TUESDAY, MARCH 8, 2016 - draft 3/9/16


Planning Commission: Bill Westhafer, Chairman, Michael Allen, Wendy Leland, Michael Richter, and Andre von Hoyer. Andy Motel arrived at 7:45 and Michael Churchill was absent.
Consultants: Thomas Comitta
Staff: Linda Csete, Township Manager, and Lisa Gardner, Recording Secretary

Call to Order:

7:35 p.m.


Mr. Westhafer announced that the Planning Commission held its third annual Strategic Planning Session on Saturday, February 6, 2016, 9:00 a.m. at the Chester County Historical Society Building

Mrs. Leland distributed 2016 course information from the Chester County Planning Commission.

Approval of Minutes

January 12, 2016 Minutes

Mrs. Leland moved to approve the minutes of January 12, 2016 and Mr. von Hoyer seconded. Mr. Westhafer called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.

February 6, 2016 Minutes

Mr. Richter moved to approve the minutes of February 6, 2016 and Mr. von Hoyer seconded. Mr. Westhafer called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. Mrs. Leland abstained. Mr. Allen, Mr. Westhafer, and Mr. Richter were in favor.

Plan Reviews

There were no Sketch Plans, Preliminary Plans, or Final Plans to review tonight.

General Planning Items

TND Construction Management Process

Mr. Allen updated Members regarding progress made with JP Orleans at the Spring Oak project. Previously, Members considered if there was a need for a Township advocate or project manager to be on site daily. Members had said the Board would be notified if improvement was not seen before March.

Per Mr. Allen, they have initiated a construction review meeting every two weeks with JP Orleans at the site. Mr. Allen, Mr. Mallach, Mr. or Mrs. Frens, Mr. Wright and representatives from JP Orleans attend, and minutes are kept. Together, the Township representatives of this group have discussed the control problems at Spring Oak and decided to tighten the procedures. Per Mr. Allen, things are improving, now each home has its own set of drawings, site specific. Site, foundation, and house all need to be in place before approval by Mrs. Frens.

The Members of the PC still believe a project manager could benefit the Township in many ways. The manager could work with the consultants and handle new issues coming over the next 3-4 years. Mr. Motel wants to keep the project’s importance to the Township as the main focus and asked Members not to focus only on cost.

Mr. Westhafer suggested Mr. Detorre of JD Bravo as a resource. Although Mr. Detorre may be over qualified for that particular position, someone within the company could be helpful. Mrs. Csete added that Mr. Detorre is good with detail, is an excellent liaison, and is flexible in his responsibilities. Mr. Westhafer suggested bringing Mr. Detorre to the next meeting. It was agreed that the developer should be required to pay at least some of the cost for this potential position.

Discussion followed about the need to provide JP Orleans and other TND developers of all ordinance changes to date as well as future changes.

Mr. Allen said that the Township is waiting for JP Orleans to approach them, since both parties could not come to agreement on whether to permit a bonus room above a garage having a bathroom, which has been done in one of the units. The Township will continue to use the Design Manual and ordinance when addressing JP Orleans challenges. He had hoped for a collaborative atmosphere, but he foresees more problems in the future.

Mr. Comitta described the Township’s relationship with JP Orleans. He described it as JP Orleans’ not understanding that the Township has given them greater density, and expected a quality product in return. Members agreed, but due to issues like personnel changes and documentation issues, this hasn’t been realized in all areas.

More discussion followed regarding in-law suites and permitting, and the explicitness of this in the HOA documents. Also, quantity issues, the adjacency of garages, and aesthetics not detailed specifically in the manual aren’t being honored. These items are falling in-between the architect and the engineer, and require policing.

