Charlestown Township
Joint Meeting of the
Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission
Minutes of June 23, 2003 – approved 7/7/03

A joint meeting of the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission to discuss plans for the Devault area was held on June 23, 2003, at the Great Valley Middle School, Room 154. Paul Hogan, Chairman, Board of Supervisors, Hugh Willig, Vice Chairman, Board of Supervisors, Irene W. Ewald, Mike Rodgers, Kevin R. Kuhn, Michael Allen, Chairman, Planning Commission, Charlie Philips, Vice Chairman Planning Commission, Rick Reis, Wendy Leland, Thomas Oeste, Esq., Tom Comitta, Ed Theurkauf, Linda M. Csete, Township Administrator, Melanie M. Lammers, Recording Secretary, and those on the attached list were present.

The meeting was called to order at 7:34 P.M.


There were no announcements.

Citizen’s Forum - Non-Agenda Items

There were no Citizen’s Forum/Non-agenda items.


Minutes of June 16, 2003

The approval of the Minutes of June 16, 2003, was tabled to allow the Board Members time to review them.

Special Presentation

Devault Area

Mr. Comitta announced he brought refreshments for everyone to enjoy in celebration of his 30-year anniversary as Charlestown Township’s Planning Consultant. He then indicated the subject of the meeting was to be a special presentation on the Devault area. He said the presentation would consist of slides showing some of the initiatives that the Township has been involved in over the last several years pertaining to Devault, and then would begin to focus specifically on the Devault area. He added that, at the end of the presentation, he would be displaying fifteen slide pairs and would ask the residents to indicate their visual preferences with regard to those slide pairs.

Mr. Comitta said his first concern was with what to call the meeting, as there are often incorrect assumptions made when calling an area a Village versus a Town Center versus something else. He proceeded to describe a Devault Village image, which he said was a real place, going back over 100 years. On October 2, 2001, while working on the Comprehensive Plan Update, that history was discussed. He showed a slide of a demolished train station, old historic maps and buildings, a Post Office, quarry, etc. He said as recently as the 1930’s and going back to the late 1800’s, all of these items indicate why this was referred to as somewhat of a nerve center.

Mr. Comitta began his slide presentation with a slide of The County’s Comprehensive Plan called Landscapes — Managing Change in Chester County. He stated the hallmark of Landscapes was that there would be efforts made to revitalize existing areas rather than to sprawl outward. He added that growth areas were defined and tended to follow transportation corridors. Based on maps shown, Charlestown Township shows up just on the edge of the sprawl.

Mr. Comitta referenced a State of the County Conference, which was held in 1999 to talk about the villages and neighborhoods of Chester County. The question was, “How do you balance the growth patterns of residential, commercial, and industrial development with historical landscape and growth centers?” The whole focus was to try to come up with a balance of developed and undeveloped portions of the County. One thing that everyone agreed on was what areas should or should not be considered as village-type areas. He said some areas, such as Marsh Harbor or Marsh Creek, have no employment opportunities nor a place to walk for a newspaper; therefore, these images were not considered to be village-like. Mr. Comitta showed several slides, some depicting images that would not be considered village-like for one reason or another, and others which would be considered village-like.

According to Mr. Comitta, in 1937, a diagram was drawn up of a somewhat idealized plan. In this plan, the early town planners’ intent was to mix together service areas while keeping the surrounding areas green. Unfortunately this did not happen in most areas. Mr. Comitta said an overall concept that is being looked at nationwide is trying to look at the preserving the countryside and transferring the development rights from the green areas to areas that are more appropriate, including those that already have the transportation infrastructure in place to support the development. He asked the question of where does Charlestown fit into this concept. He said while working on the Comprehensive Plan, they started out by taking an inventory of the existing land uses. Secondly, they paid a great deal of attention to the development constraints, making sure to be respectful of Mother Nature wherever possible. He added that, while it would be nice to keep all of the development in Frazer and on Route 30, Charlestown does have a Zoning Ordinance which allows commercial and industrial development of the Devault area.

Mr. Comitta proceeded to talk about development that pushes traffic, and the sprawl associated with it, closer to Charlestown. He then showed slides of the Devault area, including the Charlestown Saloon, Devault Meat Packing, the quarry, Devault Building that contains both the Post Office and Township Office, Chester Valley Grange, Chuck’s Wagon, Devault Restaurant, and The Commons at Great Valley. He showed the evolution of The Commons, and showed some of the building types in Devault, adding that some of these buildings are worthy of historic protection. Additionally he showed slides of the Great Valley Middle School and the Charlestown Elementary School.

