The second business meeting for July was held July 21, 2003, at the Great Valley Middle School, Room 154. Hugh D. Willig, Vice Chairman, Irene W. Ewald, Mike Rodgers, Kevin R. Kuhn, Mark Thompson, Esq., James McErlane, Esq., Surender Kohli, P.E., Jane Opie, Court Reporter, Linda Csete, Township Administrator, Melanie Lammers, Recording Secretary, and those on the attached list were present.
The meeting was called to order at 7:36 P.M.
Mr. Willig announced that Mr. Hogan would not be present. There were no other announcements.
There were no Citizen’s Forum/Non-agenda items.
Mrs. Ewald moved to approve the July 7, 2003, minutes as written, and Mr. Kuhn seconded. Mr. Willig called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. McErlane opened the hearing and continued it to September 15, 2003.
Mr. Kuhn moved to table this issue until Mr. Kohli could provide feedback on when the Whitehorse Road and Route 29 signalization would be complete. Mr. Kohli indicated a meeting regarding these traffic signals was scheduled for next Friday. Mr. McErlane continued the hearing to August 4, 2003.
Mr. Kohli said the Great Valley School District asked for an extension. Mrs. Ewald asked if timing was an issue. Mrs. Csete said the deadline is September 4, 2003. Mr. Kohli then suggested this topic be postponed until they submitted the revised plan as requested.
Mr. Kuhn summarized that the Township is proposing to institute a 0.5% Earned Income Tax for 2004 that the Board would like to use for open space preservation. He stated that approximately $500,000 to $600,000 is estimated to be raised, more than half of that coming from monies residents are already paying in Earned Income Tax to other municipalities.
A resident disagreed with the tax, stating it is unfair to make only those with earned income pay for a benefit which can be utilized by all residents. He feels everyone should have to fund open space preservation. The resident said his Real Estate taxes have just significantly increased and is unhappy about having to pay yet another tax. Mr. Kuhn responded that the Real Estate taxes were raised to cover the matching grant for the Woolen Mill project and to make up for lower Transfer taxes and permit fees, which were significantly down. He said it is his intent that once those monies are recouped, the Real Estate taxes could go back down to where they were.
Mr. Kuhn said the State only allows two options: an Earned Income Tax or a Real Estate Tax, and that Real Estate taxes would have to increase at least four-fold in order to generate the same revenue the Earned Income Tax would provide.
Mrs. Ewald reminded everyone that the taxes in Charlestown Township are among the lowest in Chester County. She said the Township has the authority to go up to 16 mils. She said there are four wage-earners in her home, stating she also has issues with the fairness of the tax. She asked if the resident would rather have his Real Estate taxes increased. The man responded he was not as concerned about the actual dollars, as he was about the large percent of increase in his taxes in such a short period of time. He voiced his concern that the Earned Income Tax could be raised again next year to 0.75 percent, and Mrs. Ewald and Mr. Kuhn assured him that was not possible, as the Township, by state law, is only allowed 0.5 percent, and the School District could institute 0.5 percent also. Mr. McErlane confirmed that fact.
Mr. Kuhn said he is also concerned about raising Real Estate taxes for residents on a fixed income. He made the argument that those residents are currently paying school taxes and no longer having children in the school system, which is also inequitable.
Mrs. Ewald said that people have come forward to her and said there is a way of developing a financial plan for this kind of project and they are willing to help the Township do that. She said she thinks it would help to get that kind of input. She also said she agrees there is a fairness issue, but added that she is in favor of preserving open space, and that it must be funded somehow.
Mr. Kuhn asked Mr. McErlane if there are any other options, and he responded that there are not. Mr. Kuhn said it is an easy decision; either the Board must raise Real Estate taxes or institute the Earned Income tax. Mr. Willig added that he does not want additional years to go by with that much money leaving the Township to other municipalities.
After some discussion, Mr. Willig summarized that good arguments can be made either way regarding the fairness issue. He said what needs to be considered is timing. He said there is a narrow window within which to get money and be able to preserve open space. He said small property tax increases over a longer period of time are not enough to make significant changes for a very long time. He feels the Earned Income Tax would do the Township the most good in the shortest period of time, and said the tax could always be rescinded once the goals are accomplished.
