Charlestown Township, Chester County, PA

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Established June 2, 1997
by citizens for citizens


March 16, 1998

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August 13, 1997
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News for July and August, 1998

Tuesday, September 1, 1998  (From Kevin Kuhn, Charlestown Green, Inc.)
Joint Meeting of the Board of Supervisors
and the Planning Commission

Monday, August 31, 1998
A special meeting of both boards started at 7:30pm. The primary purpose of the meeting was to review presentations of the planning competition for the Deerfield Development (Pyle Farm). Supervisor's John Sauser, Irene Ewald and Bob Wert were present as were Planning Commission members Bud Zeigler, Charlie Phillips, Bill Davison, Vincent Kling and Michael Allen. Members Michael Churchill and Cheryl Atkins-Lubinski arrived later.
Mr. Sauser commended the Township Secretary on the completion of sorting all the old township files as well as creating a database for future cross reference before sending them to a secure, environmentally controlled storage facility. He also noted the passing of long time resident and past Supervisor Charlie Ott and noted numerous contributions he made to the community over the years.
Approval: Since the first meeting in September will not be held until the 21st, the Accounts Payable were approved at this meeting. Mrs. Ewald again voiced her concern over the cost of roadwork which totaled $24,170 for the month of July. Mr. Sauser reminded her that the bulk of the work was completed prior to the meeting the Supervisors had with the Roadmaster and the contractor to establish methods to control the roadwork expenses.
New Business: It was announced that the road work bid package is ready to be advertised for the October 1, 1998 through September 30, 1999 period. Mr. Sauser noted a clarification on page five stating that the Roadmaster will have primary responsibility to order equipment and materials and that there will also be a Supervisor who will provide oversight for the board. Mrs. Ewald requested that the bid stipulate that the contractor must be PennDot approved. However, Mr. Sauser stated that this was not necessary. Mr. Wert requested that Mr. Kohli provide the Secretary with an expanded list to send the bid to.
The action the Supervisors took at a previous meeting with respect to the extension of a Certificate of Occupancy for Mr. and Mrs. Homerajani, who are in the Charlestown Hunt sub-division, has now raised some additional problems. Apparently, due to the re-grading Realan Homes needs to do on the Homerajani property, the properties on either side will also be effected and this is causing a problem with their Certificate of Occupancy and settlement dates. The solicitor stated that this is a risk you run when an exception is made. However, based on the information provided at the time, the Supervisors took the appropriate action.
Presentation (Deerfield Development): Mr. Sauser read the guidelines given to both planners and Thomas Committa began his presentation with an overview of the farm utilizing a slide presentation to "frame" for everyone what has been done in the township over the last twenty years. He included slides of the Charlestown Oaks, Charlestown Hunt and Three Ponds subdivisions.
He then reviewed Chester County's Landscape 2020, which has basically identified Charlestown Township as rural and suggests we preserve that feature by concentrating future development on the perimeter of the township where the infrastructure will better support it.
Mr. Committa provided four planning alternatives from which to choose along with the necessary zoning ordinance language required to institute the proposed alternative. The first option was a "By Right" plan which essentially reflects the maximum density the site could handle based on present zoning and did nothing to preserve the viewshed and open space.
The second option was a development that preserved 30% to 35% of the open space along Yellow Springs Road and utilized one acre lots with on-site water and septic
The third option, a "Village Hamlet", increased density while at the same time preserving approximately forty acres along Yellow Springs Road. Mr. Committa actually presented four Village Hamlet variations showing different densities and configurations, and while some could require public utilities emphasis was placed on utilizing on-site water and septic. The general consensus was that in order to preserve the open space the developer must be rewarded, typically through higher density so as to provide a financial incentive for preservation.
