APRIL 15, 1996

The Charlestown Township Board of Supervisors held their regular monthly meeting on Monday, April 15, 1996 at the Charlestown Elementary School, Charlestown Road, Devault, Pa.


John B. Sauser, Chairman, Robin J. Kohn, Vice Chairman, Irene W. Ewald, Member (arrived later), Thomas F. Oeste, Esq., Linda M. Csete, Secretary, and those on the attached attendee list.

The Chairman called the meeting to order at 8:10 P.M.


Mr. Sauser announced that the Supervisors held an Executive Session on April 4, 1996 to discuss personnel matters. He also announced that the Chester County Planning Commission will hold a public meeting on April 29, 1996 to present the draft of its Chester County Comprehensive Plan, “Landscapes”. His third announcement was that PECO Energy has notified the Township that tree trimming will begin shortly and that homeowners will be notified before work is done on their properties. Maps from PECO indicating where they would be working were made available to the public at the meeting.

Approval of Minutes:

Action on the minutes of March 18, 1996 was tabled until the May 6, 1996 meeting.

Spring Road Tour:

Mr. Sauser stated that the Spring Road Tour took place last week and that the Roadmaster submitted a report outlining maintenance work to be done, primarily consisting of patching and storm drain repairs. Since the Township is approximately $40,000 over budget on snow and ice removal for the year, a closer examination of the budget and a year to date expenditures will be undertaken before deciding on additional road improvements. He stated that the Township roads were in fair shape aside from patching needs, but that a number of the state roads are much worse and in need of repair.

Valley Forge Sewer Authority:

Mr. Winckelman reported that operations at the VFSA were routine during the month of March.

Parks and Recreation Board:

Mr. Connolly announced that the Parks and Recreation Board will meet with the Planning Commission on May 14, 1996 and will discuss implementing portions of the Open Space Plan along with other issues of joint concern and invited the Supervisors and public to attend. He also stated that Chester County is announcing the last round of Open Space Grants later this week and that the Township will learn whether they will receive a grant for the construction of a field hockey field.

Citizens’ Forum:

Steven Schlichter asked about the use of the soccer fields at Charlestown Park, and Mr. Connolly responded that these fields are open to the public whenever there is not an organized game in progress. Mr. Connolly explained that the park is managed by the Phoenixville-Marion Youth Club and the Phoenixville Area Soccer Club, who have concessionaire agreements with the township in exchange for maintaining the park. Mark Connolly asked the Board for the status of the Broadwater Lane issue with Realen Homes.

(Mrs. Ewald arrived during the Soccer Field Bid Opening)

Soccer Field Bid Opening & Review:

Mr. Sauser opened and read aloud the following five bids on the construction of an Intermediate Soccer Field at Charlestown Park:

Bidder Construction Stump Removal
(Per Stump)
Purchase/ delivery of
topsoil per Cu Yd
Initial Seeding
Intermed Field
Initial Seeding
Pee Wee Field
Greenway Services Inc. 29,460.00 100.00 each 18.50/cu yd 4,000.00 2,000.00
Fries Construction 13,850.00 120.00 each 13.00/cu yd 3,500.00 1,600.00
Fisher Contractors 16,198.00 150.00 each 13.40/cu yd 1,591.00 612.00
Mullen-Dunmore 19,840.00 100.00 each 13.00/cu yd 2,067.00 750.00
Rittenbaugh Excavating 17,550.00 275.00 each 20.00/cu yd 3,275.00 1,260.00

Mr. Connolly stated that the County Parks & Recreation Department must review the revised bid package and approve it before the bid is awarded. Also, a request for a deadline extension on this project must be filed with the County before May 1, 1996. Mr. Sauser moved to approve processing the request for an extension. Mr. Kohn seconded and all were in favor. Mrs. Ewald stated that the Board should have the County’s approval before proceeding with this plan, and that although she supports the project she maintains reservations about this plan. Mr. Kohn suggested that action on the bid award be taken at the May 6, 1996 meeting. Mr. Sauser instructed the Secretary to turn the bids over to Mr. Kohli for his review.

Former Baughman General Store Property:

Michael Kachmar was present to discuss the H.A.R.B. application for this property, and stated that he is in agreement with Dale Frens’ comments regarding painting and stuccoing the exterior of the building and also agreed to use the recommended color scheme. He will return to the Board with a presentation after engaging the services of a historic architect.

