TUESDAY, MAY 14, 2019


Planning Commission:
Michael Richter, Vice Chairman, Michael Churchill, Wendy Leland, Andy Motel, Matt Rogers, and Dan Walker. Andre von Hoyer, Chairman, and Bill Westhafer were absent.
Dan Wright, P.E., and Thomas Comitta
Lisa Gardner

Call to Order:

7:30 p.m.


Mrs. Csete announced that due to the absence of two Planning Commission members, Mr. Richter assigned voting status to Mr. Walker for the review of the waiver request

Approval of Minutes

April 9, 2019 Minutes

Mr. Churchill moved to approve the minutes of April 9, 2019, and Mr. Walker seconded. Mr. Richter called for discussion, and there being none, called for a vote. All were in favor.

Waiver Requests

Hyung Joo and Laurie Anne Lee

Ms. Laurie Ann Lee and Mr. Nick Vastardis, P.E. were present to request a recommendation for a waiver from the Stormwater Management Ordinance to permit the construction of an above-ground stormwater basin at 4 Whisper Lane. They are hoping for a recommendation for approval at the June Board of Supervisors meeting. Mr. Vastardis addressed comments on the consultants’ review letters as will comply. Other points discussed:

  1. Need more pervious due to pool decking
  2. They are moving the stormwater basin since the pool will partially be where it was.
  3. They might need to return with a planting plan, designed and sealed by a professional landscape architect as required in SMO 23-303.1.I.E
  4. Downhill from the proposed basin lies woods and the Horseshoe Trail.
  5. The basin will not impact neighbors and is very well screened and not visible.
  6. Mr. David Gaffney provided a landscape plan that may be sufficient to waive the need for a “sealed” landscape plan. Mr. Comitta was pleased with initial species selection.

Mr. Richter moved to recommend the waiver from the Stormwater Management Ordinance and recommend approval to the Board of Supervisors. Mr. Churchill seconded. Mr. Richter called for discussion and there being none, called the vote. All were in favor.

Larry and AnnDee Feiner Pond Proposal

Mr. Thomas Lull of Diament Building Corporation was present to request a recommendation for a waiver from the Stormwater Management Ordinance to permit the construction of an above-ground stormwater basin at 2100 Foster Road. Mr. Munro, of Munro Ecological Services Inc., distributed a drawing of the pond. It will be filled with a well, operating a sensor pump when the level drops. If it is cheaper to pipe water in from a different well, that will be used, whichever is cheaper.

This will not impact any neighbors.
The topsoil will be used around the perimeter.
Estimated size is 100” x 200” with the deepest zone being 8’.
There will be a 30mil vinyl liner with soil on top.

There is an easement on the Feiner property from the French and Pickering Trust. It gives the owner the right to build ponds equal to or less than 2,000 square feet and also confers upon the Trust and the Township approval of ponds larger such as Feiner’s. The Trust has issued a letter in favor of pending approval.

Mr. Churchill moved to recommend a waiver from the Stormwater Management Ordinance to permit the Feiners to build an above the ground stormwater basin/pond larger than 2,000 square feet. Mr. Richter seconded. Mr. Richter called for further discussion and there being none called the vote. All were in favor.


West Whiteland Township - Request for Review of Amendment to Comprehensive Plan:

Mrs. Csete referred to the 4/11/19 request by West Whiteland Township for a review of their Township Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan as required by the PA MPC.

After viewing the proposed Bicycle and Pedestrian Connections Map, the Planning Commission had no comments to relate to West Whiteland Township.

Farming First Bills

Mr. Motel distributed a copy of Sen. Killion backs passage of ‘Farming First’ bills to Members. Members discussed loose definitions and the resulting unintended consequences for bills 583 and 453.

Discussion about municipal control vs. the bills that try to ease restrictions on the use of farmland for farm-related tourism and entertainment activities. The senators want to set “commonsense safety standards and remove costly requirements for barn weddings and other social events of farms.” The new term, Agritourism Activity could mean converting properties in Charlestown Township’s FR district into commercial operations.

Also, the impact of labeling a “historical agricultural building” as a building initially constructed before January 1, 1999, as an agricultural building, etc. was further discussed. The term “Farm” itself is very loosely defined per Members and opens up many concerns.

Mr. Motel wondered about the impact of writing a letter to inform senators of the damage that could take place for counties that are unlike the more rural counties where the bills originated. These bills, in parts of Pennsylvania, are welcomed, but in other counties, they could frustrate the control of local municipalities. Mr. Churchill and Mr. Richter discussed taking an official PC stance, but Mr. Churchill also suggested informing residents and encouraging them to write their representatives to oppose the bills at a state level.

The Planning Commission officially encourages Charlestown Township to adopt a resolution to not limit the ability of local municipalities, as it is not in the best interest of residents of this Township, to control zoning, and we encourage residents to contact their state legislators regarding the adverse impact of Bills 453 and 583.

Citizen Planner

Ms. Leland announced the 2019 Celebration of Sarah Peck, a local planner that was recognized by Chester County for her accomplishments and a former Charlestown Planning Commissioner.

