Great Valley Middle School, Room 154
255 North Phoenixville Pike, Malvern, PA
Tuesday, September 13, 2022


Planning Commission:
Mike Richter, Chairman, Matt Rogers, Vice Chairman, Daniel Ghosh (arrived at 8:05 p.m.), Andy Motel, Andre von Hoyer, Dan Walker, and Bill Westhafer. Michael Churchill was absent.
Daniel T. Wright, P.E., Thomas Comitta, and Wendy McLean, Esq.
Chris Heleniak, Manager, Beth Martin, Michael Allen, and Linda Csete

Call to Order:

7:02 p.m.


Mr. Heleniak stated that the new office fit-out is a bit behind schedule but the move should be completed so that the November Planning Commission Meeting will be in the new location.

Charlestown Day will be held on Sept. 24th from 9 am – 3:00 p.m. at Charlestown Park.

Approval of Minutes

Mr. von Hoyer moved to approve the minutes of August 9, 2022, and Mr. Westhafer seconded. Mr. Richter called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.

SLDO Reviews

Permit Determination - Justin LoPiccolo – Accessory Building (extending into the front yard)

Mr. Justin LoPiccolo presented his request for approval to construct an addition to an existing detached garage that will cause it to extend further into the front yard at 4134 Howell Road. He told Members it was 60 feet from the street and had large trees in the vegetative buffer.

Mr. Richter moved to recommend approval of the request to locate the detached garage in the front yard at 4134 Howell Road and Mr. Rogers seconded. Mr. Richter called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.

Conditional Use Application - Francis Reed Wills – Construction in Steep Slopes, Bodine Rd

Mr. and Mrs. Reed and Heather Wills presented their application for a Conditional Use for a new patio area with a proposed wall, spa, and walkway. These are to be partially constructed in steep slopes at 2220 Bodine Road. Mr. Wright said the entire backyard was a man-made 15-19% slope and they could not move the project to a non-steep slope area. They will use a stone trench to direct the run-off. Mr. Wills also plans on adding buffer vegetation.

Mr. Rogers moved to recommend approval of the Conditional Use Application for the Wills’ and Mr. Richter seconded. Mr. Richter called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.

Kathy Greene-Christopher Marks Minor Subdivision, Howell Road

Mr. Greg Adelman Esq., and Mr. Brynn Schaffer, P.E., of Carta Engineering returned to continue the review of a proposed 3-lot subdivision of a 9-acre parcel on Howell Road. The reps were hoping for a (1) favorable response to their modification of a steep slope driveway and (2) a favorable recommendation of a Conditional Use application for disturbance of steep slope.

Montrose Environmental Review Letter dated 9/1/2022

In April of 2022, developers submitted a Conditional Use Application. It is required when construction of streets and driveways are within steep slopes and no viable alternative alignment or location is feasible. It appeared to the PC that the driveway could be realigned to avoid steep slopes. The PC asked the engineers to design the steep slope driveway in a way that minimizes disturbance. Engineers used a channel that had been established by the prior owner when conducting logging activities. Tonight’s proposed driveway design does not increase disturbance. This driveway is wider with a fan at the road, and it splits at the top for the last two homes of the 3-lot subdivision. The driveway is also wider at a service driveway for a barn at 4221 Howell Road (Ms. Green’s property). Its pull-offs received criticism and the two reps will be revising the placements and the design of driveway entrances and splits. Changes to make softer turns and consideration for bad weather conditions, delivery trucks, and aesthetics will be included.

A review portrayed the swale parallel to the driveway within a Horseshoe Trail easement with rainwater running under Howell Road. Changes were made since the Horse-Shoe Trail conservancy indicated they would abandon the easement. They later rescinded and now the swale is along the south side of the drive with piping to not impact the HST easement. The plunge pool has been removed and the storm sewer is tied directly into the existing storm sewer within Howell Road.

There is no issue with the waiver request for the 4 access points on this driveway as one is secondary. There is no issue with the 1% grade change request, the 50-foot sight triangle, the state recharge requirement of the 2-year volume, and the waiver for surface basins. Mr. Wright will be highly involved with all stormwater calculations, routing analysis, pipe diameters, outlet designs, and basin designs, as the reps proceed. All technical details and plan notations will be verified.

Thomas Comitta & Associates review memo dated 9/6/22 received a will comply. However, item 2.2.b. regarding 61 more trees was met with much discussion:

Mr. Comitta was not in favor of the changes to the reforestation plan. There is a long row of large trees along the road and tonight’s plan proposes removing some of the roadway trees and adding 500 seedlings on 2 acres. At an earlier meeting reps miscalculated and thought they had to plant 210 trees. However, they only need to consider the trees cleared over a 12” diameter (not 6”) in the new smaller area of disturbance (due to the driveway change). This lowered the total to 104 trees. They propose planting the seedlings plus only 43 trees. The consultants on both sides discussed best practices for reforestation.

