Charlestown Township, Chester County, PA

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Established June 2, 1997
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March 16, 1998

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News posted during September 2000

Wednesday Sept 27, 2000  (From Loretta Watson, Charlestown Green)
Charlestown Township
Board of Supervisors' Meeting
September 18, 2000
Present for the Township were Chairman, Irene Ewald, Supervisors Hugh Willig, Kevin Kuhn, Mike Rodgers and Paul Hogan. Also present were Surender Kohli, Tom Oeste, Esq., and Linda Csete.
This meeting was called to order by Irene Ewald at 7:30 p.m. in the Choral Room (Rm #156) of the new Great Valley Middle School on Phoenixville Pike.
Announcement was made by Mrs. Ewald of a brief executive session held after the last Supervisors' Meeting wherein matters were discussed with the solicitor.
There were no issues raised at the call of the Citizens' Forum for Non-Agenda Items. The Board approved its Minutes from the last meeting.
The first hearing on the Agenda was the continuing matter of the curative amendment application of Leon and Carol Altemose. Mr. Comitta was recalled as a witness and reviewed Exhibit A94, which was a three-page chart and two pages of notes he had prepared for a Planning Commission meeting on August 8. Also presented by him was a brochure describing local senior citizen residences and care options which he obtained from the Malvern Public Library. Mr. Comitta pointed out that this brochure used many of the terms he referenced in his prior testimony. He also spoke of a plan submission for senior housing proposed for the Valley Forge Christian College property along with two other similar ventures. Mr. Ryan, attorney for the Altemoses, questioned the witness on the number of categories of senior housing that are permitted in Farm/Residential zoning, to which the witness replied "probably all" of them. Assisted living, Alzheimer's' related assisted living, continuation of care, independent living, and nursing care were examples of allowable uses per Mr. Comitta. Heritage Acres (formerly Mary Hill) was discussed as to acreage, parking spots, number of rooms but Mr. Comitta could not give exact answers. As to whether the location at Cold Stream and Mary Hill Road was an appropriate location, the witness responded that it was. A letter dated 10/25/99 from the Chester County Planning Commission was entered into the record by Mr. Ryan.
Attorney DeBello presented the next witness, R. Douglas Stewart, of R. Douglas Stewart & Assoc. in Berwyn. He appeared as an expert in land planning and zoning with special work in the area of assisted living projects. He was a witness on behalf of Michael Main, builder. Mr. Stewart reviewed the sketch of the proposed facility as presented by Mr. Altemose and reviewed notes of testimony and the proposed ordinance. He disagreed with Mr. Ryan's statement that the project would be a conditional use. A page from the telephone yellow pages for the general area of Charlestown Twp was entered into the record. The information on this page was headed Assisted Living and Elder Care Services with listings including Bryn Mawr Terrace. Mr. Ryan stated the significance of this was that the term used in the Charlestown Township zoning ordinance is not defined, in which case the standard common usage is referenced.
Mr. Bender questioned the witness on density, who felt it was an important factor for protecting the health, safety and welfare of the residents. He said that density reflects the character of the area, e.g., a rural area would have low density. He characterized the Altemose proposal as extremely intensive and out of character with this area. He repeated his statement that roads, water utilities and other infrastructure must be taken into consideration.
Mr. Ryan questioned the witness about the location of the assisted living facilities he had worked on, which the witness stated were listed on the Resume as Institutional and were the Penn Foundation, a section of Kendall Crossing, Berks Manor, Lehigh Manor, Schuylkill Manor and Manor Care. Density, measured in square feet of building, was stated to be not the usual term of measurement, but the witness was unable to give the densities of various local retirement facilities, stating he was not asked to calculate their densities.
The witnesses' conclusion was that if the Altemose plan is approved, all provisions of the subdivision ordinance must be complied with, but he did not believe that it can comply with Charlestown Township's ordinances. This belief was due to the nature of the surrounding neighborhood being low density homes and the character of the proposed development is not the same as the neighborhood, so it could not comply with the zoning ordinances. The witness stated he was unable to determine from the drawing if good design and sound engineering practices were followed. Mr. Stewart could not answer whether the property's proposed acreage and impervious surfaces met ordinance requirements for Farm/Residential.
Mrs. Ewald asked whether any 2000 unit facilities could be found in this area and Mr. Stewart responded there were none.