General Planning Matters

Review of Regional Comprehensive Plan

Mr. Comitta discussed his review comments in a memorandum dated 5/8/19 on the Phoenixville Regional Comprehensive Plan draft report as follows:

Mr. Theurkauf will take Ms. Leland’s and Mr. Comitta’s comments to the PRPC. There is no need to update the Township’s Comprehensive Plan since the Regional Plan will be adopted in its place. The Township looks to the Regional Plan for immunization but will not be giving up municipal control by doing so. After the Regional document is passed, Ms. Leland questioned Mr. Comitta about the Charlestown comments. Mr. Comitta explained that if there is anything that doesn’t match the Regional Comprehensive Plan the Township Board can use the Township’s original 2001 Comprehensive Plan and its updates by including certain language in the adoption resolution. When the Board of Supervisors composes the Resolution for the Adoption of the PRCP, Mr. Comitta explained it would be appropriate to add words to indicate that “ addition to the PRCP, Charlestown Township will consider the 2-4-13 PROSTP, the 7-7-14 Act 209 Plan, and those portions of the 12-3-01 CP that are not superseded by the PRCP, as the Charlestown Township Comprehensive Plan”.

Conditional Uses, and Standards & Criteria

Mr. Comitta referred to his chart dated May 14, 2019, called Zoning Ordinance Amendments. It listed probable and possible Conditional Uses to be considered for one or more zoning districts. He explained that it was primarily a list of deleted and added Uses. Short Term Lodging not being in the R-1 box was discussed since it is easily absorbed.

He also referred to a page entitled Chapter 27 Zoning Revisions (revised 5/14/19). The word “morals” will be removed from item D.

Next, he discussed the third handout entitled Conditional Use Standards and Criteria with Members. The definition of Transient Visitor was discussed and a change to the wording on Page 4 #6 should read 27-407.

FR District Short Term Lodging was discussed at length. The goal was to be able to police or enforce a no party house or prevent a change in the environment of a location due to rentals.

Transient Visitor discussion points:

  1. Mr. Churchill felt there was a lot of detail restricting residents from being able to make money. He felt this section should be for higher turnover situations.
  2. Allow casual but not long-term occupation, and defining the term short and long.
  3. Mr. Kuhn liked the idea of a license but didn’t necessarily feel there needed to be a fee.
  4. Short term was identified as under 30 days.
  5. Licenses vs. short term stays, high turnover, or a certain amount of consecutive days
  6. The difference of a Bed and Breakfast owner being present vs. an Airbnb with or without an owner
  7. The factor of parcel size
  8. Transient Visitor was also on Page 5, B
  9. The maximum number of adults being 6 vs the number of bedrooms
  10. Totally prohibiting Short Term Lodging was an idea by Mr. Kuhn
  11. Airbnb’s are taxed at a State level. Municipalities can only charge fees.
  12. Mr. Kuhn will communicate to the Board the struggle over this part of the changes.
  13. Airbnbs and Bed and Breakfasts will be regulated as one.

R-1 District Group Homes discussion was led by Ms. Leland and Mr. Richter:

  1. The last sentence should be deleted on Page 7 #1
  2. The term “institutional use was discussed #4
  3. The number of residents and a possible “number net to exceed”.
  4. The impact of services permitted was discussed due to staff parking, noise, traffic.
  5. Members want to restrict the size of commercial cooking on the premises.
  6. Dormitory will be defined after there was a discussion about the difference between group homes, dorms, and apartments.
  7. Add dormitory as an excluded Use in Group Home.

  8. The existence of another group home was not restricted.

At the end of the discussion, several options were given by Mr. Comitta.

  1. Mr. Comitta will meet with Mr. Thompson in regards to comments and return to PC. Then next month an entirely clean version is drafted and that is sent to Board for approval.
  2. More discussion at next PC Meeting for Short Term Lodging but proceeding with the rest of the recommended changes to the Board for adopting for enforcement now.
  3. The PC could act on it as a statement and list Uses and include the term “and no others are allowed”, thereby not mentioning it until it is better understood.

Members chose for Mr. Comitta to contact Mr. Thompson and request his presence at the next PC Meeting for Transient/Short Term Lodging. The Board will hear the rest of the changes and Mr. Kuhn will communicate with other Board Members about the trouble spots. Members will receive comments via email and try to have this on the next agenda. A recommendation will be made once all elements are in place.

Proposed Amendments to Noise Ordinance

The Planning Commission tabled the discussion regarding proposed amendments to the Noise Ordinance.

Action Items-none were discussed

  1. Mrs. Csete will communicate the “no comment” to West Whiteland Township regarding their proposed amendment to their Comprehensive Plan.
  2. Mr. Comitta will return with Mr. Thompson to help Members draft final wording on the Conditional Use amendments.
  3. Members are to review the Noise Ordinance draft that was tabled tonight.
  4. Mr. Motel is to redistribute the PA Supreme Court Case email that he circulated in early spring.

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. Richter adjourned the meeting at 9:45 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Lisa Gardner
Recording Secretary