The first business meeting for March was held March 5, 2007 at the Great Valley Middle School, Room 102. Kevin R. Kuhn, Chairman, Paul Hogan, Charlie Philips, Michael Rodgers, Hugh Willig, Mark Thompson, Esq., Linda M. Csete, Township Administrator, and those on the attached list attended.
The meeting was called to order at 7:30 P.M.
Mr. Kuhn announced that an executive session was held prior to the meeting to discuss real estate matters relating to the township-owned Jenkins property on Valley Hill Road. Mr. Kuhn explained that the Township purchased the property approximately 3 years ago so they could reduce potential development on the site from 8 homes to 4 homes. The Township will sell the 4 subdivided lots and retain about 10-12 acres of the 16 acre site for a small park.
Mr. Philips announced that a long time resident, Bill Gordon, passed away recently at the age of 94. Mr. Gordon represented Charlestown Township on the Valley Forge Sewer Authority Board, the Charlestown School Authority Board, and the Boy Scouts volunteer board. He was the highest ranking civilian employed at the Valley Forge Army Hospital.
Mr. Kuhn announced that Bob Duncan passed away on Saturday. He and his sister, Mary Jane Duncan, founded Charlestown Townwatch.
Mr. Hogan announced that on March 10th, the Charlestown Playschool is holding an auction In Kimberton to mark its 70th anniversary and celebrate Miss Betty’s tenure.
Tom McClure, Rosewood Lane, said he and other residents present this evening wanted to discuss the turnpike bridge over Bodine Road, stating they have serious issues with the possibility that the bridge would be eliminated and want to know where the Board stands. Mr. Kuhn said the item was on a previous agenda but not scheduled for this evening, so the Board will hear comments but won’t make any decisions tonight.
Mr. McClure said the Board has a responsibility to maintain the infrastructure that the residents bought into when they purchased their property. Mr. Kuhn said all the Board did at the February 5th meeting was listen to a Pa. Turnpike Commission proposal to either reconstruct or remove the Bodine Road Bridge, and no decision has been made. The Board seeks public input and has received numerous emails and letters. Mr. Willig said that at the February 5th meeting, the Board expected information on how the bridge would be repaired and was surprised by the talk of eliminating the bridge. They therefore asked the Turnpike Commission for more information, and the matter would be scheduled on a future agenda before any decision is made.
David Melich, Seven Oaks Road, said that emergency services north of the Turnpike couldn’t maintain their response level if the bridge was closed. Mr. Kuhn said emergency services is one of the Board’s primary concerns.
Mr. McClure asked about the cost of replacing the bridge, and Mr. Kuhn said that is the Turnpike Commission’s concern. Mr. Hogan added that the township engineer drafted a set of parameters that he recommended the Turnpike Commission use in their traffic study, and the Board hopes to receive this data soon. Mr. Kuhn said that at the February 5th meeting, there were residents who were in favor of removing the bridge, and others who were opposed. He said the Board has an obligation to listen to all its residents before making a decision.
Mr. Melich said he spoke to West Pikeland Supervisor Bill Cracas and that West Pikeland is more affected. If the bridge closed, the Seven Oaks Road and Route 401 intersection would have to be signalized, and West Pikeland would incur the cost for electricity.
Mr. Willig said the Turnpike Commission can’t remove the bridge without the Township’s agreement. Mr. Thompson agreed, stating that since Bodine Road is a township road, only the Township has the authority to vacate the road, so the decision is the Board’s to make.
Mr. McClure asked why it’s a difficult decision to make. Mr. Kuhn responded that the Board wasn’t going to make a decision without facts, and therefore asked the Turnpike Commission for additional information first. Mr. Melich asked, since West Pikeland is so affected, shouldn’t they have input. Mr. Kuhn said it is Charlestown’s decision to make as they own the road on both sides.
Mr. Melich said if Seven Oaks is widened to signalize the intersection, they would take some of his property and he’d lose a stone wall.
Terry Lochry, Greenbriar Circle, asked if there is a timetable for making a decision. Mr. Willig said the way the Board left discussions with the Turnpike Commission on February 5th, the Turnpike Commission wants to know as soon as possible if the Township’s decision is to keep the bridge so they can begin engineering studies. Mr. Kuhn said the Board should decide within 60 days.
Mr. McClure asked again why the Board doesn’t make the decision now to keep the bridge. Mr. Kuhn said they have to consider the cut through traffic, for which traffic studies have been requested, and the input coming in from the residents.
