TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2013


Planning Commission: Wendy Leland, Chairperson, Michael Allen, Michael Churchill, Michael Richter, and Andre von Hoyer. Andy Motel arrived at 7:50pm and Bill Westhafer, Vice Chairperson, was absent.

Consultants: Daniel Wright, P.E, Thomas Comitta

Staff: Linda Csete and Lisa Gardner

Public: See Attached List

Call to Order:

7:43 p.m.


Mrs. Leland read to the audience “Guidelines for Conduct at Public Meetings” found on the back of tonight’s agenda.

Mrs. Csete made the following announcement. Earth Day on April 20th was another big success this year, with over 60 participants cleaning litter along the roads and in the parks. The Planning Commission continued its efforts to beautify the turnpike abutment along Route 29, by planting 6 additional Norway spruce trees.

Mrs. Leland announced that the Conditional Use Application for the Altemoses’ subdivision, Whitehorse Estates, was approved by the Supervisors on May 6th, 2013.

Mr. Allen provided an update on PECO meter placement in the Traditional Neighborhood Development zoning district. Although progress is rather stagnant, Pickering Grant is leaning towards a rear access plan.

Mr. Allen asked about the slowing of progress for the Route 29 project and was told by Tim Townes, developer of Pickering Crossing, that it was also a PECO issue.

Mrs. Leland said the Planning Commission will not have a table at the Charlestown Community Day on June 1st. But, she told Members she is compiling talking points for the tour and will pass them onto Mrs. Staas. She distributed a list of bus stops to the Members and asked for their assistance in providing the details for the tour.

Mrs. Leland announced the summer dates for meetings being June 11th, July 9th, and a tentative meeting scheduled on August 13th.

Mr. Allen announced a DRC meeting at 9am on June 6th to discuss Fillippo Residential and Spring Oak at the Township Office.

Mrs. Leland also noted that May 21st is Election Day.

Mr. von Hoyer stated the Transportation Advisory Committee will meet again on June 25th and that the consultant was studying a local intersection at Coldstream and Charlestown Roads, at the time of this meeting.

Approval of April 9, 2013 Minutes

Mr. Churchill moved to approve the April 9, 2013 minutes with recommended changes, and Mr. von Hoyer seconded. Mrs. Leland called for discussion, there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.

Thompson Final Subdivision Plan

Mr. Ben Thompson and Mr. Michael Beuke, P.E. from Showalter Associates were present to discuss the Final Plan for the Thompson subdivision.

Mr. Beuke addressed comments in the review letter dated May 8th, 2013 from Dan Wright, P.E. as follows:

#15 Mr. Beuke said they will comply but still may need a waiver for the 10 year stormwater rate. He promises to work closely with the Township Engineer. Mr. Churchill requested locations and calculations to be received by the Planning Commission and reviewed by Mr. Wright. Mr. Wright assured Members that any changes would be in compliance.

#24 Mr. Beuke discussed the technicalities of owning or servicing (ex. school busing or trash removal) a dedicated roadway that is planned over an infiltration bed. Cost and benefits of ownership, easement, repair, and access were debated.

#3 The bottom paragraph in bold type at the bottom of page 2, should refer to Lot #7.

#8 Planning Modules for sewage facilities need to be approved by the Chester County Health Department and shall be submitted for review by the Township.

#9 He will comply.

#14 The Environmental Impact Assessment requirement was waived due to the reduction in density. Mr. Allen suggested that the Members they needed to revise outdated environmental assessment requirements for Charlestown.

#28 Mr. Beuke would comply with a teardrop design, which as compared to a rounder cul-de-sac, avoids curb run over even though these curbs are recessed.

The balance of the points were designated as “resolved” or “will comply”.

Mr. Beuke addressed comments in the review memo dated May 1, 2013 from Tom Comitta as follows:

Mr. Ben Thompson said some trails needed adjusting due to driveway placements, easements, and ongoing changes as construction advances. With the possibility of the easement not being the final location of the trail, Mr. Churchill told Mr. Thompson that a final set of trails needs to be locked in and the Township Solicitor would need to be satisfied with the legal language of the easement. The Applicant will be responsible for creating a clear corridor and surface for trail users.