Mr. Ryan suggested to the Board that Mr. Altemose's plan be filed in the alternative as a conditional use and sent to the Planning Commission as soon as possible for review. The Board was unable to accept this plan of action stating a conditional use would have to be separately filed and pursued. Mr. Oeste suggested that the present record be closed with an indefinite period of time for a decision to be rendered, and Mr. Ryan agreed. The Board took a recess to discuss this issue. The Board made note that conditional use procedure is different and did not want the two applications to run concurrently. Mr. Oeste stated that the record on the curative amendment application will be closed with a decision in 45 days. Findings of fact, legal arguments and conclusions of law would be due to him in three weeks (Oct. 9).
The next hearing was a continuation of the matter of the Stoudt Conditional Use Application. Letters showing notification of neighbors were entered on the record. The first witness, Adam Brower, was called by Fronfield Crawford, Esq. The witness described the Merlin Road lot pointing out steep slope, areas of disturbance, and impervious areas. Lot sizes run 1.25% of the minimum required. The three proposed homes are to be set back more than necessary to create a buffer from Merlin Road. The builder is willing to impose restrictive covenants to protect the trees that will remain. Sixteen locations were bored for soil tests which showed that no rock could be removed with the track (back?) hoe and no blasting will be required. Sewage systems are planned to be underground along with water runoff systems. The existing trails on the property are believed to be in close proximity to the proposed dwellings, and the building is not considering trails for the plan. Mrs. Ewald made note that the property was part of the Pickering Hunt Lodge and had a trail system. She said the township encourages equestrian efforts and would strongly encourage the installation of equestrian trails away from the houses.
Mr. Kling made a statement about the beauty of Merlin Road due to the trees and width of the lots, and the trees along the front of the lots should be preserved as much as possible. This is a reason the houses were pushed back. He urged the installation of parking in an area off the road for bad weather situations. Mrs. Solda inquired about the location of the pipeline, which was found to run along the side of the property perpendicular to Merlin.
Next witness was Daniel Stoudt of Pottstown, Pa., a custom builder and present owner of the property in question. He said the houses would run about 5000 to 5500 sq. ft. He has observed the trails for about a year and said that it has not been used due to natural erosion, and he would prefer not to have the fox hunting trails running through due to the issues of privacy for the future residents. Mrs. Ewald asked if he was familiar with the Hunt and how it acquires permission to run through properties. He responded that he has seen abuses of property with the Hunt running through, but agreed to place a trail across the rear of the property (down hill from Merlin) as an alternative. Mrs. Solda gave a rundown of the Hunt's procedures in acquiring permission to use land. Mr. Oeste announced that the record will remain open for information regarding the trails, and the hearing is continued to October 16.
In the matter of Spring Lane Farms' conditional use application, a letter had been received from General Residential Properties requesting continuance to October 16.
Next was the matter of Al Emma's conditional use application. Mr. Crawford also represented this applicant. The Planning Commission has reviewed the matter and given their recommendation to the applicant's request for conditional use in a steep slope encroachment. Mr. Emma wants to build a single family dwelling on Lot #3 of Dobbs Lane, which would include a dwelling, sewage system and driveway. A question arose as to notification to the neighbors, which will be sent asap. Mr. Emma, of West Chester, is a professional land surveyor with Commonwealth Engineers. He explained, with the aid of a drawing, that the property is approximately two acres running east and west with the highest side on the south, lowest in the north. He presently owns the heavily wooded lot upon which the Horseshoe Trail runs through. A relocation of the Trail is planned close to the southern edge of the property. The new trail will be landscaped to separate it from the residential area. The drawing showed the area of limited tree clearing close to and around the proposed home. Two retaining walls are planned, one at the driveway and parking area bordering the relocated trail and the other at the opposite end of the home. Thirty trees 12" or larger diameter will be removed, and these will be replaced by Dogwood, Eastern Hemlock, Red Oaks and American Hollies. Disturbance of the lot will be minimal per ordinance requests. Storm water management will be by use of an above-ground, stone-filled trench near the driveway. A geotechnical report has not yet been received. The witness added that the plans submitted tonight are revised plans dated 9/18/00 prepared in response to Planning Commission, Mr. Comitta's, and Mr. Kohli's recommendations. They will be filed with the Township. A hydrology report is available. Mr. Oeste closed the hearing, stating the matter will continue October 16.
A recess was called and the meeting resumed at 10:32 p.m.