Resident John W. Pittock commended the Supervisors for bringing up this issue, and said he feels this tax is being instituted for a good cause. He said raising Real Estate taxes would put a burden on those residents on a fixed income. Additionally, Mr. Pittock very strongly suggested the Board not use Berkheimer and Associates as their tax collection agency, stating he feels they are incompetent. Mr. Kuhn indicated that proposals are being obtained from more than one collection agency. He added that Berkheimer and Associates are the largest tax collection agency, and therefore, would likely have more issues than others, simply due to the large volume of transactions they deal with. Mr. Pittock agreed that was a good point, but stressed that the Township should hold them to a higher standard. Mr. Kuhn agreed.
Mr. Kuhn said the Board has a desire to put a referendum on the November ballot to ask residents to earmark the monies collected from the Earned Income Tax to be solely used for open space preservation. Additionally, Mr. Kuhn said they would like to include a Sunset provision, which would read something like, “Once the fund grows to $10,000,000 and hasn’t been expended, the tax would be turned off with the ability to turn it back on.” Mr. Kuhn moved to approve a 0.5% Earned Income Tax to be instituted effective 01/01/04, and Mr. Rodgers seconded. Mr. Willig called for discussion. Mr. Kuhn said a referendum would be put on the ballot requesting this money be solely dedicated to open space preservation. Mr. Willig clarified that the ballot would not be asking residents for their permission to enact the tax, but rather, if enacted, should the money only be used for open space preservation.
Mrs. Csete indicated the deadline for this is 13 weeks prior to the election. She said her concern is that what needs to be taken to the County is the actual Ordinance itself, and asked if there is enough time if the tax were enacted on August 4, 2003. Mr. McErlane asked if the tax were to be dedicated to Open Space or to become part of the General Fund. Mr. Kuhn said it was his intent that it be dedicated to the use of open space, and Mrs. Ewald disagreed, stating the Board may have a real need to use that money elsewhere. Mr. McErlane suggested a special meeting be held next week to enact the referendum ordinance make sure the Township is in compliance with regard to timing.
A resident asked how other Townships use the Earned Income Tax, and Mr. Willig responded that most are more dependent on it than Charlestown Township would be. He said most others have more Earned Income tax and less Real Estate tax, whereas Charlestown is the opposite. Mr. McErlane said in most other municipalities that have an Earned Income tax, those monies go to the General Fund. He said a few of them dedicate it for Open Space, but that it is not common. The resident asked what Mr. Kuhn’s fears would be if it weren’t dedicated, and Mr. Kuhn answered that when there is money in the till, one generally finds a way to spend it. Mrs. Ewald said the Township is very frugal. She said that prior to this year, the tax rate has been the same since 1983. She doesn’t feel there will be a raiding of funds, and stated it is reasonable and responsible to raise the taxes. Resident Mr. McQuistin, indicated that all the information received by the residents to date suggested this money would be dedicated to the preservation of Open Space. He did not feel it appropriate to now change it to potentially be used for other purposes. Mr. Willig asked if there were any additional comments or questions, and being none, he called the vote. Mrs. Ewald requested a roll call. Mr. Willig, Mr. Kuhn, and Mr. Rodgers were in favor, and Mrs. Ewald was opposed.
Mr. Kuhn moved to put a referendum on the November ballot asking residents to vote on whether the Earned Income tax should be used exclusively for the preservation of open space, and Mr. Rodgers seconded. Mr. Willig asked if the people voted against solely dedicating the tax for open space preservation, would the Board want to reconsider enacting the tax. Mr. Kuhn said he wouldn’t want to reconsider the tax. Mr. Willig called the vote. Three were in favor, and Mrs. Ewald did not vote.
At the recommendation of Mr. McErlane, Mr. Kuhn moved to hold a special meeting to enact the tax, and Mr. Rodgers seconded. Mrs. Ewald asked Mr. McErlane how many signatures had to be accumulated to place the referendum on the ballot: 5 percent of the total registered voters or 5 percent of those who voted in the last election. Mr. McErlane said, for this particular referendum, it is only required to have a majority vote of the Board of Supervisors. Mr. Willig called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. Three were in favor, and Mrs. Ewald did not vote.
Mr. Kuhn moved to advertise the ordinance at a special hearing to be held July 31, 2003, 7:30 P.M. in Room 154 of the Great Valley Middle School, and Mr. Rodgers seconded. Mr. Willig called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. Three were in favor, and Mrs. Ewald did not vote.
Chris Schubert, Esq. said an issue came up during Mr. Kohli’s review regarding the sewer, which could result in a build-up of sewer gases. He said East Whiteland sewage engineers recommended air release chambers and other odor control devices be installed in the line. He indicated that although the line will work as a force main, Mr. Kohli wanted the Board to be aware that technically, when you introduce air into the system via these air release chambers, it becomes a gravity line from that point forward. Mr. Kohli identified the exact area being discussed and said if there were to be a problem in the future, that Charlestown Township would need to require the Valley Forge Sewer Authority to maintain it. Mr. Kuhn asked Mr. Kohli if he had any concerns, and Mr. Kohli replied he did not as long as the design is there and there is a requirement for the Valley Forge Sewer Authority to maintain it.