Sketch Plan Procedures

At the Strategic Planning Session, Mr. Comitta stated the intention of inviting a few experts to a special session to discuss and design a sketch plan brochure. However, due to scheduling conflicts the meeting could not happen. So, the employees at Thomas Comitta Associates drafted a full color, letter sized, sample handout for applicants needing guidance for sketch plan preparation. It is an attempt to elevate awareness of what resources are available. This will portray what the Township needs in order to engage in a meaningful review and discussion, a usable guide for mostly the smaller projects bought to the PC by residents.

He asked the Members to review this version and provide feedback to make it more user friendly. An initial comment was to have a section of the guide specifically for smaller projects as much of the draft information was geared toward larger ones. Members are to respond back to him with what they think is missing. The goal is to have a document Mrs. Csete can post on line and distribute to residents coming to the Township Office with a rough idea/concept. He will then return with the revised version at the next meeting.

Renewable Energy Ordinance

Mr. Comitta circulated the first draft (dated 1/5/2016) of an amendment to the Township Zoning Ordinance. He is looking for feedback to Part 23, titled “Solar Energy and other Alternative Energy Systems”. The draft borrows wording from other townships that are all somewhat conservative in alternative energy viewpoints.

Many questions quickly surfaced from Members.

  1. Aesthetics vs functionality
  2. How vigilant to be in regulation vs encouraging the use of alternative energy
  3. What kind of technical requirements or regulations would be appropriate?
  4. How do you regulate in consideration of a neighbor vs not making impossible limits?
  5. How to deal with lot specifics or density and proximity issues
  6. Where to allow, front vs back yards, what yard size is appropriate?
  7. Ground vs roof arrays

Mr. Allen obtained the name of an expert, Elizabeth Compitello, of the DVRPC. Mr. Comitta will contact Ms. Compitello to help the PC gain a better understanding of technical issues. Mr. Comitta will also contact Mr. O’Leary to see what resources are available from Chester County.

Comprehensive Plan

Mr. Comitta reminded Members that the Township is currently relying on the 2003 version of the Comprehensive Plan. The Board will be voting on question of whether to adopt the Phoenixville Regional Comprehensive Plan along with an individualized Charlestown Township appropriate addendum soon. The application for a $22,500 grant was due before this meeting, so Mr. Comitta and Mrs. Leland applied for it last week. In the application, they conveyed a certain attitude of bridge building and repairing of fences with a neighboring township. If Charlestown is awarded the grant, there will need to be a formal engagement with East Whiteland.

The next step is to get legal and Board of Supervisors’ approval on both documents. Then in case of a grant award, Members need to seriously consider what issues the Township needs to discuss with East Whiteland. Two Supervisors would need to be on the task force. Mr. Motel and Mr. Comitta discussed a possible Special Study regarding the Route 29 Corridor. Mr. Comitta is organizing a simple Meet and Greet with East Whiteland Township officials after the PSATS Convention.

Other Business

Mr. Allen asked about information regarding the sale of the Exeter Building and potential future uses.

Mr. Allen brought up the subject of “Number of Occupants”. The Township has no limits or wording regarding how many people can live in a structure. When considering the Spring Oak in-law suites, it quickly becomes and apartment. Mr. Comitta distributed a handout entitled Family Definitions and Considerations, dated March 8th. It is a compilation of research done mostly in Lehigh County for Members to review. Does the Board of Supervisors want the Planning Commission to regulate how many people can live under one roof, or number of cars per unit, etc.

Action Items

  1. Mr. Allen is to contact Mr. Detorre about attending the next meeting with JP Orleans.
  2. Mr. Comitta is to return with a second version of the Sketch Plan Brochure.
  3. Mr. Comitta is to contact Elizabeth Compitello and Mr. O’Leary.
  4. Mr. Comitta is to notify Members about grant award.
  5. Mr. Comitta is to email the Board with permission to draft Conditional Use wording to possibly define/restrict truck traffic on Phoenixville Pike.
  6. Mr. Comitta is to email the Board to find their opinion regarding time spent on “Number of Occupants”.


There being no further business, Mr. Westhafer adjourned the meeting at 9:25 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Lisa Gardner
Recording Secretary