Wendy Leland, Chairman, Bill Westhafer, Vice Chairman, Michael Allen, Michael Churchill, Michael Richter, Andre von Hoyer, Surender Kohli, P.E., Dan Wright, P.E., Ed Theurkauf, Linda Csete and those on the attached sign-in sheet.

Call to Order:

7:40 p.m.


The following announcements were made:

From Mrs. Leland:

  1. She reminded the Planning Commission members that the Township’s Earth Day activities are taking place this Saturday beginning at 9:00 a.m. from the Township Office. Mr. Motel is leading a team to continue efforts to beautify the PA Turnpike right of way area at the end of Whitehorse Road at Route 29. A group of boy scouts will be joining them to add bird houses.
  2. Representatives from the Turnpike Commission will be coming to the Planning Commission, possibly next month, to discuss plans for a new maintenance shed and expansion of the existing shed at their Devault facility.

From Mrs. Csete:

  1. It’s time for the 7 year Agricultural Security Area review, and she’ll be getting started in May to notify all property owners currently in the ASA and to invite new owners to join. The procedure is lengthy and takes about six months to get through. A recommendation from the Planning Commission on the additions to the ASA will be needed and will probably be ready for the September 13th meeting.
  2. Charlestown is joining with East Pikeland and Schuylkill Township to provide paper shredding services to our residents. ProShred will be at the CAT Pickering on April 16 from 9 am – 1 pm. This event is open for residents of the three participating municipalities only.

From Mr. Allen:

  1. He joined others to walk through the Pickering Grant trail easement and later met with representatives from the Horseshoe Trail group to look at the connection to the Elementary School property. He said the Horseshoe Trail group plans to meet with the School District to see if a connection can be permitted. They also discussed the gap between Spring Oaks and Pickering Grant across TND Area 2 where a connection is needed. The suggestion was to speak with owner Tom Fillippo about providing a temporary connection.
  2. He met with Tim Townes, Andy Motel, Wendy Leland and Richard Krumrine from the School District to discuss a sidewalk from Pickering Grant along Charlestown Road up to the School. He said Mr. Krumrine was amenable to discussing the matter with the School Board. Mr. Allen noted that the School District is interested in obtaining a public sewer connection through the Pickering Grant property. They also discussed the school bus lot adjacent to Pickering Grant where noise will be a concern for future residents. Mr. Krumrine told them the School District is adding block heaters so the diesel engines won’t have to idle as long. They also talked about adding fence for screening.

Approval of March 8, 2011 Minutes

Mr. Allen had the following corrections to the minutes:

He asked that his name be added to those individuals who attended the meeting with PennDOT to discuss a bike trail along Whitehorse Road. He also asked that his name be added for the meeting with School District representatives to discuss a trail connection from the Pickering Grant property to the Elementary School.

With these changes, Mr. Allen moved to approve the minutes of March 8, 2011 and Mr. von Hoyer seconded. Mrs. Leland called for discussion and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.

Mrs. Leland added that she spoke to Schuylkill Township Manager Mary Bird about coordinating more with Schuylkill on the Thompson plans. She said she extended an invitation to Schuylkill Township Planning Commission members to attend tonight’s meeting but noted no one was present. She’d like to have a member of the Charlestown Planning Commission attend the Schuylkill meetings. Mrs. Csete will find out when they meet.


Zoning Ordinance Amendment - Definitions for Net Lot Area and Net Tract Area

Tim Townes of J. Loew & Associates was present to join the discussion since the definition for net tract area is affecting the plans for Pickering Grant. The ordinance currently states that proposed easements are included in net out calculations.

Mr. Allen noted that J. Loew & Associates has provided a 20 foot wide easement along their entire Phoenixville Pike frontage so only one crossing would be needed to connect to the other TND areas.

Mr. Allen said that the net out provisions for net lot and net tract area are located in the Zoning Ordinance itself, not specifically in the TND section of that ordinance, so any change to the definitions will affect all zoning districts where they are used. The term doesn’t appear in the SLDO, however. He circulated a copy of that portion of the Zoning Ordinance with the two definitions, and pointed out that the only difference under (5) of each definition is the additional phrase “or proposed” in the net tract area definition. (5) states the following are excluded from the net tract area:

(5) Areas within an existing, or proposed, public or private easement (other than conservation easements) or right-of-way, the terms or conditions of which restrict or limit the nature, dimensional characteristics, or intensity of development or development activities within the said easement or right-of-way.

