TUESDAY, JUNE 11, 2019


Planning Commission:
Andre von Hoyer, Chairman, Michael Richter, Vice Chairman, Michael Churchill (arrived later), Wendy Leland, Andy Motel, Matt Rogers, Bill Westhafer, and Dan Walker.
Mark P. Thompson, Esq., Dan Wright, P.E. Thomas Comitta participated via phone for the conditional use ordinance discussion.
Michael Allen, Planner, and Linda Csete, Manager.

Call to Order:

7:30 p.m.


Mr. von Hoyer announced that the July and August Planning Commission meetings will be held in the Choral Room (Room 227) at the Great Valley High School due to renovations at the Middle School. Park in the back of the school and enter door #6. Turn right at first hallway and the room is on the right.

Approval of Minutes

May 14, 2019 Minutes

Ms. Leland moved to approve the minutes of May 14, 2019, and Mr. Motel/Mr. Rogers seconded. Mr. von Hoyer called for discussion, and there being none, called for a vote. All were in favor.

Preliminary Subdivision Plans

Andersen Minor Subdivision Plan

Wendy McLean, Esq. and Dan Daley, P.E. were present for the review of Donald and Elizabeth Andersen’s minor subdivision plan application last revised 5/15/19 for a 2-lot subdivision of 23 Eastwick Drive.

Ms. McLean indicated a neighboring property owner is interested in buying the 4 acre lot, and there’s a potential buyer for the house located on the remaining 9.3 acres.

Mr. Daley displayed the plan, which included a schematic of the house and septic to demonstrate their feasibility on Lot 2. He pointed out the proposed improvements to Eastwick Drive that would add flush curbing on both sides from Church Road to the driveway for Lot 1. Road improvements would be made concurrently with the construction of a house on Lot 2. A stormwater management plan will be customized to the design of the house.

Mr. Daley indicated he had reviewed the comments on Mr. Wright’s review letter dated 5/21/19, Mr. Comitta’s memorandum dated 5/29/19, and the County Planning Commission’s Act 247 review letter dated 6/3/19, and will comply with all comments. He noted that the County Health Department had now signed off on the Sewage Facilities Planning Module.

Mr. Motel confirmed that the present access to Lot 2 from Eastwick Drive was changed from a previous proposal showing a direct access from Church Road once it was determined that meeting the Township road standards on the existing private Eastwick Dr. was feasible since the road was already at the required 18 foot width. Ms. McLean agreed this was preferable to a second access directly off Church Road.

Mr. von Hoyer asked about stormwater management basin concerns that were brought up previously by the adjacent neighbors. Mr. Daley said water travels north across inlets to an end wall, noting there may have been a seepage bed in the past but there is none now. He said while some erosion is evident, the rip rap liner is working, though not to today’s standards. Mr. Daley said a condition of approval for the Conditional Use application was to make the necessary improvements along Eastwick Drive and to correct the water flow traveling along Church Road at the time the Lot 2 house is built. The applicant requests a waiver from the SLDO allowing them to submit the E & S plan concurrently with the building permit for the house, since that construction is not proposed at this time. Mr. Daley said he spoke to Robert Cottone, who originally built Eastwick Drive, and confirmed he made no alterations to it other than resurfacing.

Mr. Walker asked about the Act 319 requirements mentioned in the County Planning Commission’s review letter, since 10 acres is required to be eligible. Ms. McLean said the applicant is aware there will be rollback taxes due, although if the adjacent neighbor follows through with purchasing Lot #2, that lot, contiguous with his own, will remain eligible.

Mr. Allen said a neighbor across Church Road who was present at the conditional use hearing was concerned about water runoff. Mr. Wright said she was concerned that the infiltration bed on her property wasn’t working properly, but his office checked it out and determined it was functional.

