Planning Commission:
Andre von Hoyer, Chairman, Michael Richter, Vice Chairman, Andy Motel, Matt Rogers, and Dan Walker. Wendy Leland arrived at 7:45 p.m. Michael Churchill and Bill Westhafer were absent.
Daniel Wright, P.E., Thomas Comitta, Mark Thompson, Esq.
Linda Csete, Manager, Lisa Gardner, Recording Secretary, Michael Allen, Staff Planner.

Call to Order:

7:30 p.m.


Mr. von Hoyer announced that Charlestown Day will be held this Saturday the 14th, from 9 am to 3 pm. The Mill will also be open.

Approval of Minutes

August 13, 2019 Minutes

Mr. Motel moved to approve the minutes of August 13, 2019, and Mr. von Hoyer seconded. Mr. von Hoyer called for discussion, and there being none, called for a vote. All were in favor.

Plan Review

Bunten-Stewart – Lot Line Change, Union Hill Road

Mr. Neal Camens P.E., of Chester Valley Engineers, introduced Ms. Amy Bunten owner of 2061 Union Hill Road. They are asking Members to review a proposed lot line change for parcels zoned Farm Residential at 2045 (owned by Mrs. Gail Stewart, her mother) and hers next to it, at 2061 Union Hill Road.

The Advanced GeoServices review letter, dated September 5th, 2019, gives a framework for steps to obtain a minor subdivision when not including another dwelling. Instead, the change is to ensure that as 2045 Union Hill decreases from its approximate 19 acres to just over 10, so it still falls under ACT 319 Clean & Green guidelines. In yearly phases, 2061 Union Hill will obtain the acreage to increase the Bunten lot from ≈7 to just over 10 acres. (from neighboring 2045). This lot line change will help Ms. Bunten ensure the continuation of being able to raise alpacas on her land, even if 2045 is sold. Mr. Camens portrayed the shift with a map showing increment #1 for 2019 (in pink) and increment #2 for 2020 (in blue). Only one property will be in Act 319 (2045 Union Hill). There are no surrounding neighbors to consider.

Since Mr. Wright is helping Mr. Camens navigate this process, the second increment will just need approvals, and not need another technical review next year. Mr. Wright suggested 3 waivers.

  1. for a site visit
  2. for the requirement of a written report describing the objective of the conservation design
  3. Since no improvements are proposed, a Grading Plan, E&S Plan, and sewage testing, modules, etc.

The applicants will return with minor subdivision plans for the October meeting.

Voting Status

Mr. von Hoyer stated Mr. Walker would be voting tonight in place of Mr. Churchill.

Grafinger Lot Consolidation Plan, Hollow Road

Mr. Christopher Daily of D.L. Howell Associates was present, along with Mr. Paul Grafinger, to review a proposed lot consolidation plan for 2 parcels zoned Farm Residential on Hollow Road. The consolidation of the two parcels would convert the 2 currently non-conforming parcels to one conforming lot of about 5 acres. Each lot is presently non-conforming due to its size since both are under the 80,000 square foot net lot size minimum.

Mr. Daily and Mr. Grafinger were here for (1) support for a grading permit and (2) support for lot consolidation approval. He plans to build a retaining wall of about 7 feet at its highest, to form a type of plateau in a currently very steep slope (of about 70%). To do this will require a variance. He would also like to build an addition, improving a kitchen and master suite that will encroach on steep slopes, This will also require a variance. Members viewed pictures of the site.

Mr. Grafinger stated that land from a previous home, now demolished, had a 15% vertical rise and was hard to mow. The wall will make it safer to mow, and he wants to plant shrubs to stop a tractor if it starts to slide. Mr. von Hoyer and Mr. Wright discussed seepage and water control for the retaining wall. The wall that is currently there, will be joined with the new retaining wall. An access path will be built to get to the higher plateau. The addition will add 18-20’ but will encroach on a berm that once was an old slope. Finally, there are plans for a three-car garage at the end of the still existing driveway that served the demolished house.

Mr. Wright asked that for good record keeping, since the project reduces sewage facilities by the consolidation, the applicant provide more survey notes, and update the Request for Planning Waiver & Non-Building Declaration Form.

The next step is to attend the October Board Meeting to obtain approval of the lot consolidation plan. Members told Mr. Grafinger that he will subsequently need to go to the Zoning Hearing Board for a variance for the retaining wall and addition.

Mr. Motel moved to recommend approval of the lot consolidation plan dated 8/15/19 for Paul Grafinger, subject to Mr. Wright’s review letter dated 8/27/19, and Mr. Richter seconded. Mr. von Hoyer called for discussion, and there being none, called for a vote. All were in favor.