Lastly, Mr. Allen wanted to be sure the Township had taken the safest stance on the Plan’s intersections in regard to school busing.

Mrs. Leland asked if there were any comments from the audience, and there was nothing additional. Mr. Churchill noted the remarkable change in the plans to develop these properties with greatly reduced impact, and that this was the result of a lot of hard work, particularly by the applicants and the Supervisors’ involvement in working out a conservation easement with the Thompson family.

Mr. Churchill made a motion to approve the Final Subdivision Plan for the Thompson Tract subject to the review letter dated 5/8/13 from Dan Wright, P.E. and memo dated 5/1/13 from Tom Comitta, and with the conditions that (1) an “As Built Trail” Plan be provided to the Township, and (2) the Township Engineer would be satisfied with the Stormwater Management Requirement mentioned in #15. Mr. Motel seconded. Mrs. Leland called for discussion, there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.

Paul Marshall – Proposal to Amend Zoning Ordinance

Mrs. Leland read from an email dated May 12th, 2013, written by Supervisor Charles Philips, to a resident that may not have been clear on the Township’s Standard Operating Procedure per the MPC for reviewing an application for Zoning Ordinance Change. She told audience members that the right to be heard was the right of every property owner.

She read “First, the Zoning Hearing issue is a normal process and the vote at the Supervisors’ Meeting was not whether to pass it but whether to oppose it at the ZHB or to stay neutral. The ZHB is a separate legal entity that rules independent of anything the BOS does on zoning when someone wants to get a variance and the Township is then bound by that decision of the ZHB unless the BOS files a lawsuit against the ZHB. In fact it doesn’t matter if the BOS voted to oppose, support, or stay neutral as the BOS has no say as to how the ZHB rules.

Second, it is key to understand the way the Second Class Township Code works in PA. The vote at the BOS was not for or against the proposed use but how the BOS should be represented at the ZHB meeting by its consultants. Again the BOS has no say on how the ZHB would rule.

Third, the process now is that the Planning Commission will hear the applicant’s suggestion for a changed ordinance. The PC deliberates this and can decide to recommend a zoning change or not. If they recommend a change this has to go to the BOS for consideration in its regular meetings. Of course the applicant can still come forward with a request for a zoning variance if they don’t like the decisions.

It is nice that people are involved as this is how it should work in government at this level. I encourage you to come to our meetings to see how we work and to participate in our discussions.”

– Charlie Philips

Mr. Paul Marshall was present with attorney Mr. John Snyder and planner Mr. Tim Cassidy to discuss Mr. Marshall’s proposal to amend the zoning ordinance to allow a Farm-to-Table use as a Conditional Use. This would be in a Historic Resource, on 10+ acre conservation easement property, within the Farm Residential District, having frontage along a major collector road.

Mr. Cassidy began by listing the adaptive uses allowed by the current zoning. He equated the proposed dining to be equal to that of a Bed & Breakfast type establishment, but also using local or owner produced/raised food. Mr. Cassidy said that the way the amendment is drafted, only 2 properties fit the suggested controlling criteria for adaptive reuses. The applicant does not see this project as a restaurant because it is not a business that will only

This was the reason given by the Applicant for avoiding the term “restaurant” as questioned by the Chester County Planning Commission in their review letter.

Mr. Marshall explained the difference of Farm-to-Table being “grown from and prepared locally on site and in season” plus these differences from the label “restaurant”

Mr. Snyder addressed comments in the review memo dated May 1st, 2013 from Mr. Tom Comitta by telling Members that per the Ordinance, the intensity would be lower than a café in the Ordinance definition. Mr. Marshall proposes an amendment to Section 27-202 by adding a definition and a new subsection to 27-1619 as 27-1619.2.C adding provisions to address Conditional Use Standards for Uses Permitted in Historic Resources.