Mr. Kuhn moved to approve this change to the plan, and Mr. Rodgers seconded. Mrs. Ewald said she is not comfortable approving a plan she has not yet seen. Mr. Willig questioned the need for a motion, and Mrs. Ewald agreed she did not feel a motion was required, therefore, Mr. Kuhn rescinded his motion. Mr. Schubert said the final plans would be revised and submitted to Mr. Kohli July 21, 2003.
Mr. Willig said he was not sure why the Seibert Subdivision was on the agenda. Mr. Kohli explained that the Planning Commission suggested the Seiberts return to the Board of Supervisors and ask if they would be willing to amend their conditions of approval with regard to the Horseshoe Trail. Mr. Kuhn said he was not interested in making an amendment. Mrs. Ewald said she would like an Executive Session after the meeting to discuss this topic and moved to table this to a future time. Mr. Kuhn seconded. Mr. Willig called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mrs. Csete said Mr. Comitta sent a Status of Completion of the ordinances being reviewed by the Planning Commission as part of the Comprehensive Plan implementation, but that the ordinances listed in that document do not all match up with ordinance names previously provided, making the list difficult to follow in Mr. Comitta’s absence. Mr. Kuhn moved to table the scheduling of these ordinances until everything gets sorted out, and Mrs. Ewald seconded. Mr. Willig called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. McErlane said the Board has listened to several presentations on this topic, has discussed it with their legal counsel in at least two Executive Sessions, and therefore, is ready to render a decision.
Mr. Schubert said he wanted to make sure the Board is aware that the Planning Commission has made a recommendation, and reminded the Board the issue was not with regard to the use of the structure, but only of its location.
Mrs. Ewald moved to deny the application, and Mr. Rodgers seconded. Mr. Schubert asked if the Board would be willing to voice their reasons for denial, as they could potentially be alleviated. Mrs. Ewald said the reason is that the guest house could be used as a dwelling in the future and there is not enough acreage to support an additional dwelling as defined by the Township ordinance. She said it is a difficult decision and believes Mr. Kalogris is sincere in his intentions, but stated the property could go to someone else in the future who may have different intentions.
Mr. Kuhn referenced other, similar examples and said he does not have a problem with it at all. He doubts that someone who purchases that kind of property would be looking for rental income. He said he believes this structure is allowed in the FR district.
Glen Diehl, Esq., argued that this structure meets the definition of a dwelling unit, and therefore, must, as defined in the ordinance, have enough acreage to support it.
Susan Boswell, Esq., said that clearly the ordinance provides for a guest house as a separate unit. She said it does not define a guest house, but clearly permits it. She said there are no separate utilities or separate kitchen facilities. She pointed out that any facility can morph into something else once it is occupied, and gave the example of an office building later becoming a manufacturing facility. She said the intent of the use at that time is what must be decided upon, not a future use, just as is done in other cases. She added that this is clearly a placement issue, not a use issue. Mr. Diehl strongly disagreed.
Mr. Kalogris said he wants to do everything by the rules, and mentioned that some of his neighbors have structures in their front yard. Mr. Kuhn asked Mrs. Ewald what her long-term concerns are and whether or not they can be addressed. Mrs. Ewald said it could be overcome by acquiring additional land.
Mr. Kuhn asked Mr. McErlane if this is something the Board could approve, and Mr. McErlane said it could be approved or disapproved. Mrs. Ewald said she does not believe the Zoning Ordinance allows it and believes the Board should stand behind the Declaration they previously approved. She said as she reads it, the ordinance requires 80,000 square feet for this dwelling to exist. She said the issue is that this structure is a dwelling unit.
At 9:34 P.M. the Board broke for an Executive Session. The meeting reconvened at 9:45 P.M.
After some discussion, Ms. Boswell asked to hear Mr. Rodgers’ concerns. He responded that he feels it violates the ordinance regarding having a structure in the front yard, and because it contains all the amenities defined by a dwelling, such as a kitchen, he believes it falls under the definition of a dwelling. Mr. Kalogris responded to Mr. Rodgers, stating that the guest house does not have a kitchen. He said it only has a bedroom, a small bathroom, a porch, and a bar. Ms. Boswell stated the ordinance clearly states that to be a dwelling, the structure must provide complete housekeeping facilities, which it does not.