Paul McCarthy, resident at 524 Church Road, disagreed, saying if they visited during a rain event they would see it was not properly draining, though Mr. Wright said the water traveled downslope through a polyethylene pipe to a large drainage area as intended. Mr. Daley said the water follows the stormwater conveyance system, noting that there was no cross pipe in the original plans, so it must have been added later. He said that downstream there is an end wall where water is directed onto the McCarthy property. He acknowledged there is erosion there, and at the time the house is constructed, this will have to be addressed. Mr. Wright agreed, saying that the new house will require a new stormwater system that will improve the current condition. Ms. McLean commented that there was no infiltration requirement at the time the existing system was constructed. Mr. von Hoyer asked Mr. Wright if, in his opinion the 4.04 acre parcel can handle the additional water from the future improvements, and he responded that they will be required to prove this.

Mr. von Hoyer asked for details on the conditional use approval. Mr. Wright said that approval was to allow for a conventional lot subdivision instead of a by-right open space subdivision, and to allow for a stormwater management bed partially located in steep slopes. He said a note on the plan will state that any additional steep slope disturbance will require further conditional use approval. He clarified in response to a question from Mr. von Hoyer that the approval for the stormwater system was included in the conditional use application since they were already seeking the conventional lot design, and since it was evident that there was no way to avoid steep slopes without impacting the woods or being placed in areas where the soils were proved by testing to be inadequate. Even if they can move the ultimate system out of steep slopes, there would be temporary disturbance during construction, requiring the conditional use approval.

Mr. Daley described the schematic for the stormwater system as showing an infiltration bed leading to a pipe with a level spreader to create sheet flow, which would mimic the existing flow yet reduce the rate of runoff. He said the infiltration bed, which is a stone bed, fills up before it percolates into the ground, then to the overflow pipe and level spreader going toward Eastwick Drive. Mr. von Hoyer asked if the requirements were more stringent due to the proximity of the Pickering Creek, but Mr. Wright indicated it was the same throughout the Township. Mr. Daley further indicated they will likely need a NPDES permit, which will then undergo further review.

Mr. McCarthy requested that Mr. Wright visit the area during a rain event, as he has concerns since the water actually flows under his house. Mr. Motel said that if the house is never built, the situation will stay the same, but if it is built, the situation should improve from the current condition. Mr. Daley said he doesn’t know if he would be involved if and when the new owner decides to build the house, but if he was he would be diligent and design a system for a house consistent with typically sized homes in the area and allow for the addition of accessory structures such as a patio, pool, shed, etc. He noted it’s less expensive to design for all the future use now. Mr. Wright said it was done this way for the Cedar Run and Highlands developments and has paid off.

Mr. McCarthy asked about the recent flooding problem at Charlestown Road and Phoenixville Pike, and Mr. Wright said it was due to a broken pipe that PennDOT has replaced.

Mr. Wright said the applicant needs to revise the plan in accordance with the review letters, in particular to add several plan notes specified in his review.

Mr. Motel moved to recommend approval of the Andersen Minor Subdivision Plan, last revised 5/15/19, subject to Mr. Wright’s review letter dated 5/21/19 and Mr. Comitta’s memorandum dated 5/29/19, ,and to recommend granting the waiver request to submit the Erosion & Sedimentation Control permit application concurrently with the future house permit. Ms. Leland seconded. Mr. von Hoyer called for discussion, and there being none, called for a vote. All were in favor.

[Mr. Churchill arrived at this time]

General Planning Matters

Renewable Energy Resolution

Mr. Motel said he and subcommittee members Greg Nesspor, Dan Walker, Susan Bednar and Carol Armstrong met at the Township office on May 29th to review a draft resolution for a renewable energy plan. Supervisor Charlie Philips was also consulted as he was unable to attend the meeting.

Mr. Churchill explained that a resolution is a direction from the Board of Supervisors on how to proceed on a given matter, and that it’s not binding since it can be changed at any time. The purpose of this resolution is to develop goals that lead to increased renewable energy use. Mr. Motel added that the Township’s only electricity use is at the Brightside Farm and Charlestown Mill, with Mrs. Csete adding traffic signals.

Mr. Churchill said the resolution will guide the Township toward the development of goals, with either the Planning Commission or Environmental Advisory Committee being charged with the tasks listed within it. They will work toward developing plans and metrics and making the Township cognizant of the need to move further toward renewable energy while noting what steps have already been taken. He said the resolution encourages the process without being prescriptive, and it reminds everyone to make ongoing movement toward the goals. Mr. Kuhn said the Planning Commission may be tasked by the Supervisors to develop green building standards, for example.