The agenda was shifted to accommodate Mr. and Mrs. Gross, who presented their plan for an addition and remodeling of their home on Sycamore Lane. Per Mr. Kohli, this building is non-conforming with the ordinances. The applicants wish to add a 500-sq. ft. ell and raise the roof slightly to accommodate a shed dormer. The Board noted that a plan of changes by the former owner had been approved with conditions but had never been implemented. This old plan will be reviewed along with the proposed plan.
The Board then discussed the possibility of sending a representative to two hearings coming up this week, one in the matter of the present application for a proposed auto service/sales dealership on Phoenixville Pk. Mrs. Ewald stated that she is basically against having any retail sales conducted on this site.
In the matter of Late Spring Developers, the application is approved subject to nine conditions, one being a $5,000 arbitrary donation by the applicant toward the widening of Phoenixville Pk and the improvements to the Charlestown Road/Phoenixville Pk intersection. Mr. Oeste noted that this is a general regulatory requirement, the fund being established in 1988. Other entities along the pike have made contributions. Plans for the improvements are before PennDOT. The applicants responded with three requests of the Board: 1) that the contribution be brought to their attention earlier, before the deadline date; 2) that they be able to make the donation when the occupancy permit is issued, and 3) they felt that the traffic study money was spent unnecessarily due to other studies being performed for the same purpose recently. The Board acknowledged the requests, apologized for their lateness in advising of the fund donation, and agreed to the applicant's suggested timing for the donation in view of the need to locate tenants for the property, creating a situation affecting cash flow.
The conditional use application of Document Solutions, a request to build a flex space containing 33% office with the remaining space dedicated to warehouse, was approved with a number of conditions. This included access to the property be via a shared driveway with Lot 5, the storm water basin is to be shared with Lot 15, and the maximum office space will be 33%.
The Pebble Pools application for construction of part of a pool and deck in steep slope area was approved with six conditions, including that the pool be built in compliance with all applicable ordinances and the recommendations of the township and consultants.
Under New Business, the Board addressed the Bid Package for Charlestown Park Improvements. Motion was passed to authorize Tom Comitta to prepare the bid package. This would be at a township cost of $8,000, per Mr. Hogan.
The matter of recreational open space on Yellow Springs Road was moved to the next agenda.
The Resolution #565, for Liquid Fuels Tax Funds to be used to resurface certain roads within the township, and Resolution #566, regarding authorization to sign the Snow and Ice Agreement Addendum, were approved. This Addendum covering Hollow Rd will be added to the original agreement.
Advertising of the bid request for 2000 - 2001 Road Labor and Equipment Rental Contract was discussed. The bid will bring the road contract back into line after the end of the contract with Rittenbaugh. The Board discussed whether they should impose restrictions dealing with the issues of nepotism or preventing bidding by an "unfavorable" entity. The bids that are received will be opened October 16, if possible, in an effort to expedite the matter and avoid being without a contractor in bad weather.
Commons at Great Valley Escrow Release #8 will be handled at the next meeting.
Mrs. Ewald urged the Board to consider asap their attendance at the November 16 Fall CCATO Convention, so that appropriate arrangements can be made.
Discussion started on the matter of adopting a Sexual Harassment Policy. The Board noted that supervisors, upon an incident, could be sued or reprimanded, but not fired. This policy would serve mainly as an awareness policy, since all employees enjoy a good relationship at present. The document, prepared by an insurance agent, covers all forms of risk to the township, not just harassment.
Mrs. Csete was asked to secure this room for future Township meetings.
The meeting adjourned approximately 11:15 p.m.
Friday Sept 15, 2000  (From Loretta Watson, Charlestown Green)
Charlestown Township
Board of Supervisors' Meeting
September 5, 2000
Present for the Township were Chairman, Irene Ewald, Supervisors Mike Rodgers and Paul Hogan. Also present were Surender Kohli, Gary Bender, Esquire and Tom Oeste, Esquire. Supervisors Hugh Willig and Kevin Kuhn were absent due to previous commitments.
This meeting was called to order by Irene Ewald at 8:00 p.m. in the Memorial Chapel of the Valley Forge Christian College.
Mr. Oeste opened the final hearing on the tentative plan of Charlestown Meadows. Mr. Lunning, attorney for Toll Bros. called his first witness, Mr. Jacobs, a traffic engineer. He was asked to review the report of Charlestown Township's traffic expert, Mr. Heinrich. He agreed with Mr. Heinrich's evaluation of the sight distances and speed limits in the area of the proposed community. He reviewed findings of accidents over the last five years and recommended signalization and turn lanes at Newcomen Road. In his letter submitted for the record, Mr. Jacobs stated that Toll would be willing to fund their fair share of improvements at the intersection. Mr. Jacobs reviewed the letter of Mr. Heinrich, which contained Mr. Heinrich's findings upon his review of Toll's original traffic engineer's testimony. When asked about the configuration of the main driveways into the Charlestown Meadows community, Mr. Jacobs responded that they must be designed according to PennDOT's requirements in order to be approved.