Scrutiny focused on the impact the venture would have on the community. The details and character that aren’t written into the amendment for this project were seen as a potential problem with future owners of the Marshall property by Mr. von Hoyer and Mr. Churchill. Mr. Churchill suggested the applicant go through the Conditional Use process so they can look closely at details, and address issues that come out of the consultant’s reviews.

But Members asked the applicants how would the community be protected from a future owner having a different interpretation of the idea? Mr. Snyder felt the definition of Sustainable Agricultural Uses was a key to help the Township regulate future use, but this brought up the second concern, policing. Mr. Richter was concerned the farming aspect of the operation could just end, or that Mr. Marshall could simply stop using the promised agricultural practices, or the future property owner could do the same.

Mr. Marshall does not plan on paving the spaces for parking, nor having large signage, and to follow the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture practices. Mr. Cassidy said the recommended practices of the organization would be followed but this had not been put into the suggested Ordinance amendment.

In anticipation of review, Mr. Cassidy displayed an enhanced overhead photo of the property with parking portrayed, including an ADA space. Mr. Allen stated the amount of planned parking would not be sufficient for guests and staff. Mr. Churchill said that the impact to the community would be greater than a 10 guest Bed & Breakfast, especially because of traffic.

Mr. Motel mentioned a Conditional Use being site specific, and that he felt there were more than 2 properties that could claim to be under the proposed criteria. In addition, he mentioned that the Marshalls may have thought the agricultural use exempts them from neighbor’s complaints. Mr. von Hoyer then mentioned issues such as noise, and smoke from outside diners and parking considerations.

Besides impact and policing, Members told the applicant that Charlestown had set aside zoned locations for such uses. Also, the applicant was told that the opinions of their neighbors count and that from the viewpoint of their neighbors, their resale value may be affected. This was why policing and standards are so important to consider.

Mr. Richter’s main concern was policing. Mr. Churchill liked the concept and liked the idea of maintaining a historical resource, but thought the impact would be high due to the 30 customer limit and traffic potential. He suggested that lowering the seating amount to 10-15 people would be more appropriate. But, at this point he would be unwilling to support approval, due to the insufficient details.

Mr. Allen does not believe it is the Township’s responsibility to make a historic farm active again. He asked why they propose to seat 30 people, and Mr. Marshall said it is so the group can have the experience together. He thinks groups of 12-14 will be more usual. Mr. Allen asked how many days a week the operation would function, and Mr. Marshall said five. Mrs. Leland has visited the site and said she likes how Mr. Marshall considers bringing the community into his home, and the educational aspect of the idea. She is pleased he gathered the original pieces of the property back together and that he is planning on making a living on the historic property, while keeping the rural character.

As it was written, Mr. Motel noted the Marshalls’ thought that the noise and odor of the food preparation may be exempt, having been taken from the agricultural usage designation. Mr. Marshall said he had no issue with accountability and would use charcoal filters in the hood, vapor barriers, etc.

Mr. Comitta felt Mr. Marshall needed to establish a designated impact area. For clarity purposes, Mr. Comitta would like the words “sustainable agricultural practices” to be defined since they appear in the proposed definition. Another change suggested in his letter dated May 1st, 2013, would be to move the words “with seating for a maximum of thirty (30) persons” to Section 27-1619.2.C (6).

Mr. Wright said he would need to see the actual Plan to review technical specifics.

Mr. von Hoyer mentioned the shared driveway. There would be a serious increase in impact even with one seating, due to deliveries, employee traffic, etc.

Mrs. Leland endorsed the idea for the adaptive reuse and said she had walked the property twice and thought the educational idea was a creative concept for an historic property zoned FR. She said that as a member of the HARB, she was delighted that a resident was looking at a business that would open up his property to the public to share in its Half Hill Farm agricultural history. Her understanding is that the driveway is a shared driveway and there is an easement in the deed stating this.

Mrs. Leland then asked for comments from the public which were made as follows:.