Proposed Amendments to Noise Ordinance

Mr. Thompson gave an overview of the proposed amendments to the Zoning Ordinance and stated the draft in front of Members was much like Tredyffrin’s.

Points of discussion referring to the current ordinance:

  1. The bottom of page one, says between the hours of 7 p.m. of one day and 7:00 a.m. of the following day should be referred to as night (and day) for housekeeping purposes. Suggested by Mr. Motel.
  2. Item E on page 3 Mr. Allen mentioned it as being not correctly worded and Mrs. Csete and Mr. Thompson agreed and will look into it.
  3. The bottom of page 3, Sound Levels by Receiving Land Use, was questioned by Mr. Motel and Mr. Thompson said an expert for the Township is reviewing this to help enforcement issues.
  4. The TNDs will be added as a Receiving Land Use Category to Sound Levels by Receiving Land Use.

Points of discussion referring to the draft ordinance for Mr. Thompson to consolidate:

  1. Discussion of noise coming from generators being used in emergency and especially in non-emergency situations.
  2. The reasons for most noise complaints to Mrs. Csete and Mr. Wright are barking dogs, contractors starting before 7 a.m., Devault Foods, and in some instances noise. The newer developments have disclosures regarding nearly industrial and commercial operations, but it is buried in the language of their HOA documents.
  3. Page 2 the definition of Noise Disturbance for firearms and fireworks referenced “humans” but not dogs and horses which are greatly disturbed by this type of noise.
  4. Page 2 Residential Area, the phrase for residential use is too broad per Mr. Motel.
  5. Page 3 Exemptions were discussed while referencing E (2) from page 5 Impulsive Standards.
    1. Mr. Wright stated (1) should stay. Members discussed baselines, the quarry, the Turnpike, and grandfathering vs. the health and safety of residents.
    2. Construction (2) vs. time limits in the current ordinance.
    3. Emergencies (7) please refer to generators comment.
    4. Emergency work (8) such as construction, and first responder situations.
    5. Item (11) was discussed by Mr. Motel in light of “agritainment”. Mr. Thompson will look into state law regarding fireworks
  6. Authorization-Members are removing everything except the Municipalities Planning Code and the World Health Organization for the effect of constant highway noise.
  7. General Standards Item (7) will read 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. There was also discussion about the State of PA superseding local ordinances regarding hunting or discharging firearms.
  8. Specific Standards Item (2) was closely reviewed since the decibel levels were very high.
  9. Page 7 Item A, which reads:

“A zoning permit shall be required prior to any person constructing, expanding, developing, or allowing the use of any property which increases the sound level in a Residential Area if the activity involved is not exempt in accordance with Section 208-102.1B.”

Members wondered how to enforce this and Mr. Comitta mentioned adding to the exemptive use Construction by establishing an A (2) Construction Operation. Although it rarely happens, a zoning permit does occasionally accompany a building permit.

Ms. Leland wondered if the EAC will be able to weigh in and Mrs. Csete confirmed there will be an opportunity to comment with the Planning Commission taking the lead on the review.. Mr. Walker confirmed that the Turnpike did not have an area expansion in their budget for the next 10 years. Mr. Thompson will return with a revised draft that is able to enforce valid complaints related to large-scale projects.

Other Items

Mrs. Csete asked for input on any planning related items for the 2020 Budget by October 15th. She reminded Members that there is already money budgeted for Charlestown Township gateway beautification and for signage to say “You are now entering Charlestown Township”. Mr. Comitta was asked to share his knowledge regarding this. Mr. Motel mentioned a community message board, and Mr. von Hoyer reminded Members that the Boyles had mentioned a center square clock type structure at that restaurant “The Office” which is at one of the main gateway points. Mr. Kuhn stated the Board is reviewing budgets for basin improvements.

Mr. von Hoyer would like PennDOT to fix a bent sign on Route 29 approaching Devault. He believes the dust problem at the asphalt plant has improved, and Mr. Wright said he did mention it to his contact.

Ms. Leland mentioned the need for a Township tour with the Board Members. The PC will schedule a date in January and Mr. Kuhn will pass it along to the Board to see who can attend.

The PC is not having a table at Charlestown Day, but Members will be visiting. Mr. Comitta will be there with information about zoning, a Devault aerial map, and a copy of the Phoenixville Regional Comprehensive Plan. Mr. Kuhn will be at the Mill when not at the Park, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Action Items

  1. Mr. Thompson is to incorporate comments into the draft Noise Ordinance.
  2. Mrs. Csete will be collecting budget comments until October 15th.

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 9:10 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Lisa Gardner
Recording Secretary