The reps requested a waiver for not planting the balance of 61 trees. Mr. Comitta was not in favor of the seedlings and said the 61 trees were necessary to jump-start the canopy. Mr. Adelman disagreed and said seedlings acclimate quicker and grow faster. The discussion continued regarding the process of natural selection vs deer protection types and effectiveness. Mr. Comitta added that due to deer, there will be a 40% die back and deer protection would be vital. Per Mr. Adelman, there would be a 2-year seedling maintenance schedule from funds escrowed or paid for by the 3 homeowners. Mr. Richter thought this cost would be prohibitive. Mr. Comitta suggested adding 61 more trees for the Board. Mr. Adelman responded by mentioning a 10-15- year deer fence to protect seedlings. Mr. Westhafer said beyond the deer issue, invasives removal, mowing, and watering would be required. Ms. Green said that it is not a good growing area as it is full of stumps and dry rocky soil. Discussion followed regarding extended maintenance, tree tubes, and saplings vs. seedlings.

Carta Engineering Waiver Request letter dated August 10, 2022

Waiver #1-Cartway Width was reduced to 14 feet from 24. There is less paving and impervious area. Ms. Green said 8’ 5” is the minimum needed for one car and for 2 cars or a farm truck delivery, she needed 18’5”. Ms. Green said that there was no mention in the minutes of May 9th of a 14-foot cartway but Mr. Wright said with a primary and secondary driveway for 3 houses the discussion resulted in lowering the width to 18 and adding pull-offs when the driveway is 10 feet wide. Mr. Allen wants an added pull-off in the lower section and for 2 cars to be able to fit at the entrance.

Waiver #2-Intersection Triangle is to be 75 feet per the ordinance but reps propose a 50-foot triangle.

Waiver #3-Intersection Approach Slope is proposed at 5% and the ordinance states 4%. Mr. Wright supported this waiver but Mr. Allen told reps to make sure they have a flat landing for bad weather. Mr. Schaffer said stormwater will not lay there but be captured by a nearby inlet. Mr. Wright confirmed distances at the site.

Waiver #4-Subsurface Infiltration is not on this plan and instead, there are 3 surface basins planned. The basins are shallow with a 3’ berm and low profile. Landscaping is left to the homeowner. Reps met with opposition to the above-ground stormwater management.

Waiver #5-Embankment Slopes are proposed at 3:1 and the ordinance requires basin embankments to be at 4:1.

Waiver #6-Infiltration Volume at 1-inch over all disturbed areas would mean that the basin is bigger than the homes. The reps propose engineering following state requirements and NPDES permits. Mr. Wright advised Members that there is a trend to relax this requirement.

In regards to waivers 4,5, and 6, Mr. Wright stated that the Charlestown stormwater ordinance favors underground management but the Township does grant waivers with a reduction of impact and benefits that outweigh an underground design. Aesthetics are a big consideration.

Waiver #7-Replacement Trees are not proposed that meet the requirement for the developer to plant a tree for each tree 12” caliper or greater to be destroyed as discussed previously this evening.

Layout Comments:

Mr. Wright said the reps need to demonstrate that the stormwater design can function properly.

Mr. Westhafer reminded reps that the Township leans towards underground vs surface stormwater management. He asked them to increase the radius and place the driveway over the basin or make less of a 90-degree turn to the side entry garage. Mr. Kuhn also said they would get pushback from the Board for above-ground basins.

Mr. Allen asked for more natural-looking basins and was concerned about the driveway being along the berm. He is concerned about the edges eroding. He wants more room at the base of the driveway and the first driveway entrance. He requested a leveling area even if it adds to the impervious amount and increases the steep slope disturbance. Mr. Wright agreed and reps will comply. The new homeowners will be obligated to be a part of the shared driveway agreement extending to the street. Ms. Green has access for her barn in a secondary driveway. The Fee in Lieu requirement was briefly discussed and there is no HOA proposed.

Mr. Richter and several other Members thought there was a lot of paving at the homes. However, the first home does not face Howell Road; only the two at the end will face Howell Road. Mr. Walker checked the flush curb detail, which read 8” wide and 12” deep.

Mr. Adelman wanted a recommendation for the Conditional Use dealing only with disturbance of steep slope. Mr. Wright told Members it was possible to vote since it doesn’t impact the stormwater, but only the driveway. Mr. Richter asked if someone wanted to recommend and no Member spoke.