Mr. Comitta stated that the tricky part of how to plan for Devault comes because of the realization that a slip ramp is proposed. He said time will tell how traffic will circulate through the new traffic patterns. He showed slides of the Spring of 2000 in which the roads were more narrow, and stated the traffic was worse than it is today.

Mr. Comitta showed a Tour of Other Places and Emerging Habitats, and announced that all the places he was showing were of a similar size to Devault. After discussing the aspects of each slide, Mr. Comitta handed out a survey to the meeting attendees. He said he would show fifteen slide pairs, and asked each person to complete the survey based on what they felt was appropriate for Charlestown Township. He said this would not be used in any actual analysis, but would give a general feel of how residents react to some of the concepts. Once the survey was completed, the meeting recessed at 8:24 P.M. for approximately ten minutes.

Upon reconvening, Mr. Comitta clarified that the Devault area is currently zoned to allow something like a Great Valley Corporate Center, or given a large enough property, an Atwater. He asked the residents to think about whether doing nothing and allowing this type of development to occur was what they wanted for Charlestown. He said the Planning Commission and he felt there may be other options for developing this land which could benefit the Township.

Mr. Comitta asked for residents to volunteer their comments regarding the fifteen slide pairs. A resident asked Mr. Comitta if he had a slide of the concept plan which showed a residential development in the Spring Oak area and asked if that design was still being pursued. At this time, Mr. Comitta recapped the history of the Devault discussions. He indicated the Comprehensive Plan was adopted December 3, 2001, long before discussions about developing the Devault area began. In the Fall of 2001, a grant application was drafted to be sent to the State which was referred to as the Devault Village Revitalization and Planning Ordinance. The premise was that the Township was going to go to the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and ask them for a grant to study Devault. As a result of the Comprehensive Plan Update, coupled with several hearings in the Fall of that year, the Township was not quite ready to move forward and apply for that grant. The thought was, that before anyone comes in and asks for anything, why doesn’t the Township engage in a visioning process to say, “What do we want?” In doing so, the typical process would be a little different; instead of a developer proposing what they want, the Township would be in the driver’s seat and in a position to guide what would become of that area.

In the meantime, before applying for the grant, people continued to come in for zoning changes, subdivisions, and building permits; PennDOT proposed a new slip ramp, and the Turnpike lanes were widening. The Planning Commission felt it was time to return to a more proactive approach. As they restarted their discussions, J. Loew submitted a concept Village plan and asked for feedback. After much discussion and consideration, the Planning Commission determined they still are not sure what the right answer is for the Devault area, and therefore, decided to ask the general public what their thoughts were; hence this meeting.

Mr. Comitta summarized by saying that what is most helpful to the Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission regarding this topic, is for the residents to comment, whether it be good or bad, in order to help move this process forward.

Devault Q&A

  1. How can we support the Development of Devault? – Janet Colleran, South Winds Lane
    + fire
    + police
    + roads
    + schools
    + sewer
    + 1 million to 1.2 million square feet of office space, commercial
    + 400,000 square feet of office approved at

    Mr. Comitta said the Township would need a buildout plan study to compare a village development with a buy-right build out. No plan has been drafted but some of the numbers have been worked out.

  2. Where are 1,200 dwelling units that were proposed? – Loretta Watson, Charlestown Hunt

    Mr. Comitta explained that J. Loew & Associates had submitted a “Devault Town Center Plan” that generated discussions in the Planning Commission He showed the location on the map. There is no time clock for deciding on their proposal for a zoning change.

    Joe O’Brien, Tinkerhill Road said the concepts shown in the slides look good. Let’s think positively and try to work something out. He added that 1,200 units is too many.

    Sue Staas, Hollow Road wished to clarify that Mr. Comitta’s references to the Township “buying land” really is meant to say “buying easements.”

  3. What would happen if the slip ramp comes in? – Sarah Peck, Primrose Lane

    Mr. Comitta said the township is very concerned. The slip ramp will bring in huge pressures to develop, and the land values will skyrocket. Landowners will come together and develop as a large project. This is why we’ve considered developing a master plan for a village.

    Ellen Garippa, Great Woods Lane, said office space isn’t selling now. Mr. Comitta said that market is flat, which is one of the reasons Spring Oaks hasn’t moved forward. But this may change in five years.

    Regina Fried, Hollow Road, said it’s foolish to think nothing will happen. With intelligent planning, the township can control the increase in services needed. She said she’d say yes to an intelligently planned village and that people are looking to live in planned neighborhoods like those shown in the slide presentation.

    Woody Kielinksi, Mountain Laurel Lane, asked how the money issue would be addressed. Mr. Comitta responded that the state is encouraging these uses and may offer some support through the DCED with regard to planning. Other municipalities have been able to do it. The township would need to get all the property owners together and work out the concept.