The last option called for the use of Transfer of Development Rights (TDR). This would allow for the preservation of the tract either whole or in part by allowing the developer to build at a higher density in another part of the township, typically an area that would better support the increased density. The example used was to transfer the development rights to the Valley Forge Christen College. As this site is zoned institutional, higher density would be more appropriate. Mr. Committa stated that the TDR concept is very challenging and would not likely be a solution to this project, since the project is to far along. He presented this along with the other alternatives to the township so as to give the Supervisors numerous alternatives for future land planning and open space preservation in the township.
Ronald Turner made the second presentation. Mr. Turner said he reviewed the 1976 Comprehensive Plan, the 1994 Open Space Plan and the Chester County Landscapes 2020 Plan and stated that the current ordinances in Charlestown Township could not support open space preservation. He then presented the "By Right" plan which reflected the maximum density the site could handle based on present zoning (40 homes), but did not preserve open space.
Mr. Turner's proposed plan preserved 50% for open space and showed 40 homes on lots of various sizes. The development may support a community well and septic system. However he could not be certain until additional tests were preformed. The concern raised by the Board members was that there was no incentive for the developer to build this way. However, Mr. Turner informed them that the plan could be revised to reflect a 10% density bonus to the developer. The developer, John Panizza, stated a 10% bonus, which results in only four additional homes, would not come close to providing the necessary incentive to build this way. He stated that a bonus closer to thirty or forty units would be more realistic. Another developer, Michael Main, agreed stating that the unit cost and marketability of this type of home in the township would be much lower.
Mr. Turner also suggested that the township take steps to identify the viewsheds and greenways they wish to preserve and consider a greenway overlay throughout the Township. Mr. Turner also provided a sketch plan of a Village Hamlet concept. However he stated that he did not consider it a viable option. He also provided one sample ordinance.
Some discussion of both planners' alternatives ensued and the developer, John Panizza, asked the Board to choose a plan tonight or allow him to proceed with his originally submitted plan, which he felt already encompassed the best of both planners recommendations. The Supervisors agreed to provide the Planning Commission with its concerns and recommendations so they and Mr. Panizza could proceed with his plan.
Next meeting Monday, September 21st at 7:30pm at the Charlestown Elementary School.
The meeting was adjourned at 11:30pm.
Saturday, August 8, 1998
The following memo was received yesterday from supervisor Irene Ewald and is reproduced here with her permission.
Date: August 4,1998
To: John Sauser
Robert Wert
Charlestown Township Planning Commission
Surender S. Kohli, PE
Thomas F. Comitta
William Wilson
John Panizza, General Residential Properties
David Wren, Great Valley School District
Kevin R. Kuhn, Charlestown Green
Jacob Merriwether
From: Irene Ewald
Re: Items for discussion on the Planning Commission agenda for August 11, 1998
This is to summarize points for the Planning Commission to consider on three subjects that were discussed at the August 3rd Board meeting that have been referred to the Planning Commission for review on August 11th:
William Wilson Subdivision:
It was made clear to Mr. Wilson that the Board will consider approval of his subdivision only after the Planning Commission has had an opportunity to complete its review. Mr, Wilson has two options:
  1. He can provide fully engineered plans that can prove Parcel B can be accessed from the 50' easement, If this is proven, Parcel B would not have to be combined with other Thompson lands: it can be a separate parcel.