  1. The closest neighbor, Mr. Cameron Cloeter, was present with his attorney, Mr. Robert Romain, of Baer Romain, LLP. Mr. Romain’s first point was the noise, especially in an outside setting, easily impacting the Cloeters (living about 200 feet from the barn). He said this highlighted the absence of buffering and any land development scrutiny relating to parking or additional setbacks as is required in other zoning districts. One seating of 30 people plus approximately 6 employees creates considerable impact, and during the winter season, the lack of locally grown food would translate into more deliveries to the property. He said his clients view this as an intensive use. Mr. Marshall’s neighbors purchased FR zoned property and were reasonably not expecting a restaurant of any kind nearby. The new use would be serviced from a common driveway serving three lots, the Cloeters’ 2 lots plus the Marshalls’ lot. The Cloeters’ never envisioned that this driveway, which they own but provide an easement to the Marshalls’ lots, would have this type of use. He also pointed out that it isn’t necessary to have a farm to have a Farm to Table restaurant.
  2. Cam Cloeter, Alexis Lane, said he bought a parcel adjacent to his home in December 2010. He travels frequently and believes this use will affect his family’s peace and serenity and peace of mind, along with devaluing the property and causing a safety concern.
  3. Nancy Cloeter agreed with her husband’s remarks and further explained concerns for her safety. She walks her dog every evening between 9:30-10:00 p.m. and now strangers will be driving along the private road at that time. People not familiar with the area will be turning around in their driveway, something that occasionally happens now. She suggested a local police force if placing something commercial in a FR district.
  4. Ms. Sharon Rouse, Markley Lane, said she lives next to the Cloeters. She wondered how the Township could keep this concept from growing beyond thirty people and foresaw future wedding receptions. It would also be a problem when headlights would shine into her home.
  5. Mr. Findlay of Charlestown Road did not want the Ordinance changed because of the peace and serenity enjoyed by neighbors. He referred to the definition of “restaurant” from both Webster’s Dictionary and Wikipedia, both describing it as “a place to eat”, therefore he considers this use to be a restaurant. He said he’s walked the perimeter of the property and personally deals with matters of global sustainability. He said this is not a farm. The Pond, for future bass, is currently moss-ridden. He said he’s looking into a grant for Swiss Pines for reclamation of its pond, and the cost is estimated at $1 million. He suggests having Mr. Marshall farm the property for two or three years, and then revisit this proposal. He foresees this to be an Ordinance change that could affect everyone, for one resident’s idea. He said this matter should be considered as it originally was, as a zoning variance request. He also agreed with an earlier point about peace and serenity as he often comes home later in the evening looking forward to quiet. Charlestown Road is not suited to the additional traffic, having had fatalities in the past, and he having had helivacs in his front yard.
  6. Ms. Jill Green of Howell Road told Members she was herself a restaurant owner, that that a Farm to Table establishment is different. She suggested Mr. Marshall call it a “dinner club”, during its beginning period, and explained the differences between Farm to Table vs. a typical restaurant.
  7. Ms. Regina Fried of Hollow Road asked Members to be careful of the impact of exemptions like this in light of the recent slip ramp completion, which makes Charlestown Township a perfect place to receive pressure from developers. She cautioned not to make one exception that will lead to others. She also asked what kind of lighting this use would propose.
  8. Ms. Ellen Berle, of Moses Way said it’s a great adaptive use. She included herself amongst the public servants who fought the selling off of farms twenty years ago through creative zoning strategies encouraging more open space preservation. Adaptive reuses were included in the zoning revisions to allow property owners a way to earn income from their properties. She noted that the Cloeter residents receive numerous, regular UPS deliveries and operate a business from their home. Deliveries are often mistakenly left at the Marshall’s home. She said the proposed use will benefit the adjoining properties since the Marshalls will spend money to improve their property as a result of it.
  9. Mr. Greg Nesspor of Pikeland Road told those present that many properties could easily qualify for what the Marshalls propose, by obtaining a Conservation Easement. He added that Mr. Marshall had a good idea, and he appreciates the concept, but he bought the wrong property for it. The Ordinance shouldn’t be changed to make it fit just for them.
  10. Mr. Allan Walter from Merlin Road moved into the area fifteen years ago to escape the business of Exton, and now asked residents if they would purchase a property next to the Marshalls, knowing what Mr. Marshall is now planning. He said the Cloeter property would decrease in value as a result.
  11. Mrs. Tomoku Findlay said she and her husband have lived on their property for ten years, and agreed with her husband’s comments. She raised concerns about road safety, particularly for children. She pointed out that there is a difference if Mr. Marshall would have a club or party five nights a week versus the farm to table use, which would invite customers who would be strangers unfamiliar with the area roads. They will be strangers, and there will be alcohol served and smokers outside.
  12. Mr. Larry Bull of Hollow Road, a 20 year resident, discussed the negative impact from the noise and the smell of farming. He noted he’s never seen any livestock at the Marshall’s property and the topography is rough for that. He brought to mind, how when it was a farm, neighbors weren’t built as closely as they are today. This is likely to reduce property values. But, he said it was the Marshalls’ right to farm.
  13. Mr. Tom Strohmetz of Charlestown Road said the use is a fantastic idea, but agreed with Mr. Nesspor, saying the entrepreneur had the wrong location. He was concerned about people turning around in neighboring driveways, customers being on the strange road wanting to turnaround. In the winter, the road can become icy and dangerous. He also said he would not have chosen to purchase a home near a restaurant, citing the desire for peace and serenity, and the safety of his four children.