Mrs. Ewald asked Mr. McErlane to read the paragraph of the Declaration which forbids this use. Ms. Helena VanVliet said, as one of the writers of this Declaration, that Mrs. Ewald’s argument does not support the intent of that paragraph of the Declaration. She said the intent of the paragraph quoted had to deal with large lots that may try to further subdivide. She stated the previous page of the Declaration clearly allows for guest houses.
Mr. Kuhn asked Mr. Kohli how a permit would be issued, and Mr. Kohli responded it would be as an accessory structure with restricted use. Mr. Kuhn asked if a dwelling with no kitchen would be able to get a use and occupancy approval, and MR. Kohli said no. Mr. Kuhn said in that case, the proposed structure cannot be considered a dwelling.
Mr. Rodgers asked for the dimensions of the structure, and Ms. Helena VanVliet responded it is 25 x 30 feet. Ms. Boswell requested that a vote not be taken until the entire Board could be present, therefore, this issue was tabled.
Mrs. Ewald suggested holding a public meeting to allow residents to express their concerns on blasting at the Quarry. This meeting is to be scheduled for sometime in the fall. Mr. Kohli said seismographs can be independently requested, and Mr. Kuhn said to mandate that now. Mr. Kohli said he would arrange for them to be placed at the appropriate properties. Mr. Willig said the quarry work will continue for many more years, as they intend to go down at least another 100 feet. Mrs. Ewald said the quarry is limited on the number of trucks they can use, and Mr. Kohli agreed a count needs to be taken. Mr. Rodgers suggested getting the truck count information from the quarry themselves, but Mr. Kohli said they may not be willing to provide that information. He said he would look into it.
Mrs. Ewald said the Christian College is going to repair F Street. They will be using the same contractor who did the trails for the Township and would like the Township to help pay the costs. Mrs. Ewald asked if that were to be done, how would the Board feel about doing the realignment at the same time and share in the costs all the way. She said if Mr. Kohli surveys it and costs it out, their contractor could still get it done before school starts, and she asked to have Mr. Kohli to do the survey. She said the College’s estimate for the portion from 5th Avenue to Township Line Road is $29,000. They were asking the Township to contribute 50%. She requested the Board find out what the incremental difference is to add in this additional work and see if it can get done. It was determined that Mr. Kohli would take Mr. Comitta’s plan showing where the road needs to go and give it to the contractor to have him price it out.
Mr. Willig cautioned everyone on the timing. He indicated the school opens in approximately 5 weeks and questioned the ability to get a design approved and the work done in that amount of time.
Mr. Kuhn asked if there is a bidding issue. Mrs. Ewald said the College is initiating this and the Township is simply participating. Mr. McErlane said if the Township is a signatory to the contract, it must comply with the bidding requirements. He said if taxpayer money is being used, it must be put out for bid. Mr. McErlane asked if this road shows on the Township road map, and Mrs. Ewald said it does not, that it is part of the park. Mr. McErlane said he wants to check the statute, but that there may be a way to do it without bidding. Mr. Kuhn said he has no problem with the contractor they have selected, but asked if the Board should give their own contractor the ability to bid the job. The other members agreed.
Mr. Willig said he received some correspondence regarding the removal of trees between the Eastwick lot #12 and the Crowell property. He said he received a letter from Mr. Theurkauf indicating that the project was moving along well, and that there was no need for tree replacement. He added, however, that Mr. Nick Crowell would still like to see the trees replaced. Mr. Kohli said he spoke with Mr. Crowell earlier that day, and that the tree replacement issue is being worked out.
Mr. Kuhn asked Mrs. Csete if the applicant is being back-charged for Mr. Theurkauf’s time, and she said he is not. Mr. Kohli suggested she send an invoice, and he would discuss it with the applicant.
Mr. Kuhn reminded everyone there is a State Police meeting on August 18, 2003, at the Township building. Mrs. Ewald said she sent some topic suggestions and felt they were broad enough.
Mr. Willig said he received a request from Vicki Tecci, that one or more stop signs be installed in Whitehorse @ Charlestown prior to the start of school. It was determined that a letter would be drafted asking residents to slow down in order to prevent the installation of additional stop signs. Mrs. Csete will distribute the letter.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:27 P.M. The next regular Business Meeting will be held on August 4, 2003, in Room 154 of the Great Valley Middle School. The next special Board Meeting to enact the Earned Income Tax will be held on July 31, 2003, in Room 154 of the Great Valley Middle School.