Mr. Melich said he should have received direct notification of the February 5th meeting. Mr. Kuhn said the meetings are advertised and the agendas are posted on the website. Mr. Melich said he didn’t have a computer at home. He said he’ll be the one most impacted if the bridge is closed, and if he leaves the Township, his 30 acre property will not remain intact.
Mr. McClure thanked the Board for their time, and repeated that he hopes they will maintain the infrastructure of the Township.
Mr. Rodgers moved to approve the February 20, 2007 minutes and Mr. Philips seconded. Mr. Kuhn called for discussion. The Secretary reported that resident Kim Walsh, who attended the Turnpike Commission’s presentation on February 5, 2007, contacted her to say that she was attributed with a comment at the meeting that she did not make, and asked that it be removed from the minutes. The Secretary told her those minutes were already approved by the Supervisors, but a correction could be noted in this evening’s minutes to reflect that the statement “Kim Walsh, Bodine Road, said Route 401 can’t handle more traffic” was attributed to her in error. Mr. Philips amended his motion to approve the February 20, 2007 minutes and to make a notation for the correction on the February 5, 2007 minutes, and Mr. Rodgers seconded. There being no more comments, Mr. Kuhn called the vote. Four were in favor, and Mr. Kuhn did not vote as he was not present the February 20th meeting.
Mr. Hogan moved to approve the February Treasurer’s Report and Mr. Willig seconded. Mr. Kuhn called for discussion and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Rodgers moved to approve the March 5, 2007 Operating Fund Accounts Payable report and Mr. Hogan seconded. Mr. Kuhn called for discussion and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor. Mr. Kuhn noted that payments to Lord’s Services total $8,560.00 and there could be bid issues if Lord’s is contracted to do any more work this year. He said next year the tree work should go out to bid, and for this year they will have to bid if there is any further work.
Mr. Rodgers moved to approve the March 5, 2007 Open Space Fund Accounts Payable report, and Mr. Philips seconded. Mr. Kuhn called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Kuhn moved to approve the March 5, 2007 State Fund Accounts Payable report, and Mr. Philips seconded. Mr. Kuhn called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Willig reported on the last meeting of the Phoenixville Regional Planning Commission (PRPC) which last week held a summit of all the elected officials participating in the group, including Charlestown Township, Phoenixville Borough, Schuylkill Township, East Pikeland Township, East Vincent Township and West Vincent Township.
Mr. Willig said the group has drafted a regional comprehensive plan and is now considering an implementation agreement for it. The Comprehensive Plan will create consistency throughout the region with each municipality’s individual plan. Phoenixville Borough Council had expressed a concern that the Regional Comprehensive Plan would be written to have allowed all of the other participants to send density to Phoenixville and that the Regional Plan would interfere with their revitalization plan. During the meeting it was clarified that the goals of this Regional Plan was to reduce density across the entire region, not concentrate it, and also to support Phoenixville’s revitalization efforts. Further discussions clarified that the group determined centers for dense development in each municipality, while concentrating arts & entertainment in Phoenixville Borough. The function of the group is not to control what the others do. Each municipality retains control of its own zoning, with the PRPC acting in a similar capacity as the Chester County Planning Commission by providing additional comments and review. Mr. Philips asked what happened to Phoenixville Borough’s interest in weighting the power by population. Mr. Willig said that once they better understood the process, the problem went away. Every party has global representation. For example, the question of the Bodine Road bridge would go to the regional group for review but Charlestown would retain its decision making power.
Mr. Philips asked for the advantages of regional planning. Mr. Willig said Schuylkill Township Supervisor Norm Vutz articulated this well, with the example of how Schuylkill has mobile home parks, while Charlestown has a quarry. This covers both townships for both uses. Mr. Philips said, then this helps each township meet the fair share requirements of the MPC, which is onerous on individual townships now. Mr. Willig said the group will set the level for which to determine that an application is of regional significance and thus goes to them for review.
Mr. Kuhn said Jim McMaster, the attorney for the PRPC, took the strongest portions of the individual comprehensive plans from each municipality when crafting the regional plan. The plan is meant to focus on undeveloped land, not on the uses of property already developed. Mr. Willig said the next step is a final review of the regional comprehensive plan, before which Charlestown needs to communicate its intentions for the Devault area. Then, a step by step review of the implementation agreement is needed. Mr. Philips asked when hearings are expected to take place, and Mr. Willig estimated, by this summer. After the regional plan is adopted, each municipality will have two years to bring their own comprehensive plans into consistency. He noted that Charlestown’s Comprehensive Plan is already close to being consistent.
Mr. Philips suggested an article be written for the next newsletter on the regional plan, and Mr. Willig will draft it. Mr. Kuhn recognized both Mr. Willig and Planning Commission member Rick Reis for their participation on the PRPC over the past few years.