Charlestown Elementary School Playground Committee:

Nancy Barnett and Jean Kingan, members of the Playground Fundraising Committee, presented plans for the proposed playground to be located behind the Charlestown Elementary School and to cost approximately $36,000.00. Mrs. Barnett stated that fundraising efforts have gone extremely well in the past three months, and that the equipment will be installed this summer. They need an additional $10,000.00 to reach their goal and were hoping for some Township support. Mrs. Ewald commented that the Township already has the beginnings of a playground at the park as well as an open space and recreation plan for developing other recreational facilities. Mr. Sauser questioned whether people will actually utilize the playground, as he sees others in various communities that are relatively empty during the day, even those that can be walked to. He also pointed out that citizens of Charlestown who are paying school taxes as well as Township taxes may feel that for the township to contribute to the school playground fund is to be taxed twice. Mr. Schlichter commented that he is in favor of the proposed playground, adding that Charlestown Park is not well kept. Mrs. Ewald disagreed with his statement, saying that Charlestown’s 44 acres at the park are well maintained, and added that Charlestown Park is well utilized by the soccer, football, field hockey and lacrosse leagues as well as by their siblings who play at the park during practice and games. She pointed out that the Great Valley School District has been uncooperative in the past when the Township wished to coordinate recreational facilities efforts. Mrs. Ewald stated that she would like to see a more cooperative effort and challenged the Playground Committee to become involved with developing additional recreational facilities in the Township aside from that proposed at the Elementary School. Mary Jane Duncan questioned the value of the park for senior citizens. Mr. Sauser stated that the Township would be happy to include information on the Playground into the upcoming Township newsletter that may help with the fund drive, but he didn’t know what meaningful monetary contribution the township could make with its current budget problems. Kevin Kuhn asked why a contribution couldn’t be made from the Open Space Fund, which has a balance of $100,000.00 plus interest. Mr. Sauser said that the Board would investigate its options and consider the committee’s request. Mrs. Ewald again asked the committee members to become involved with the township and work sub-regionally with them.

Kielinski Conditional Use Hearing:

Mr. Sauser directed Mr. Oeste to advertise the hearing, which will take place on May 20th at the second regular Supervisors meeting. Mr. Oeste will also notify the applicant.

Valley Forge Christian College Concept Plan:

President Wesley Smith, Vice President Dr. Capezia, and James Mazia, Esq. from the VFCC, along with Richard Barnhart, President of Penrose Properties Inc., and Mark Dambly were present to discuss their concept plan for the College, which includes a 32 acre tract in Charlestown that they wish to develop into apartments for which a zoning change is sought.

Wesley Smith began with a description of the College’s background and emphasized that the VFCC board as well as he as President are committed to staying in this location. Most of the students are employed in the area, and as the college is a regional school, this location is centrally located. He displayed a VFCC Capital Improvement Plan, which has been approved by the U.S. Department of Education, the GSA, and Health & Human Services. He indicated the 32 acre Charlestown Tract, and stated that the GSA has approved sale of this parcel to Penrose Properties, which is crucial to the success of VFCC’s master plan, as it will save them over one million dollars in demolition costs. The proposed apartments will provide housing for the college’s married students, estimated at approximately 100 students. The college would also have the right of first refusal on each unit as it became available for lease. Mrs. Ewald asked if the college could do the project themselves without the sale to Pennrose, and Mr. Smith responded that it could not, due to the expense of demolition. Also, after selling this tract, operating expenses are expected to decrease by 30%. Mrs. Ewald asked for an explanation of the land exchange between Schuykill Township and the College, and Dr. Capezia explained that when Community Mental Health Services exchanged their parcel for the Schuykill parcel, their original parcel reverted to the government as surplus property. As the only interested party, the VFCC will receive this property after the April 15, 1996 deadline. Mrs. Ewald asked about the piece to the northeast of Charlestown Park, which is now shown on the plan as GSA property. Mr. Mazia stated that this land is available. The master plan suggests this tract would be best suited as park land and/or open space.

Richard Barnhart stated that Penrose has entered into an agreement of sale with the College. He gave some background on his organization, stating that Penrose has been in business for 25 years and operates over 4,000 apartment units. During this time, they haven’t sold any of their apartments and therefore consider maintenance a high priority. He feels that the VFCC students would be desirable tenants.

C.J. Fredericks displayed the site concept plan, which indicates hydrologic, topographic and man-made features of the site and shows the apartment units and multiple access roads. The main access point is at Coldstream Road across from Benburb Road. Another access would be from Township Line Road, and another would go through the site to the College via First Avenue. He stated that the sketch depicts a traditional neighborhood, and shows a recreation area at the south end of the site by Charlestown Road. Mrs. Ewald asked Mr. Fredericks to describe the elevations of the site, which he said rise to the north as you move west across the site, and then diminish. He said that the elevations as well as vegetation and planned landscaping helps to hide many of the units as well as the parking lot from the road. Mrs. Ewald asked why the main entrance was positioned on Coldstream Road, and Mr. Fredericks stated that the traffic consultant Kevin Johnson showed this to be the best location. Mr. Churchill asked for clarification on the access through the college, and Mr. Mazia stated that it would be available for access and that the college will take any legal steps, such as granting an easement, to ensure this. Approximately 45% of the traffic is expected to access the property from the Coldstream entrance, according to the study. Mr. Sauser asked the applicants to consider straightening the curve on Coldstream Road as part of their off-site improvements, but Mr. Dambly responded that that would be beyond their means and still be able to produce affordable housing. He stated that an excel/decel lane is planned as an off-site improvement and that improvements to the park could be considered.