  2. If he chooses not to provide further details than those shown on his reviewed plan (which now includes USGA slope information), Parcel B must be either (a) combined with the Thompson land with a note added to the plan indicating that no access will be provided to Parcel B, or (b) created as a separate parcel with language on the plan insuring that access through Thompson lands will remain available in perpetuity.
Somerset Subdivision:
The Somerset subdivision plan must undergo a revision in order to move the access road, which will now come directly off Hollow Road since negotiations with the owner and neighbors on Chesterfield Lane have ended unsuccessfully. Items to consider with regard to the road relocation are:
  1. Wetland issues

  2. The question of safety relative to the distance between Chesterfield Lane and the proposed Somerset lane (176 feet), which require a waiver

  3. The aesthetics of preserving the buffer area of wetlands paralleling Hollow Road and the loss of that aesthetics with the two lanes.
Great Valley School District Subdivision and Land Development Plan
  1. The School District sketch plan should be reviewed with respect to the natural contours of the land and a possible reevaluation of the land that they are looking to subdivide off for sale.

  2. Parking

  3. Vistas with athletic fields in consideration, bleachers, utility buildings etc
If you have any questions or would like to discuss these matters further, please give me a call at 935-0401.

Tuesday, August 4, 1998  (From Kevin Kuhn, Charlestown Green, Inc.)
First Monthly Meeting of the Board of Supervisors
Monday, August 3, 1998
The first monthly meeting of the Board of Supervisors started at 7:30pm. Mr. Sauser, Mrs. Ewald and Mr. Wert were present.
Mr. Sauser announced that the Supervisors met with neighbors on Chesterfield Lane to resolve a situation, but no action or decisions were taken by the board. He also announced that an executive session was held at the Devault Post Office to discuss real estate issues and at the Township office to discuss personnel issues and both sessions were exempted under the Sunshine law.
Approval: Minutes from the July 13th meeting were approved with minor corrections. The July Treasurer's report was approved. July Accounts Payable were approved with a note to have the township auditor review and make recommendations as to how we may control the road work budget. The Treasurer's Report was approved 2 to 1 with Mrs. Ewald objecting to the $24,000 road work bill. Mr. Wert reported that the Supervisors met with the Roadmaster and the contractor to establish methods to control the roadwork expenses. However the majority of the work occurred prior to that meeting, and $8,000 of the bill was for materials which is covered under another section of our budget.
Reports: A written report was accepted from the Zoning Officer who also updated the Supervisors on the Altemose cease and desist order with respect to work being done on the barn on their property. Mr. Kohli stated that the Altemoses need to appeal to the Zoning Hearing Board regarding work they are doing to the structure in excess of what the permit was issued for. Written reports were also accepted from Planning Commission, Roadmaster, Fire Marshal, Parks & Recreation Board and the Valley Forge Sewer Authority. Mr. Ziegler, Chairman of the Planning Commission, added that the Wilson sub-division plan was incompletely submitted and did not include a topographical map. Mr. Alston, the Fire Marshal, reminded everyone that things are drying out and care should be taken when burning. Mrs. Baldwin, from the Historical Commission, expressed concern over the condition of the home behind the Charlestown Saloon, as it is one of the oldest homes in the township.
Old Business: The PennDot Agility program was discussed. This is a program whereby PennDot and the Township share work that needs to de done on both state as well as local roads in the Township. Since there is no cost sharing and it appeared difficult to track who did what, it was decided to decline participation in the program at this time
Deerfield Subdivision - Planning Competition presentation was postponed until the August 31st Supervisors meeting.
Mr. Ramondo, who owns a lot in the Whiteland Ridge sub-division, was granted a request to connect to public sewer which is actually serviced by West Whiteland Township. The sub-division is situated in three different townships, and the balance of the homes are serviced by public sewer except for Mr. Ramondo's lot, which is in Charlestown Township and would require a sand mound system. The Supervisors approved the request.
Homeraijani Request for Temporary U & O - The Supervisors agreed to extend the Temporary Use and Occupancy permit to September 30th but work must be completed by the end of October.