Mr. Allen explained that this creates a catch-22 for applicants, who are penalized for offering an easement up front. Mr. Allen said that on the Pickering Grant tract, this includes the horseshoe trail easement. Mr. Townes said that area is the equivalent of ½ acre and would mean the loss of a housing unit.

Mr. Townes said a way to avoid this would be to add the easement after the plan is approved, but this is not the way the Township would want to handle this as a matter of course. He further noted that the definition indicates conservation easements do not get netted out, and he said since the formerly named Horseshoe Trail Club has now become the Horseshoe Trail Conservancy, this should apply and not affect his net tract calculation.

Mr. Churchill said he makes a good argument that the Township wants to include proposed easements prior to plan approval and not afterward and that they should therefore be excluded from net out calculations. Mr. Townes said developers also have to give easements for utilities, some of which are blanket easements covering the entire tract. Mr. Churchill noted, however, that those easements don’t consume open land.

Mr. Allen said proposed easements don’t belong in either definition, pointing out that these definitions aren’t specific to the TND zoning district.

Mr. Theurkauf said the phrase “other than conservation easements” should be stricken from both definitions, and discussion followed as to whether this amendment had already been passed although it doesn’t appear in the codified zoning ordinance. Mrs. Csete will check on the status.

Mr. Churchill moved to recommend the following amendments to the Zoning Ordinance definitions for Net Lot Area and Net Tract Area as follows:

Mr. Richter seconded the motion. Mrs. Leland called for discussion, and there being none further, called the vote. All were in favor.

Mr. Allen noted that the Supervisors didn’t act on the preliminary plan for Pickering Grant at their April 4th meeting because the ordinance amendments relating to TND area 5 had only been adopted earlier that evening and aren’t in effect for five days. He said Mr. Townes agreed to wait until May 2nd to obtain approval.

Mr. Allen said that another issue relating to Pickering Grant is the operation of the adjacent asphalt plant and quarry. He noticed the asphalt plan operating one evening after their approved hours. However, Mr. Kohli further advised him that there is an exception for PennDOT projects. Mr. Allen is concerned that this will be a noise issue for both Pickering Grant and Spring Oak. Mr. Richter asked if PennDOT has to give advance notice. Mr. Kohli said he’ll check with the asphalt plant to see if they can provide notification. Mr. Churchill said it would be good to find out if the Township has any control over this matter.

Whitehorse Estates Sketch Plan

No one was present for the applicant so this matter was not discussed.

Thompson Conditional Use Application

Mike Beuke, P.E. and Ben Thompson were present to discuss the conditional use application accompanying the preliminary plan submission for the Thompson family.

Mr. Beuke referred to Attachment A of the conditional use application that provides a description of the conditional use approvals being sought as follows:

Description of Proposed Use requiring Conditional Use Approval:

  1. In view of the fact that the plans depict only a conceptual layout for each lot, a blanket steep slope disturbance is requested for the entire tract within Charlestown Township.

    The following are specific steep slope disturbances for the current lot layout:

    1. Lot 1 - Steep slope disturbance for the proposed drive and sanitary sewer facility.
    2. Lot 4 - Steep slope disturbance for grading.
    3. Lot 7 - Steep slope disturbance for the proposed drive.
    4. Lot 19 - Steep slope disturbance for the proposed drive and sanitary sewer.
    5. Lot 21 - Steep slope disturbance for the proposed drive.
    6. Proposed Road A - Steep slope disturbance for roadway construction including grading and stormwater management.
  2. A Conditional Use is required for the entire tract pursuant to Zoning Ordinance 27-402.C(6) requiring Conditional Use approval for any tract over 10 acres.

Mr. Beuke said at the previous Planning Commission meeting he asked that a blanket approval be granted for the entire tract as it’s difficult to tell which lot needs which specific approval until the homeowner situates the house.