Mr. Fredericks stated that the concept plan indicates 258 units, not including the existing house on the site, for a density of 8 units per acre. Mr. Barnhart said that they are looking at rent in the $500.00 to $700.00 range for two and three bedroom apartments. They may also have some one bedroom apartments.

Mrs. Ewald stated that over the years, re-zoning has been discussed for this tract, particularly along the PRD model, with open space and recreation requirements, and attention given to conservation of natural features. She would also like to see the GSA tract developed into green space. Mr. Mazia commented that possibly a joint application for this parcel could be considered, but the college wouldn’t be able to obtain it on its own.

Michael Churchill gave a summary of the Planning Commission’s review of the concept plan. He stated that the Commission determined that the general plan would be beneficial to the Township with a considerable reduction in impervious surface. He commented that the figure of 8 units per acre is a maximum figure not to be taken literally, as other factors will come into play. The Commission felt that this project would be a good way to provide affordable housing, a subject of concern to the County government. There are a number of other concerns, including parking.

Michael Main commented that he sees the concept as a tremendous alternative and opportunity for the township. He suggests that since the 32 acre site varies greatly in different sections, greater density should be considered where the topography best suits it and that possibly setback requirements should vary as well. Mr. Churchill stated that the Township planner has considered this approach. Mr. Connolly also commented that it may be advisable in some areas to relax setback requirements in order to create opportunities for vistas and open space. He would like to see stormwater management designed to work with the two existing ponds and recharge the stormwater into the ground.

Mr. Mazia asked for some indication from the Board as to whether a zoning change will be considered. Mr. Kohn stated that he is willing to do so. Mrs. Ewald stated that she will consider reasonable re-zoning of the site if coupled with the optimum plan for that site. Mr. Sauser stated that normally the applicant would provide an ordinance revision proposal for the township to consider. Mr. Dambly stated that he would like to work with the Township solicitor on this matter.

Mrs. Ewald said that the VFCC has been a good neighbor to the Township, and suggested they return to the Planning Commission with a more detailed sketch plan.

Demotion Fee Reduction Request:

Mr. Sauser referred to the Secretary’s memo of April 10, 1996, which stated that Emil Faggioli applied for a demolition permit for work to be done at the Valley Forge Christian College, and requested a reduction in the fee, which is based on 5% of the cost of the job, or $8,000.00. Mrs. Ewald stated that permits fees are structured to cover the cost of inspections. The Board will discuss the request with Mr. Kohli and have an answer by the next meeting.

Workshop for Municipal Secretaries:

Mrs. Ewald moved to approve the $30.00 fee for the Secretary to attend a Workshop for Municipal Secretaries and Administrators on May 8, 1996. Mr. Sauser seconded and all were in favor.

Law Day Proclamation:

Mr. Sauser moved to declare May 1, 1996 to be Law Day as part of the nationwide celebration of Law Day U.S.A. Mr. Kohn seconded, and the motion passed. Mrs. Ewald voted nay.

Open Space Acquisition Consideration:

Mrs. Ewald moved to table this item. Mr. Kohn seconded and all were in favor.

Spring Clean-Up:

Mr. Sauser stated that he would like to organize a spring clean up day for the third week in May. A Township newsletter will be produced shortly and can include this information.

Municipal Steering Committee Charter:

Mrs. Ewald asked for an opportunity to review the document and provide feedback at a later time. Mr. Sauser moved to approve the Charter, and Mr. Kohn seconded. Two were in favor, and one opposed.

Biennial Report:

Mrs. Ewald directed the Secretary to prepare the Biennial Report by incorporating the Parks & Recreation annual report submitted by Mr. Connolly in January.

Route 29 & Buckwalter Road Draft Letter:

Sauser directed the Secretary to send this letter regarding repair of a drain to PennDOT with a copy to the Valley Forge Sewer Authority.

Four Oaks Drive:

Mr. Sauser will direct Mr. Kohli to write a letter to the new property owner of the Van Vliet property to advise him of Lot 12-A restrictions.

Request for Extension of Philadelphia Suburban Water Franchise Extension to Whitehorse Meadows:

Mr. Sauser referred to Michael Main’s letter of April 8, 1996 to the Board requesting that a letter be written to Philadelphia Suburban Water supporting the extension of public water to the Whitehorse Meadows subdivision. He believes this would be desirable from a health and safety standpoint. Mrs. Ewald stated that she felt this to be a zoning issue, as FR zoned properties require on site water, without which smaller lots would be feasible and the zoning challenged. She asked if he plans to bring public water to his adjacent Spring Meadow Farms subdivision as well. Mr. Main said this would be cost prohibitive. Mr. Sauser moved to approve supporting the extension of public water to Whitehorse Meadows by drafting a letter using similar language to the March 11, 1994 letter written to support its expansion to Charlestown Brae. Mr. Kohn seconded. Two were in favor, and one was opposed.

The meeting was adjourned at 11:20 P.M.

Respectfully Submitted,

Linda M. Csete, Secretary