Planning Commission:
Bill Westhafer, Chairman, Andre von Hoyer, Vice Chairman, Michael Churchill, Wendy Leland, Andy Motel, and Michael Richter. Michael Allen was absent.
Daniel Wright, and Thomas Comitta
Lisa Gardner

Call to Order:

7:35 p.m.


Approval of Minutes

October 10, 2017 Minutes

Mr. Richter moved to approve the minutes of October 10, 2017, and Mr. von Hoyer seconded. Mr. Westhafer called for discussion, and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.

Sketch Plans

Dickson Property at 4190 State Road

Mr. Jack Robinson, consultant for Mr. Roland Dickson, came before Members to obtain their further comments on a subdivision sketch plan after considering suggestions from the October meeting. The property at 4190 State Road, a.k.a. Route 29, is across from Dickson Drive. In total, it proposes 4 lots from a tract size of 12.65 acres. Four lots were suggested, one smaller parcel not sub-dividable, and another parcel with three building lots. The two parcels are divided by a railroad right-of-way owned by Norfolk Southern Corporation.

Mr. Robinson distributed 3D pictures to suggest driveway plans, showing topography, slope, and access possibilities. The main goal for the pictures was to display how driveways cross the slopes.

Other features included in tonight’s pictures included:

Mr. Wright discussed his review letter dated November 13, 2017. He addressed:

#2 The location of the shared drive into the property should be across from Dickson Drive to decrease the change in elevation between the edge of pavement and the railroad track elevation. Also, a design waiver may be needed if a single access point is preferred over a second access.
#3 The shared driveway is graded up to 15 percent and the 4 percent landing is less than 50 feet from the right-of-way.

From these two points, Mr. Wright felt it was physically impossible to meet these requirements. Since 4 lots would be on a shared driveway it must be designed as a local road, and that makes it much more restrictive in grading. He does not feel it could be flat enough due to the railroad.


1–Have a 3 lot subdivision and a 1 lot parcel with a separate access off of Route 29

2–Have 4 lots as on the sketch plan, with a single access off of Route 29

If the subdivision is more than 3 lots the Township Zoning Ordinance requires a road to be privately maintained, it cannot be a driveway without a waiver. The road would not be dedicated to the Township. After discussing placing features out of steep slope areas, setbacks, conditional uses for driveways, and minimizing grading with slopes, Mr. Wright added they would also need 2 easements.

The single lot is an existing non-conforming lot configured in a restricted manner to support a house. The setback requirements cannot be met and therefore, the applicant will need to have a zoning hearing. The building envelope gets much smaller with a corrected setback, but Mr. Robinson is hoping for a relaxed rear setback.

Mr. Wright said the next step would be to seek conditional use approval for the driveways in steep slopes and also regarding #5 and #9 of his review letter (below). Therefore, Mr. Robinson is obligated to show that there is no other viable option.

However, Mr. Comitta made a suggestion to the applicant, suggesting he explore a less costly option of rotating and fitting two of the homes closer together and changing the driveways. Then only a building variance would be necessary.

Next step for the applicant:

  1. Check the topography, setbacks, and slope to see if Mr. Comitta’s suggestion is viable.
  2. Site visit.

Suggestions for the applicant:

  1. Bring neighbors into this project sooner rather than later.
  2. Research the Norfolk Southern easement.
  3. Research the difficulty of PennDOT approval of two driveways close together.
  4. Begin considering handling the stormwater runoff.
  5. Consider solving the railroad crossing and the technical points of access with regards to slopes first. The next time the PC will probably see this applicant, is when they return for recommendations for a Conditional Use and for a Zoning Hearing.

Mr. Robinson plans on moving toward the conditional use and zoning hearing processes. He also plans on contacting Norfolk Southern and obtaining a more detailed topography.

The Planning Commission Members complimented Mr. Wright on the extensive and highly detailed review letter they received in such a timely manner.

Review Recreational Fee-in-Lieu Resolution for update in fee schedule for 2018

Mr. Comitta circulated a handout reviewing the fee schedule currently in place for the Recreational Fee-in-Lieu ordinance. The fee has not been increased since 2015, and is one of the two fees municipalities are allowed to access. Any increase would only impact new applicants such as the Dickson project.

Mr. Comitta told Members that there were two options, one being an increase of $160 and another of $499. Mrs. Csete recommended the higher option since there was no money in the Recreation Fund.

Mr. Richter moved to recommend raising the Recreation Fee-In-Lieu to $499 and Mr. Motel seconded. Mr. Westhafer called for discussion, there being none, and he called the vote. All were in favor.

Review Conditional Use Procedures

The Planning Commission began a review of the Conditional Use Section of the Zoning Ordinance. Mr. Comitta discussed a handout dated October 5, 2017. He stated in March of 2015 Mrs. Csete had verified that the Planning Commission reviewed and edited the general standards and criteria for the Conditional Use Section in great detail.

Mr. Comitta said the Township had no volatile project foreseeable in the future. He thought perhaps the Members would better use their efforts considering development vs topography. Mr. Wright and Mr. Comitta would blend in Standards and Criteria for slopes. He suggested setting standards with a slope percentage since it can so greatly impact development and building possibilities.

Mrs. Leland referred to the Possible Additional Uses on page 5 of the October 5th 2017 document called Recommendations Pertaining to conditional uses. She felt the list of uses needed to be evaluated. Mr. Comitta stated the Uses could generate more specific Standards of Approval or other Ordinance requirements.

Action Items

Therefore, Mr. Comitta recommended that:

  1. December– the Members take the 18 General Criteria and make them better, using the examples from other townships found on page 5.
  2. January– Mr. Wright will bring in suggestions regarding slope, etc.
  3. February– the Members will tackle Specific Uses.

Other Business

In regard to Uses, Mr. Richter felt that there are big parcels of Township land with a single home on it, with no financial means to keep it sound. He felt that Township restrictions stifled or limited residents. Mr. Churchill agreed that there should be a way for residents to make money from their home, in agreement with to the Township zoning. Mr. Richter would like to add Township incentives to help residents maintain privately owned historic resources. He felt the Township has managed to salvage the land but not taken care of the assets on the land.

Administrative Note

Any documents referred to in the minutes are available to the public upon request to the Township office.


There being no further business, Mr. Westhafer adjourned the meeting at 9:15 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Lisa Gardner
Recording Secretary