New Business: Wilson Sub-division - William Wilson, who resides on Mine Road, has a buyer for the majority of his farm. The farm is comprised of several parcels, and he is requesting a sub-division so he can transfer nine acres to the parcel where the house is located and transfer eleven acres to the Thompson family, who owns Pickering Valley Golf Course. The Planning Commission would like the parcel being transferred to the Thompson Family to either be combined with their property or agree that access to the parcel could only be from the Thompson property, so as not to land lock the property or provide access to the Golf Course from Mine Road. The plan was sent back to the Planning Commission for resolution with the promise that the Supervisors would approve the sub-division if Mr. Wilson satisfied the Planning Commission's concerns. The desire to resolve the matter quickly is because the buyer of the farm has a mortgage commitment deadline to meet.
Somerset Subdivision - Road Status: John Panizza stated that he could not reach an agreement with all the property owners with respect to the shared driveway, so he is now requesting a separate entrance to the sub-division which is off Hollow Road, 174 feet down from Chesterfield Lane. The Supervisors agreed and requested that the plan be expedited, assuming Mr. Panizza met all the other requirements, since he worked diligently to accommodate the Township with road access on his first plan.
Jeffrey Fried - Driveway Plan: The supervisors approved Mr. Fried's driveway plan subject to minor modifications.
Signal Service, Inc. proposal to replace controller box and loop wires at Route 29 and Charlestown Road since the area was just re-paved was approved.
Escrow releases for Little People Day Care and Charlestown Oaks were approved.
The first meeting in September, which would land on Labor Day, was cancelled and it was decided to conduct that business at the August 31st meeting, and there will also be a meeting on September 21st.
A request from Great Valley School District was made for input from the Township in designing playing fields on the Pyle Farm tract. The matter was referred to the Planning Commission.
A check for $75.00 was approved for the use of the Grange Building for last month's meeting.
Two residents requested the Supervisors look into improvements at Route 29 and Whitehorse Road, specifically a signal. They indicated that the intersection has only gotten worse since the Route 29 and Charlestown Road intersection was re-paved as traffic is now moving faster. Mr. Wert informed them that they are working with someone from PennDot and there has been a proposal for major modifications to that entire area, however, lack of funding has delayed the work. He also indicated that the project could potentially be accelerated if they could secure some corporate funding.
Mr. Wert read an article from the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer regarding the PA Turnpike Slip Ramps proposed for the area and all three Supervisors agreed that much more information and traffic studies need to be provided to the township as well as environmental impact studies.
Citizen's Forum: Two individuals requested that Vincent Kling be removed from the Planning Commission due to his constant comments in the newspapers in support of the Altemose Apartment challenge which is now back in court as well as his comments that Charlestown's ordinances are outdated. The Supervisors were reminded that it is Mr. Kling's obligation, as a member of the Planning Commission, to uphold our ordinances. Mr. Sauser said he spoke with Mr. Kling and Mr. Kling told him that he was misquoted in the newspaper.
A resident from Charlestown Hunt complained of a vibration in her home and requested that the Supervisors help facilitate finding out what is causing it.
Next meeting Monday, August 31st at 7:30pm at the Charlestown Elementary School.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:30pm
Tuesday, July 21, 1998  (From Ellen Behrle, Charlestown Green, Inc.)
Regular Meeting of the Planning Commission
Tuesday, July 14, 1998
On July 14, 1998 the Charlestown Planning Commission met at the Charlestown Elementary School. In attendance were Chairman Bud Zeigler, Michael Allen, Michael Churchill, Vincent Kling, Bill Davison and Cheryl Atkins-Lubinski.
First on the agenda was an application from Bill Wilson. Mr. Wilson has a property which has access on Mine Road. The property is owned in part by himself and in part by his daughter. His daughter has a lot which borders the Pickering Valley Golf course, under agreement of sale with the golf course. To do this, the lot would be denied any ingress/egress as it now has access through the Wilson property. The board suggested that it would waive all of the usual formalities if Mr. Wilson could obtain from the buyer an agreement stipulating that the lot would be merged with the buyer's adjoining property, so as to not create a "land locked" parcel.