The conditional uses were reviewed along with comments in Mr. Kohli’s review letter dated 4/1/2011 and Mr. Theurkauf’s review dated 4/7/11. Mr. Beuke showed the drawing for Lot #1 with the proposed location of the home and the long driveway to the Road C cul de sac. He said there’s no less disturbing location because there are intermittent areas of steep slope on the lot. Mr. Thompson said they want to leave the home location to the future owner but wanted to show a potential site on the plan.

Mr. Thompson said a variance may be needed for construction of a septic system in steep slopes and he’d like to have a note on the plans reserving his right to seek a variance for Lot 1 and Lot 19. Mr. Allen said they should first determine whether there are any other locations for the septic systems that would work without a variance. Mr. Beuke said he can specifically survey the area to try to locate alternatives. Mr. Kuhn asked if a plan can be approved if it’s known a variance will be needed at the time of building permit application. Mr. Kohli said no, a plan can’t be approved subject to obtaining a variance. If the variance isn’t granted, the lot would be unbuildable. Mr. Kohli said if they re-survey, they may lose some of the steep slope designations. Mr. Beuke said Lot 19, half of which is in Schuylkill Township, is the most restrictive lot due to NALT’s specifications.

Mr. Churchill asked if there are test pits in less sloped areas that didn’t fail. Mr. Thompson doesn’t know if they’ve been tested and said he’ll do some research to find out.

Mr. Beuke then referred to Lot 4, which requires approval for grading in steep slopes in an area under 1,500 sq. ft. Mr. Kohli suggested that a small retaining wall could be used.

Mr. Beuke referred to Lot 7, which will disturb steep slopes to construct the proposed driveway in order to keep the golf course open as long as possible. He added they need to use part of Lots 5 and 20 to continue the golf course operation. Mr. Allen said he’d be agreeable to a phased plan allowing the golf course to operate longer, in which case steep slope disturbance would be acceptable. Mr. Thompson said the family’s intention is to market the back lots first.

Mr. Beuke showed steep slope disturbance for the proposed driveway for Lot 19, indicating it’s just a small area. He then referred to Lot 21, which also needs approval for slope disturbance for the driveway. Mrs. Leland asked if there was a creek there, and Mr. Thompson said yes, but there’s already a stone crossing. Mrs. Leland noted this is likewise a small area of steep slope disturbance.

Mr. Beuke then showed Proposed Road A, which meanders through areas of steep and non-steep areas. Mrs. Leland noted the majority of the road is in Schuylkill Township. Mr. Allen said he didn’t have a problem with the plan as shown.

Mr. Thompson said they have a hearing scheduled for May 2nd before the Board of Supervisors. Mrs. Leland asked about the request for a blanket steep slope disturbance approval. Mr. Beuke confirmed that, noting that only the items (a) through (f) are specifically identified.

Mr. Beuke then referred to item #2 on the conditional use approval request, which is needed to permit construction of the development as a conventional lot development rather than as an open space plan. Mrs. Leland confirmed that the Planning Commission was in agreement with this request.

Mrs. Leland referred to Mr. Kohli’s note #9, which indicates that the stormwater seepage pit for Lot 5 should be moved out of the steep slope area since only a small portion is shown there. Mr. Beuke agreed this will be moved.

Mr. Theurkauf referred to comment #1 on his review letter, stating this has been addressed since the Planning Commission has already indicated its support of a conventional lot development. With regard to comment #2, he said it will be up to the Board of Supervisors as to whether they wish to impose any limits on agricultural structures beyond the residential building envelopes, or limits on woodland or tree clearing beyond them. Mr. Kuhn pointed out that while the conservation easement through NALT can be more restrictive than the Township’s zoning, NALT can’t allow something that the zoning would not. Mr. Churchill agreed that doesn’t constitute a waiver by the Township. Mr. Allen said they wanted to make this clear to the applicant.

Regarding comment #3, Mr. Theurkauf asked why Lot 22 couldn’t be made larger by giving it more acreage from Lot 3 by re-aligning Road D. Mr. Thompson said he wanted to provide Lot 3 with a sufficient area of good pasture, explaining the conditions toward the back of that lot are marshy. Mr. Theurkauf agreed Lot 3 is damp in the back, and as a result, agreed with Mr. Thompson’s reasoning, saying the tradeoff makes sense.

