was agreed this will be changed.
Mr. Motel asked if item 2.D. includes wire basket removal and Mr. Comitta confirmed it did.
Mr. Richter asked about the “two foot from edge of right of way” referenced in item 2.A and whether this was enough space to prevent sidewalk damage from tree roots. Ms. McLean said that even if the spacing was greater, the reality of street trees is that eventually they will damage sidewalks. A periodic survey of the trees is needed, and after a point, they should be removed and replaced. Mr. Motel asked if some species are better than others in this regard and Ms. McLean said yes, but eventually any tree will be a problem and will affect sewer laterals as well.
The Planning Commission decided to invite EAC members to their February 8th meeting to continue review of the proposed amendments.
Any documents referred to in the minutes are available to the public upon request to the Township office.
There being no further business, Mr. Richter adjourned the meeting at 8:36 p.m. The next meeting will be held on February 8th at 7:30 p.m. at the Great Valley Middle School.