  4. Is there a way to have homes in Devault without adversely impacting the schools?

    Chuck Meachum said the slip ramp is almost a certainty since it satisfies the region’s needs. Devault has good, developable land, and he believes it will be developed in the short term. He said he thinks a mixed use plan makes sense. The school issues have always been worked out in the past. A 55+ community here sounds good.

  5. What would be the ingredients for a “good” Devault area development/community?

    Mr. Comitta named character and size as two considerations. Loretta Watson said that maybe 100 homes and some shops would work.

  6. What could be done to make it a village likely to deter the slip ramp? – Louise Cantrell-Kehoe, Country Lane

    Ms. Cantrell-Kehoe said if an attractive village was built, the turnpike commission would have to relocate the slip ramp, possibly to Tredyffrin where their studies first indicated it would be better positioned. Mr. Kuhn pointed out that most of the proposed slip ramp is in East Whiteland, and Charlestown has little influence over it.

  7. Is there a way to have less residential, but sill have a nice “village”? – Janet Colleran, South Winds Lane

    Ms. Colleran said this is a good opportunity to do this planning, but that the concept plan submitted by J. Loew Associates is different from what is being discussed this evening. Mr. Comitta said it would be a give and take process with the developer, and that the cost of the land drives it the most.

  8. How many people would 1 million square feet compute to?
  9. + how many trips? (2,000 peak hr. trips)

    + how much water & sewer demand?

    Tim Townes said the commons at Great Valley, for example, comprises approximately 400,000 square feet of office space and has about 2,000 employees.

  10. Is High Density Residential a necessary “Evil” for a desirable village development in Devault?

    Mrs. Colleran said if the EIT tax is imposed to save the construction of 700-800 more homes in the rural area of the township, then a village with that many homes is constructed in Devault, the Township isn’t getting the benefit from purchasing open space. Mr. Comitta said the challenge would be to convert the potential 1 million square feet of office space potential in Devault to a village that would slightly decrease the net burden, yet yield something nicer.

  11. Will slip ramp add 5,000 vehicles per day to the 2,000 already projected “by-right” in Devault? – Janet Colleran, South Winds Lane
  12. Can we use the EIT in Devault area so we do not need to have the 1,200 homes? – Michelle Perate, Blackstone Lane
  13. Could we change the Zoning to Mixed Use? (to have flexibility) – Janet Baldwin, Bodine Road

    Mr. Comitta said the Planning Commission will talk about this tomorrow night.

  14. Could we evaluate plans on traffic? – Amy Bunten, Union Hill Road

    rush hour vs. 24/7

  15. Could we do an analysis as to what would be most beneficial to the Township economically? – Sue Staas, Hollow Road

    Compare: industrial, commercial, residential

  16. How is industrial assessed to pay taxes? – Regina Fried, Hollow Road

    Mr. Oeste responded that the tax rate is the same regardless of zoning

  17. What are the next steps? – Gil Mariano, Rees Road

    Mr. Comitta responded with the following:

    • The grant to do zoning amendments expires September 30, 2003. More time may be needed to sort it out.
    • The Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors need to decide if they want to apply to the State for a grant for Devault.
    • A decision needs to be made as to what to say to J. Loew.
    • Tonight’s questions need to be answered

    He added that everyone needs to sleep on it, and over the next 1-2 months, decides where to go from here. There is no ‘next step’ currently in mind.

  18. Could an Age Restricted Community go into Devault?

    Mr. Comitta said that the Township’s grant with the County to complete the zoning amendments resulting from the Comprehensive Plan is September 30, 2003., although an extension is possible. The Township needs to determine whether it wants to go forward with a village plan. If so, application would be made to the DCNR for a planning grant. He suggested that the Board, Planning Commissioners and those present need time to think about all that was brought forward this evening, and continue discussions at future meetings.

Old Business

There were no Old Business items to discuss.

New Business

Charlestown United Methodist Church - Certificate of Appropriateness

Mrs. Ewald moved to approve the Certificate of Appropriateness for the replacement of the Charlestown United Methodist Church roof with like style and materials, and Mr. Kuhn seconded. Mr. Hogan called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.

Other Business

There were no Other Business items to discuss.


Mr. Hogan moved to adjourn the meeting, and Mr. Rodgers seconded. The meeting was adjourned at 10:10 P.M. The next meeting will be held on July 7, 2003, 7:30 P.M. at the Great Valley Middle School, Room 154.

Respectfully submitted,

Melanie M. Lammers
Recording Secretary