Ms. Green’s comments:

  1. There is only a logging road there right now, there is no driveway.
  2. She asked about the difference between clear-cutting and select cutting and wondered if it impacts replanting and was told not in this instance.
  3. She mentioned a letter from Neal Camens of Chester Valley Engineers, Inc., dated 9/13,2022. He recommends a (1) complete off-site discharge analysis including across Howell Road, as well as (2) obtaining detailed soil stability calculations below all the level spreaders. Mr. Adelman said you can discharge downstream but you just need to do it properly. Mr. Wright added that the calculations must demonstrate flows. Mr. Wright is watching all site flows and calculations. Both Mr. Wright and Carta Engineers verified that no flooding would come to the back of her property, Mr. Wright said the water doesn’t go to her.
  4. She reiterated that she thinks 14’ is too narrow for a driveaway and the reps said they would try to correct that. She wants a 20-foot cartway which is the PennDOT minimum for a low-volume driveway.
  5. Ms. Green wants a PennDot speed study because although it is posted at 35, cars go faster and the pitch there is 7%. Between the site change, the width, and the grading, it is treacherous. She said a 4% pitch is better.
  6. The CVE letter states “we recommend that the design for the road and drainage be revised to provide raised vertical curbs with inlets in the cartway. Mr. Wright stated there will be no raised curbs with inlets.
  7. She asked why the water wasn’t being directed to the west since no one lives there. The reps said the Horseshoe trail easement was there.
  8. She referred to the CVC recommendation that the complete number of replacement 3-inch caliper trees be provided. She mentioned seedlings would need a preservation plan due to environmental difficulties. Ms. Armstrong said noxious invasives in previously forested areas will come in as you try to grow seedlings or 1” saplings.
  9. She asked about stormwater and the further development of these properties behind her, such as adding pools, tennis courts, etc. Mr. Schaffer said they left a 2000-3000 sq. ft. cushion per home for other improvements.
  10. She asked if this was a large number of waivers for a development this size, and was told it is rarely zero in Charlestown. In this area, per Mrs. McLean, Conditional Uses are common since so much of Charlestown is in steep slopes.
  11. Her final statement was that she had talked to the previous owner who couldn’t develop the land so he never deed restricted it. The Members responded about changes in engineers and regulations and how stormwater and development are handled differently in 2022.

Mr. Wood, who lives downhill on an adjoining property to the development asked the Members to hold off on considering the Conditional Use decision since stormwater is so closely tied to all of these issues.

  1. On pages in the Plans, he noted areas depicted as triangles that were incorrect throughout (ex. page 144 of SWM Plan). There are 2 drain easements portrayed and one is a PECO easement.
  2. He would like underground basins with the scheduled inspections of downstream water catching.
  3. He said he sees the damage from stormwater and by checking July 2022 on Google Earth you can see the erosion. Mr. Schaffer promised the run-off water will be lessened after they develop the property as they will be following the ordinance regulations. There would be 0 discharge for 90% of storms in a 2-year period.
  4. Stormwater referenced on page 40 causes concern about ponding on the 15’ part but reps maintain this too will improve, not worsen.
  5. He was told it meets net lot requirements.

Mr. Adelman was asked when he expected to return to the PC. He did not think these things (basins, trees) had a quick turnaround. He wanted a Conditional Use recommendation for the steep slope driveway to proceed as it was foundational for the development and its plans.

Again Mr. Richter asked if anyone wanted to recommend a motion and no one answered. Mr. Comitta said the Plan needs to be a “package” with the Preliminary Plan and Mr. Adelman disagreed because the Conditional Use just applies to the steep slopes.

Mrs. Wood, a neighbor, spoke up and said the problem is the property was already purchased before there was due diligence. 3 homes are going on a site meant for one home. She asked the Members to preserve the flexibility of this review of the project by not approving the 2 requests separately. Ms. Green said “buyer beware” and she thought there was an excessive number of waivers. Again no one offered to move to recommend.

General Planning Items

2023 Budget Funding for Planning Commission

Mrs. Csete asked for feedback on any special projects the Planning Commission anticipates in 2023 so funding can be included in the 2023 budget. Members will email with estimates on ideas such as tours, joint sessions, or projects like revising the Act 209 Plan from 2014, and model ordinances. Ms. McLean will provide draft ordinances for the solar panels at the grid level and TPD will be asked to review the Act 209.


There being no further business, Mr. Richter adjourned the meeting at 9:35 p.m. The next meeting will be held on October 11, 2022, at 7:00 p.m. at the Great Valley Middle School, Rm 154, 255 Phoenixville Pike, Malvern, PA.

Respectfully submitted,

Lisa Gardner, Recording Secretary
sheet, 9/13/2022