The Burch sub-division water run off plan was discussed. The sub-division is located at Hollow Road and Blackberry Lane. It was concluded that the site has run off problems now and is pretty heavily wooded and steeply sloped. It is anticipated that these conditions may worsen with the development. The township has imposed the burden on the owner of the property to put in place a storm water management system for the entire road along the Blackberry Lane side of the property. Chester Valley Engineers was there to discuss this plan. There were neighbors present voicing concerns about the possible run off problems. Discussion was conducted on the plan. Direction was given that the owner make some modifications to the plan incorporating more of the suggestions previously submitted to the owner by the Township Engineer.
Great Valley Commons, listed on the agenda, was not present. No discussion or action was taken on this matter.
The Board did conduct a discussion on the renovations and repairs pending to be made by PennDOT to the Ice Dam Bridge on Route 29.
Tuesday, July 14, 1998  (From Kevin Kuhn, Charlestown Green, Inc.)
First Monthly Meeting of the Board of Supervisors
Monday, July 13, 1998
The first monthly meeting of the Board of Supervisors started at 7:30pm. Mr. Sauser, Mrs. Ewald and Mr. Wert were present.
Mr. Sauser requested that consideration be given to a shortened version of the minutes as allowed by township code. Specifically, he was in favor of the minutes reflecting the vote of the board vs. detailed description of all discussion. Mrs. Ewald stated that she much preferred the present version as it provided often needed background on the issues discussed. Mr. Wert stated that while he preferred the more detailed version he was concerned that this much detail could be used against the township in the event of a legal battle. The motion was approved 2 to 1 to adopt a shortened version somewhere between both alternatives. Mrs. Ewald opposed because she felt more information was better and requested that her comments be reflected in the minutes. Mr. Sauser requested that her comment be stricken from the minutes and informed Mrs. Ewald that as Chairman he had that authority.
Approval: Minutes of the June 1st and June 22nd Meetings were approved. The Treasurer's Report was approved. Accounts Payable were approved with an additional check of $100 payable to the Fire Marshal to cover his out of pocket deductible for damage done to his automobile while responding to an emergency in the township. Mrs. Ewald indicated her grave concern over a $19,480 monthly bill submitted by the township road contractor, Rittenbaugh Construction and would not approve. Mr. Wert also expressed his concern over the bill but felt it should be paid at this time. He also suggested the Supervisors schedule a working session with the road contractor and the Road Master, Jim Thompson, to resolve the issues which he believed were primarily centered around communication of the scope of work being done. Mr. Sauser proposed a budget amendment to allow the township to transfer funds from the road maintenance account to the donation account to facilitate a contribution of $2,925 to the Sycamore Lane Protective Association to assist in the preservation of the sycamore trees along Sycamore Lane. Mrs. Ewald suggested the funds come from the real estate transfer tax fund, as this account was larger then anticipated. The motion was approved as amended.
Reports: Written reports were accepted from: the Zoning Officer with additional comments regarding the delay on Yellow Springs Road improvements due to a dispute between the developer and PECO. Target date for the work to be completed is the end of July (three weeks late); the Planning Commission with additional comments regarding numerous calls the Chairman of the Planning Commission, Bud Ziegler had received regarding work on the Altemose Barn on Whitehorse and Ashenfelter Roads. He was informed that bathrooms were being installed, and several individuals wanted to know if the permit that was issued covered the work being performed. The Township Engineer, Surrender Kohli, said that to his knowledge no plumbing work was involved, but that he would be reviewing the plans to assure that they were in compliance. Mr. Wert requested that the solicitor inform the homeowner that any work done without the necessary permit be removed immediately at the homeowner's expense. Mrs. Ewald also asked that Mr. Kohli look into excavation work being done at the Bachman Store in the Charlestown Village. The Roadmaster, Fire Marshal, Parks & Recreation Board and the Valley Forge Sewer Authority submitted written reports with no additional comments.
Citizen's Forum: Charlie Phillips, a member of the Planning Commission, inquired if the Planning Commission should also adopt the approach the Supervisors were utilizing in how minutes are prepared and recorded and was advised that the Planning Commission should make that decision.