Because Mr. Kohli had to leave tonight's proceedings early, he was called to the stand for rebuttal testimony. He presented an exhibit, which was prepared using a xerox copy of Toll's Sheet #14, "Over-all Grading Plan dated 5/15/00." He used this copy to lay out Mr. Heinrich's proposed realignment of Newcomen Road. As drawn, Mr. Kohli said it did not interfere with basins, high ground water, steep slopes, or other features of the site. Topography is favorable for the change, but some housing units would have to be moved. Mr. Lunning asked if Newcomen would be a dedicated road and Mr. Kohli responded that it could be. In that regard, Mr. Lunning stated that no structure could be within 100 feet, referring in particular to the basins and pump station. When asked, Mr. Kohli testified that did not do a study to determine the number of trees that would have to be removed to accommodate the road. Mr. Lunning pointed out two stands of trees that would be disturbed, which are now not slated for any disturbance. Mr. Kohli said some housing units would need relocating and only a small clump of trees would be affected.
Mr. Jacobs was recalled and commented that if the road were realigned to a point closer to the Conestoga Road entrance to Charlestown Meadows, the six families on the "northern leg" of Conestoga would lose the advantage of having a light at that intersection. Mr. Jacobs was dubious about any good effects that this relocated road would pose on the Charlestown Meadows residents.
Mr. Bender, counsel for the Township and the Planning Commission, asked whether Toll would be willing to pay for some improvements per the previous statement by Mr. Jacobs. Response was it would pay its proportionate fair share, but the witness couldn't testify as to the dollar amount or percentage of this fair share. Mr. Bender also asked about the six residences on Newcomen and reminded Mr. Jacobs that Mr. Heinrich testified that a "T" intersection would help. Mr. Jacobs stated there were three problems evident: (1) poor sight distance to the right, (2) volume of traffic on Conestoga, and (3) volume of traffic on south Newcomen - but this third problem would be eliminated by the T intersection. He testified that those families would still have an eastbound sight distance problem. His ultimate belief was that Newcomen Road is better where it is.
When asked if he had been in contact with anyone, Mr. Jacobs said he had spoken to a rep at PennDOT at some point after its meetings with the Townships and learned that PennDOT would allow signals if turn lanes were installed.
Mr. Oeste asked for an explanation of a "red signal ahead" sign. Mr. Jacobs explained that this device would be installed on 401 west of Newcomen. It would be in synchronization with the traffic light and would turn red at the same time as the light, warning oncoming drivers of the stop ahead. Mr. Oeste was referred to PennDOT when he asked if this type of signal could be used in conjunction with a relocated Newcomen Road.
The main problem, according to Mr. Jacobs, is the hump in 401 west of Newcomen, which prevents adequate sight when exiting Newcomen.
Next witness for Toll was Craig Savage, a registered professional engineer. He has worked on residential properties similar in size to Charlestown Meadows. He has also worked with Mr. Tatman on projects. He testified that the pump station for Charlestown Meadows would be located in the NW area of the site and be designed to handle 55,000 gallons of effluent per day. From this station, the effluent would be pumped to a main in Conestoga Road's shoulder, which would lead to the proposed East Whiteland Township pumping station. It is his understanding that there are no problems with East Whiteland or the VFSA accepting this effluent into their existing systems. He would act as the project manager for the sewage system with Mr. Tatman overseeing the work and signing it off to the DEP.
When asked about his letter that was being submitted into evidence, Mr. Savage responded that he and subordinates researched and wrote it, using input from Mr. Tatman regarding the particulars of this residential project. He testified that the pumping station's current design calls for a 4-inch force main for 55,000 gallons and the maximum would be approximately 60,000 gallons per day. He is not aware of the capacity under consideration for the proposed East Whiteland pump station or the size of the trunk lines to be used in East Whiteland. Mr. Savage said he has ridden the route along 401 and sees no problem with having the pipes in the shoulder. The pipes could go under the drainage ditch if necessary, but he felt it is easier to go to the side. He is not aware of any other lines, gas or utilities, that would need to be crossed, since this is not a final plan at this point. Mrs. Ewald inquired if the witness knew the width of Conestoga Road's shoulders, but he was unable to give "exact dimensions," nor did he know at this point which side of 401 the pipes would be installed, saying they are typically placed three feet deep.