Mr. Rodgers moved to accept the monthly reports as submitted, and Mr. Philips seconded. Mr. Kuhn called for discussion and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.
Mr. Kuhn said the Board needs to move forward to create its UCC Board of Appeals. They spoke with East Whiteland Township about joining their regional group, but since that group hasn’t had an application of its own yet, they didn’t want to begin with the application of a new group member that may prove a challenge.
Mr. Kuhn confirmed with Mr. Thompson that the Board may form the appeals board and appoint its members through a resolution. Mr. Thompson read from an email sent to the Board dated 2/21/07 listing the qualifications required of the 5 members on the board, which include a registered architect, structural engineer, plumbing or mechanical contractor, electrical engineer or contractor, and fire protection engineer or contractor. Mr. Kuhn confirmed with Mr. Thompson that Fred Alston would have no conflict if appointed as the fire protection member. Mr. Kuhn suggested contacting Robin Kohn for the architect position, and the other Board members agreed. Mr. Kuhn will also speak to Lee Haller, Frank Holleran, and Bill Andersen about the remaining positions. The Secretary will forward previous letters of interest received from four others. As an aside, Mr. Willig noted that the PRPC has suggested forming a regional board of appeals once the regional comprehensive plan is adopted.
Luis Castro, 2063 Yellow Springs Road, requested access to public water. He said he purchased his house about a year ago and has done extensive renovations that are now ready for final inspection. His well produces sufficient water volume but the water is full of sediment. He expected this to clear up when he began running the water more frequently, but this has not been the case. Mr. Willig asked if the water main is the same one that serves Charlestown Oaks, and Mr. Philips said yes, adding that it doesn’t extend past the bridge on Yellow Springs Road.
Mr. Castro said his filter gets clogged very quickly after he runs water. Mr. Kuhn asked what type of well he has, and Mr. Castro said it is a 100 foot deep well. Mr. Kuhn asked if he’s had a well contractor out to look at the problem, and Mr. Castro said not yet. He’s concerned about the cost of digging a second well, and Aqua PA said that there would be no tie-in costs for him to hook up to public water because the pipe is close to the curb.
Mr. Kuhn said the problem could be as simple as a broken pipe in the system, and that he’d want to see a report from a well contractor before considering the request for public water. Mr. Philips said he likewise wants a professional to look at it, and if the recommendation is to drill a second well, that is what should be done rather than tie in to public water. He sympathizes with Mr. Castro on the problem, but he believes public water access will spur development. He doesn’t want to make a decision without hearing a professional assessment first. Mr. Willig said if it turns out to be a more complicated problem, he notes that the public water main can’t go past the turnpike bridge, and there’s not much potential for a developer to access it. Mr. Hogan indicated he would not be opposed to granting access to public water.
Mr. Willig suggested Mr. Castro speak with his uphill neighbors to see if they have similar problems. Mr. Castro agreed, and said he will contact a well contractor to examine the situation and return to the Board with more information.
Mr. Kuhn began with an update for Paul Schulze IV, Wells Road, who made inquiries with regard to open space budgeting and spending and sent comments to the Board with his interpretation.
Mr. Kuhn read aloud from the Board’s letter sent to all residents 11/12/03, which describes the Board’s intentions for the new Earned Income Tax revenues as follows, “ The Board intends to use all the Earned Income taxes collected for enhancements to our Open Space Program, which includes property acquisition, including easements and development rights, and rehabilitation of historic assets. The Brightside Farm, Horseshoe Trail, historic Longwood School ruins and plans to preserve the historic Charlestown Woolen Mill are examples of projects that will benefit from the tax proceeds.”Mr. Kuhn then read from a summary prepared by the Treasurer outlining various acquisitions and easements obtained with EIT funds, as well as a small percentage of these funds used for open space improvements. Mr. Kuhn noted the information was in the form of a preliminary worksheet, and showed 487 acres acquired or eased for a net cost of $6,752,470 after receipt of $945,000 in grant funding to offset costs. This made the net cost per acre $13,863.
Mr. Schulze said he had concern over the 2007 budget showing a surplus of funds. Mr. Kuhn said these funds are in a bank account that are held until needed, and that he doesn’t look at it as a surplus. There are open space projects on the table, and funds must be held in readiness for them. Mr. Schulze said the citizens are being taxed at approximately $1 million per year, but the funding isn’t being used but rather going into the bank. Mr. Kuhn said 1/3 to 1/2 that sum was revenue being paid by Charlestown residents but going to other municipalities because Charlestown didn’t have its own EIT tax. Mr. Kuhn assured Mr. Schulze that the Township will spend all money collected on Open Space projects, and that some funds are needed in the bank so they are ready to act when a property becomes available, and in order to match grant funding available.