Ordinance Amendment Hearing: A hearing was held to name a number of private lanes in the township. This is required where there are two or more homes on a common drive. This policy was adopted two years ago in order to bring the township into compliance with county 911 guidelines.
Old Business: At the June 22nd supervisors meeting the board agreed to extend their Certificate of Occupancy permit by thirty days to allow Mr. and Mrs. Homerajani time to work out a solution with Realan Homes regarding the final grading on their new home in the Charlestown Hunt sub-division. When the Homerajanis originally looked at the property, the developer had stockpiled top soil on their lot, giving the appearance of a level back yard. When the Homerajanis went to move in, the ground had been re-graded resulting in a steep slope in their back yard. The alternatives have been presented to the Homerajanis by the developer; re-grade and terrace the back yard, construct a retaining wall or buy back their home and allow them to purchase another home in the development. The supervisors agreed to give the homeowners another extension until the end of July to make a decision with the understanding that work is to be completed by the end of August.
Deerfield Subdivision - Planning Competition Guidelines: Mrs. Ewald presented an eight point proposal to the board and Mr. Sauser also presented guidelines to be utilized in development of a plan for this tract (the Pyle Farm). Everyone agreed that preservation of the view-shed along Yellow Springs Road is a high priority. It was also announced that Great Valley School District is interested in selling off twenty-five of the acres they purchased which encompasses the dairy barn at the far end of the property. The board agreed to combine suggestions and instruct both planners to have plans ready for presentation at the August 17th supervisors meeting. Mr. Wert suggested that the Planning Commission also be invited to that meeting to provide their input. Mark Connolly, Chairman of the Parks and Recreation Department requested that the supervisors consider utilizing Graphical Information System (GIS) tools and also give consideration to the Township Open Space plan during the design process.
New Business:
Somerset Subdivision - Road Status: Mrs. Ewald stated that she was informed that all residents are in agreement. However John Panizza, the developer, said there is still one holdout and the agreement is not yet signed. Both Mr. Wert and Mrs. Ewald agreed to follow-up and bring the matter to a conclusion.
PennDOT Agility Program: Tabled until the next meeting
Jeffrey Fried - Driveway Plan: the supervisors requested that Mr. Fried add a pullover area partially down the driveway where it curves to facilitate two cars passing.
Proposal to Restore Gravestones at the Revolutionary War Cemetery: The Sons of the American Revolution have made a proposal and requested permission to perform restoration on some of the gravestones in the cemetery (across from the Charlestown Playschool). The supervisors granted permission but declined any funding at this time.
Route 29 Bridge Over Pickering Creek: PennDOT would like to replace the bridge and is willing to follow township guidelines given the historic nature of the site (the Ice Dam). Mr. Sauser stated that Charlie Ott identified parts of the original foundation and the township needed to decide whether to retain a narrow bridge to preserve the historic nature of the site or possibly opt for a wider bridge, which could safely allow foot traffic. This would tie in with trails that are in the area and would also enable individuals a place to stand to view the original Ice Dam. For PennDOT to widen the bridge the township would also have to allow an easement over some of the township's open space. While Mark Connolly from Parks and Recreation would favor a sidewalk area on the bridge, Mr. Wert expressed his concern over the liability issue.
Citizen's Forum: Michael Main, the developer of Whitehorse Meadows, informed the board that with respect to the Civil Action suit the Altemoses are bringing against the township, there was a $1,500,000 award made in favor of Bucks County for a frivolous Civil Action suit. His development is between the Whitehorse subdivision and Ashenfelter Road along Whitehorse Road and abuts the Altemose Property. He also expressed concern over a member of the Planning Commission taking sides with Mr. Altemose publicly when it is the duty of a township official to enforce the present zoning laws as they have already been upheld by the courts as being fair. The supervisors said that on the advice of the township solicitor, all township representatives have been advised not to comment on the situation.
Next meeting Monday, July 20th at 7:30pm at the Charlestown Elementary School.
The meeting was adjourned at 10:45pm

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