Mr. Motel read the resolution aloud.

Mr. Richter questioned the wording on item #6, to “cooperate with state, county, other municipalities, the Phoenixville Regional Planning Commission (PRPC), and the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) to transition to clean and renewable energy with electricity being the first target.” Mr. Churchill said this indicates the Township should cooperate and communicate with overlapping agencies.

Mr. Westhafer said the reference to the PRPC should say “Committee” rather than “Commission”.

Mr. Richter asked for some background on what prompted the drafting of the resolution, and Mr. Wright said the Phoenixville Green Team made a presentation to the Supervisors in May. Mr. von Hoyer asked how the Township would encourage businesses to participate in the effect, per item #8 of the resolution. Mr. Kuhn and Mr. Motel noted the Township has no authority to mandate building requirements beyond what is prescribed by the Uniform Construction Code.

Mrs. Csete referred to an email by resident Tina Daly suggesting a wording change to the end of the first paragraph from “services and utility use it demands” to “services and utility use it requires” along with two minor grammatical changes, which the Commissioners agreed to adjust in the draft.

Mr. Churchill moved to recommend the Renewable Energy Resolution to the Supervisors for adoption with the minor changes discussed this evening, and Mr. Motel/Mr. Rogers seconded. Mr. von Hoyer called for further discussion, and there being none, called the vote. Six were in favor, with Ms. Leland abstaining as she wanted to have more time to study the document.

Zoning Ordinance Amendments Related to Conditional Use

Mr. Comitta participated in this discussion via speaker phone. Mr. Thompson said that he, Dan Wright and Tom Comitta met to review the criteria for short term lodging. Mr. Comitta said they recommended that the rental be for a minimum of two days (p. 5, item 1.B) and to eliminate Item 1.F requiring that the owner occupy the residence during the stay of the transient visitor. They added provision 1.J not permitting commercial meetings during the short term lodging, and item 1.K. applying off-street parking regulations.

Mr. Westhafer suggested that for item 1.H requiring registration with the Township that a license be posted on the residence. Others agreed, noting they had seen that elsewhere for similar uses such as Air BnBs.

Mr. Wright said the committee spoke of pros and cons of short term lodging and determined it was advisable to include the use while providing proper restrictions on it.

Mr. von Hoyer approved of the restriction in item 1.A limiting the use to single family detached dwellings. Mr. Thompson said this guards against nuisance situations, and is commonly set up similarly in surrounding communities.

Mr. Allen questioned the definition of short term lodging requiring the dwelling be “owner-occupied” while not requiring the owner to be present during the transient visitor’s stay. General discussion concluded that this is a middle ground ensuring that a property owner is not continually renting out the home since they occupy it themselves most of the time. Mr. Thompson said the view was that enforcement would be difficult, with Mr. Rogers adding enforcement would be primarily complaint driven. Mr. Wright agreed, saying having the regulations allows the Township to intervene and control the use as needed.

Mr. Motel suggested ending the last sentence in the definition for Short Term Lodging on page 3 after “for temporary rental occupancy by transient visitors” by eliminating the examples that followed.

Mr. Thompson referred to page 5, item #1.G, stating the owner shall be subject to an annual inspection and register per #1.H. Mrs. Leland asked if there would be a charge for the license, and Mr. Rogers said there should be one.

Mrs. Leland said the reference to ordinance section 27-1614 should be changed to section 27-407 in items #C.2, 4 and 5 on page 4.

Mr. Allen asked why the short term lodging requires a minimum stay of two days, and the general consensus was that this avoids excessive turnover that could lead to complaints from neighbors. Mr. Allen asked about item 1.J. on page 5 stating “no commercial meetings”, and Mr. Comitta suggested “business meetings” would be a better phrase.

On page 5, item 1.K, all agreed to remove “of Part 13” from the sentence “All off-street parking regulations of Part 13 shall apply”, as well as removing it from page 8, #13.

Mr. Allen said Air BnB and similar uses are permitted in the Farm Residential (FR) District as well as Residential-1 and Traditional Neighborhood Development-1, but short term rental is only permitted in the FR District. Discussion that followed concluded that short term rental is more appropriate in the FR District since it has the potential for greater impact on surrounding properties and therefore should not be permitted in districts with higher density.