Mr. Theurkauf said this reasoning carries over to his comment #4 on vehicular access with the exception of the comments on emergency access, which stand. Mr. Beuke said they will comply with the recommendations on emergency access.

Mr. Theurkauf said comment #5 on steep slope disturbance has already been addressed with the exception of impacts on Lot 5, which could be addressed at the time of building permit application. He asked if the golf course will continue to exist on a portion of Lot 7, and Mr. Thompson said yes, the golf course would have an easement across it.

With regard to the trail network referenced in comments #6 and #7, Mr. Theurkauf said he refrained from comment with the understanding this matter would be worked out between the Thompsons and the Township.

On comment #8, Mr. Theurkauf said it will be at the Township’s discretion whether any tree replacement will be necessary. Mr. Beuke suggested this be addressed at the time of the individual building permit applications, and Mr. Theurkauf agreed. He noted in comment #10 that although the applicant requested a waiver from providing street trees, there may be some areas where street trees make sense. Mr. Kuhn said trees can be located where needed at the time of each individual lot development. Mrs. Leland suggested a note be placed on the plan indicating these trees be placed in reserve.

Regarding comment #11, Mr. Theurkauf said his understanding is that Mr. Kohli’s office will handle the Environmental Impact Assessment review, and Mr. Kohli confirmed that Dan Wright will review it.

Mr. Allen moved to recommend approval of the first conditional use request on steep slope disturbance to the Board of Supervisors subject to relocating the septic systems for lots #1 and #19 out of steep slopes, with the understanding that if they can’t meet the perc testing in those areas they will have to seek variances through the Zoning Hearing Board. Mrs. Leland seconded the motion and called for discussion. There being none, she called the vote. All were in favor.

Mr. Churchill moved to recommend approval of the second conditional use request to allow conventional lot development. Mr. Allen seconded the motion. Mrs. Leland called for discussion. There being none, she called the vote. All were in favor.

Thompson Preliminary Plan Application

The Planning Commission then continued the review of the preliminary subdivision plan for the Thompson property last revised 1/18/11.

Mrs. Leland referred to Mr. Kohli’s review letter dated 2/7/11. Mr. Allen said comment #33 indicates there are items missing from the EIA report. Mr. Beuke said they will comply by revising the report, but they question the need for a full assessment report. Mr. Churchill said the impact from this development is far less than it would be for a plan without the conservation easement, and he suggests waiving the items listed comment #33. Mr. Allen disagreed, although Mr. von Hoyer agreed with Mr. Churchill considering that there was a potential of 76 lots for this tract if it weren’t a conservation plan. Mr. Churchill suggested the applicant request a waiver from providing a full EIA report.

Mr. Wright said there were numerous stormwater management issues to be addressed and there has been no response from the applicant yet. Mr. Beuke said he plans to respond but held off on revising the plans so they could be revised in tandem with Schuylkill Township’s review. He said they are requesting a preliminary plan recommendation this evening subject to addressing the consultants’ comments.

Mr. Churchill said they will need to revise the preliminary plan before going before the Board of Supervisors for approval. Mr. Beuke said they wanted to get approval from the Board subject to these comments too. Mr. Kuhn said there are vested rights in a preliminary plan approval. Mr. Kohli suggested that at the very least, the applicant provide a detailed response letter to the comments on the review letters.

Mrs. Leland moved to recommend approval of the Thompson Preliminary Subdivision Plan last revised 1/18/2011 subject to the comments in Mr. Kohli’s review letter dated 2/7/11 and Mr. Theurkauf’s review memorandum dated 1/31/2011, and further subject to the receipt of a response letter outlining in detail how the applicant will comply with each outstanding issue. Mr. von Hoyer seconded the motion. Mrs. Leland called for discussion. There being none, she called the vote. All were in favor.

Horse Shoe Trail Conservancy

Ingrid Canterella-Fox was present to thank the Township for their $1,000 donation last year to cover part of the cost of their update of the Horse-Shoe Trail Guide Book and Map. She provided copies for each member of the Planning Commission and the Township office.


Mrs. Leland adjourned the meeting at 9:23 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Linda M. Csete
Township Manager
sheet, 4/12/2011