Mr. Fehr was called on behalf of Toll Bros. Mr. Lunning asked him about Surender Kohli's letter of July 29. He felt there is no reason that the comments in Mr. Kohli's letter could not be complied with. An exhibit had been prepared showing the Charlestown Meadows plan with the changes recommended. Major changes included applicant's proposal to remove some recreation and parking, remove basins A and C, and install 20-foot wide driveways with 10 x 10 turnarounds (rooster tails) at every unit. Grading in open space would be eliminated. Some grading changes would be made to gain acreage and open space width in response to Mr. Theurkauf's comments. The applicant proposed to use the woods at the southern end of the site for recreation space, clearing out underbrush. Trails would be extended. Brush and fallen trees would be removed, leaving existing trees and creating more active recreation space. Parking area A would have two stalls eliminated to prevent backing out on to the street and to comply with set back requirements. He feels that this plan complies with ordinances. The 191 units and road network would remain the same. Underground sewer and storm water pipes would manage the effluent and water runoff, respectively.
The next sheet prepared for exhibit showed all possible landscaping for the site, which included 1,020 replacement trees for the 1,395 trees of 6-inches or greater that would be removed. This still left a deficit of trees; however, 1,020 replacement trees would be very dense with little space for more, according to Mr. Fehr. Trees along the streets were addressed by adding trees wherever they could fit on both sides of the road (294 trees). Units 112 to 121 were buffered from the parking lots.
A third sheet was presented showing some topography. The FEMA map was consulted in making this sheet and, per Mr. Fehr, no FEMA-identified flood plains were found on the site. Two other sheets, Exhibits A-116A and A-116B were presented. 116A marked flood hazard area, the township's high ground water area, and the applicant's high ground water area. Also marked was an area extending to the culvert. Sheet 116B showed topography and the area of water runoff from the site and from beyond the site. Testimony was that the culvert floods approximately 60 feet into the site, as shown by blue shading, which is "well clear" of any proposed buildings. Per Mr. Fehr, these drawings comply with ordinances of Charlestown Township.
At this point, Mr. Bender made a statement on the record, saying that the traffic engineer's report given tonight could be rebuttal, the sewage feasibility study is "new evidence" not provided when the plan was filed and is now filed on the last day of hearings. He objected to it being considered by the Township due to the lack of time for review or rebuttal. The new plans, in the format given tonight, constitute, in his opinion, a "new submission" and are not rebuttal but new testimony. He asked the Board not to consider any of these new plans and reports because of no opportunity [for the Planning Commission] to review the documents. He would suggest in the alternative that the applicant grant a 30-day extension for the Township to respond. This would include A-111, A-112, A-113, A-114, A-115, A-116, 116A and 116B (everything that Mr. Fehr testified to along with the sewage feasibility study).
Mr. Lunning responded that all evidence given tonight is in response to Mr. Kohli's and Mr. Theurkauf's review letters, comments and suggestions. He said Toll is attempting to have a dialogue and address each concern, item by item. Toll would be prepared to grant a limited extension: that the record "closes" tonight with the right of Mr. Bender to submit his comments and subsequent submissions and rebuttals by Toll.
Mr. Oeste objected to the proposal because the Planning Commission could not submit a study of the new evidence and present their testimony. A decision could not be rendered in 30 days per Mr. Oeste. Mrs. Ewald called for a break so the Board could consider this matter.
After the break, Mr. Oeste announced that the Board concluded that exhibits A-111 to A-116B are in the nature of a new submission and that the Planning Commission has not had an opportunity to review these. The Board requires a 60-day extension to complete its review. Toll would have to agree to a 60-day extension or A-111 through A-116B would be stricken. The hearings would be scheduled on the basis of first and third Mondays, and 60 days would be sufficient time.
Mr. Lunning responded that A-113 and A-114 were prepared to show that Toll could comply with Mr. Theurkauf's and Mr. Kohli's comments.
Mr. Oeste responded that 60 days was considered reasonable due to the extensive time devoted thus far to Charlestown Meadows and the future time and work that the Board needs to give to other township matters.
Another break was taken for Mr. Lunning to consult his client.