On page 23, item #9, Mr. Wright said commercial parking restrictions should include the requirement that all parking be on site. There was discussion about oversized trucks (longer than 30 feet) not fitting in parking spaces, and the question of why parking must be provided for at least 5 oversized trucks, to which Mr. Wright responded it’s a defendable and reasonable number.

Mr. Westhafer added “including that of trailers” to page 16, item 1.I that states “Outside storage shall be prohibited.” Mr. Richter suggested not allowing refrigerated units, which run on diesel fuel.

On page 8, item #11, under Standards and Criteria for Group Homes, the question was raised as to whether the restriction that two homes be at least ½ mile from one another may include a home across the Township boundary, and Mr. Thompson said that can’t be done.

There was considerable discussion on page 7, #4, that doesn’t permit “regular medical treatment, psychological counseling or educational training on the premises”. Mr. Churchill said that educational training, particularly life skills, is typically an element of a group home environment. He suggested the group speak to an operating group home such as Kencrest. Mr. Westhafer suggested speaking with the Valley Youth House. Mr. Kuhn recommended striking item #4 for the time being, and the group agreed. [Mr. Churchill left at this time.]

Mr. Allen suggested deleting the last part of the sentence on page 9, 3.d, “excluding archery clubs, rifle and pistol class, ax throwing class, and the like”.

Mr. Allen asked about page 14, item 3.b.4 regarding the height of towers not to exceed 65 feet. Mr. Thompson recommended removing this item entirely as its regulated elsewhere in the zoning ordinance. Similarly, page 15, item 3.J. was stricken from “Security lighting shall not create trespass glare onto adjoining properties” and changed to “Security lighting shall comply with the lighting ordinance.

For page 19, Standards and Criteria for a Junk Yard, both Ms. Leland and Mr. Allen asked why this was included. Mr. Thompson said this will prevent what could be considered an illegal junkyard by imposing conditions on them and providing a specific zoning district for them. Mr. Kuhn said there should be a provision that vehicles be tagged and licensed, and Mr. Wright said this is spelled out in the definition section under Junked Vehicle.

Mr. Allen suggested changing the term “azek” to “composite” under page 19, item 3.

Mr. Allen asked if page 19 item #10 covers leaking fluids. The reference to Zoning Ordinance section 27-1005 would cover this.

Mr. Allen noted that page 19, item #7, requires equipment for controlling fire and other hazards that could be expensive. The commission opted to leave this language as is.

Mr. Allen said to remove “during warm weather” from page 19, item #9 regarding control of mosquito propagation.

Regarding Page 20, Standards and Criteria for a Garden Center/Plant Nursery and Contractor Yard, Mrs. Leland said a nursery in Schuylkill Township has an attractive cypress wall for screening but Charlestown’s draft requires fencing of wood or composite materials only. The Commission added “solid vegetative screening upon approval by the Board of Supervisors”.

The group discussed drive-thru facilities on page 24 under standards and criteria for Restaurant and Fast Food. Mr. Motel was opposed to any drive through in the TND-3 district since the purpose of the district is to prioritize walkability and diminish the role of the automobile. After some discussion, this entire section item 1, A thru F was stricken.

Following the conclusion of the review, Ms. Leland moved to recommend adoption of an ordinance amending the Zoning Ordinance for conditional uses as follows:

  1. Conditional Uses as listed on Tom Comitta’s document last revised 6/11/19;
  2. Chapter 27, Part 18, Section 1809, “Standards for Approval of Conditional Uses by the Board of Supervisors” as shown on Tom Comitta’s document last revised 5/14/19;
  3. Conditional Use Standards and Criteria, from Tom Comitta’s document last revised 6/11/19 and including all changes made this evening.

Mr. von Hoyer seconded and called for any further discussion. There being none, he called the vote. All were in favor.

Proposed Amendments to Noise Ordinance

Mr. von Hoyer tabled discussion on the proposed amendments to the Noise Ordinance to the July 9th meeting.

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. Von Hoyer adjourned the meeting at 10:00 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Linda M. Csete
Township Manager