Mr. Schulze said the EIT funds should be spent on obtaining open space easements only, not for acquisitions or improvements, so the maximum is available for that purpose. Mr. Kuhn said whether it comes from EIT taxes or real estate taxes, the Township has always spent some money on improvements and historical preservation, and will always do so. Mr. Willig noted that the Board has passed a resolution each year indicating that the EIT funds collected for that year will be used solely for open space projects, including improvements.
Mr. Schulze said the open space program should have a formal plan. The Secretary said she provided Mr. Schulze with information on the two bond obligation notes, including their annual principal and interest payments and terms at his request. She explained that the Open Space Fund is a capital project fund that is used for acquisition and easement projects as well as for open space improvement. The reason the Township purchased some land outright and eased other acreage is due to what the land is to be used for. Some land is acquired as opposed to being eased so it can be used for active recreation, including the Brightside Farm, Jenkins property, and Charlestown Park. The Woolen Mill property was acquired outright so that the structure could be preserved. Now Charlestown is in a position where it owns active, or potentially active, recreation sites in the west, center, and northeast portions of the township and more people can avail themselves of it.
Mr. Schulze reiterated that the $2 million surplus shown going in to 2007 is too large. Mr. Kuhn said the Township has spent $6.7 million for open space projects in the last 3 years. Mr. Willig suggested the Board prepare a report for the next newsletter showcasing the results of the Open Space program, including how much has been spent so far, what has been preserved, the amount collected each year, and how much preserved acreage that could yield over the next few years. Board members acknowledged that one of Mr. Schulze’s main concerns is to receive more information and clarification from them. Mr. Schulze agreed that a detailed financial plan would be welcome.
Leslie Johns, Rapps Run Drive, said she doesn’t like paying the EIT but feels she has a responsibility for the future of the Township. She said the Board showed foresight in preserving the Mill and acquiring the Brightside Farm. She said she wants the Township to have the money held in reserve to be ready for the next opportunity.
Mr. Schulze thanked the Board for their time this evening.
Mr. Alston said he requested two estimates from Powder Valley Contractors, Inc., one in the amount of $1,250.00 to remove the graffiti from the Longwood School, and one in the amount of $1,650.00 to apply a graffiti control product on the stone in order to prevent recurrence. Mr. Hogan said this seemed expensive. Mr. Alston said the graffiti will take considerable labor to remove. He said he tried to handle this himself but was unsuccessful. Mr. Kuhn asked if the anti-graffiti coating will work, and Mr. Alston said he couldn’t guarantee it, but it would at least be easier to remove graffiti if it reappeared after application.
Mr. Philips moved to accept the two estimates and authorize the work to proceed, and Mr. Kuhn seconded. Mr. Kuhn called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. Four were in favor, and Mr. Hogan was opposed.
Mr. Alston provided an update on the EOC, which is temporarily housed at the Township Office. He said he met with C.B. Richard Ellis managers, representing the owner of the former Decision One building on Phoenixville Pike, and they have offered the Township the use of the same 600 square foot space that previously contained the EOC. They offered a month-to-month lease at no cost other than possibly covering the cost of utilities. They had previously offered a 10 year lease to run concurrently with that of a potential tenant, but that agreement may not take place now. Mr. Alston said a state senator has offered funding through a stipend that would also be large enough to pay for some improvements at the center.
Mr. Willig asked if cabling would be needed, and Mr. Alston said yes, for both internet and phone.
Mr. Willig was concerned with the lack of security in a month to month lease, and Mr. Kuhn said there was no advantage to taking it under those terms. Mr. Willig suggested that it may be more to the EOC’s advantage to negotiate a 2 year or longer lease at a modest rental rate than have a month to month lease with no rent. Mr. Alston stated that the State would provide a stipend for this if a lease was something that the Board wanted to do. Mr. Alston said they have a major drill scheduled for August where the EOC will be evaluated by PEMA, and the Township has a record of never receiving a negative comment on these drills. He’d like to have the EOC set up in the new space before then. Mr. Kuhn said he’ll make a call regarding the term to see if they can get the managers to agree to a minimum of a 2 or 3 year term with a modest rent.
Mr. Hogan moved to adjourn and Mr. Philips seconded. All were in favor. The meeting was adjourned at 9:33 P.M. The Board held an executive session following the meeting to discuss legal matters. The next meeting is scheduled for March 19, 2007, 7:30 P.M. in Room 154 of the Great Valley Middle School.