Mr. Marshall was instructed, in order to proceed with his project, to assemble a complete package, talk with the proper consultants, gather community concerns, develop details on parking, buffering, noise, ingress and egress, and restrictions, before returning to the Planning Commission for further discussion.

Mrs. Leland thanked the residents for the large turnout this evening and invited their continued participation. Due to the lateness of the meeting, Mr. Richter excused himself at this time.

Recap of Proposed Rezoning Application for TND Area 3 to Allow Hotel Use

Mr. Tim Townes was present to provide a recap of his project, as it was presented to the Board of Supervisors at their May 6, 2013 meeting. Mr. Townes had updated the parking area with more green and added reserved parking at 1 General Warren Boulevard. Mr. L. Clark Blynne of Gulph Creek Development accompanied Mr. Townes in presenting the suggestion for the amended rezoning of TND Area 3 to allow a residential hotel use at this 7 acre location. He circulated a draft amendment proposing to allow unified hotel/retail use on five-plus acre properties with up to 5,000 square feet per user.

Mr. von Hoyer suggest the definition of “suite” be added to the amendment and adding the LEED certification, if allowable by the UCC. Mr. Motel asked where other property owners in this district had the potential to aggregate their lots to amass the required five acres.

Mr. Comitta urged Members to consider what other changes were necessary in others districts where hotels have already been defined, including modification of the design standards. Members reminded Mr. Townes to keep the signage compliant.

Mr. Allen asked how many parking spaces are proposed for the General Warren Blvd. site and Mr. Blynne said 128, which would include parking for staff. Mr. von Hoyer asked if additional emergency access would be needed, and Mr. Townes said he believes the site is close enough to Route 29 that this wouldn’t be necessary.

Mrs. Leland asked who owns a small corner property adjacent to this site, and Mr. Townes said Tony Varano, noting this parcel is not in the TND district or part of the Commons @ Great Valley Business Park. It’s zoned Neighborhood Commercial.

Mr. Churchill made a motion for The Planning Commission to recommend to the Board of Supervisors the adoption of the Amendment to the Ordinance with such additional changes as the Township Consultants deemed necessary to implement the concept. Mr. Allen seconded. Mrs. Leland called for discussion, there being none called the vote. All were in favor.

Mr. Allen noted this will be discussed at the Design Review Committee meeting on May 17th. The Planning Commission will schedule an additional meeting to review the ordinance later this month.


Mrs. Leland made a motion to adjourn the meeting and Mr. Motel seconded. Mrs. Leland called for discussion, there being none, adjourned the meeting at 11:35 p.m. The Planning Commission’s next scheduled meeting is May 28th, location and time to be decided, but to be advertised.

Respectfully submitted,

Lisa Gardner
Recording Secretary
sheet, 05/14/2013
sheet, 05/14/2013