Upon return, Mr. Lunning verified that the township's position was 60 days; the record to close with an additional 60 days to decide the matter. He countered with Toll's offer: a 30-day extension. Within the 30 days, the township would have the opportunity to provide written replies to live testimony and rebuttal. He felt exhibits A-111 to 116B should be entered into the record as rebuttal testimony.
The Board took a break to confer off the record.
Upon return, Mr. Oeste announced that the Board considered the request, but has not wavered. It needs 60 days to complete the matter and 60 days to make a decision - or the exhibits will be eliminated.
Mr. Lunning made an appeal/statement that the review letters were received 75% through the series of hearings and they have answered them. The 30-day offer stands and no 60- day extension will be granted.
Mr. Oeste struck the exhibits and the related testimony on the basis that the Planning Commission cannot respond properly. Mr. Lunning registered his objection that the Planning Commission would not have time.
The next witness for Toll Bros was called. Mr. Babbit said he reviewed the letter submitted by Tom Comitta. Mr. Babbit's eleven-page review letter was marked exhibit A-117. This letter addressed, in the same sequence, the points presented by Mr. Comitta. It covered open space and grading issues, as well as project density and open space issues. Per Mr. Babbit, Plan Alternate A seeks to preserve the wooded areas. Tree replacement "to the greatest extent possible" would include 1,020 trees in addition to the preserved trees. Underground basins were possible if agreed to by the township.
Mr. Oeste reminded Mr. Lunning that no testimony could be considered if it relates to the stricken documents.
Street trees can be augmented along with parking lot changes. Perimeter screening can be adjusted to comply with recommendations. Full disclosure would be given prospective buyers regarding the layout. The characterization of the units by Mr. Theurkauf was disputed due to the designs implemented and the layout of the development. Lighting can be shown on the final plan submission. Storm water basins are typical as in other developments. Mr. Lunning reviewed the remainder of the points with Mr. Babbit confirming that the issues raised by Mr. Comitta could be addressed to comply with the ordinances.
The last witness for Toll Bros. was Ken O'Brien, of McMann Associates in Fort Washington, PA, who was testifying as a transportation engineer. He visited the site of Newcomen and 401 and computed the sight distances. He reviewed exhibit PC-15, which proposed a relocation of Newcomen Road through the proposed development. He felt that the plan does not address southbound Newcomen Road traffic and felt that a signal and left turn lanes on 401 and right turn lanes on Newcomen would address the problems caused by grading issues. He felt the relocation of the road does not address how Stonecroft Lane would be handled. However, Mr. Bender asked that if there were means and it proved feasible, Stonecroft could be worked out, and the witness agreed. Mr. O'Brien was not sure or aware of whether Newcomen had ever been studied for relocation previously.
Mr. Lunning asked the Board to reconsider the ruling on his exhibits, citing a case in point and the right of his client to a fair hearing under the law. Mr. Oeste responded that there is an obligation of good faith coming from both sides and the Township has heard this matter over many hours, and the Board feels the applicant has had time to present the case. He reiterated that Exhibits A-111 through A-116B are stricken along with the related testimony. Some Planning Commission exhibits were admitted. Mr. Lunning objected to the admission of the three review letters, stating they were submitted late and the applicant had little or no time. Mr. Bender responded that he felt the letters were submitted with sufficient time for response, and he briefly addressed the issue of rebuttal testimony vs. new testimony and that the exhibits given tonight were his first view of them.
Mr. Oeste announced that a decision would come from the Board on November 6, 2000 (the actual date due falling on Saturday, Nov. 4). Parties should submit any findings, conclusions and arguments by October 2, 2000. At that point, at 11:35 p.m., the record and hearing were closed and the meeting adjourned.
Tuesday, September 5, 2000  (From Loretta Watson, Charlestown Green)
Charlestown Township
Board of Supervisors' Meeting
August 30, 2000
Present for the Township were Chairman Irene Ewald, Supervisors Hugh Willig, Kevin Kuhn, Mike Rodgers and Paul Hogan, also Surender Kohli, Tom Oeste, Esq.,
This meeting was called to order by Irene Ewald at 7:40 p.m. in Classroom 103 of the Valley Forge Christian College.
The meeting was called to continue the hearings for Toll Bros regarding their current applications for Charlestown Meadows.
Addressed first was the matter of the admissibility of Laurel Mueller's report, Exhibit A108. A memorandum of law was received from Messrs. Schubert and Lunning, for Toll Bros., supporting admissibility. Mr. Bender did not have a brief ready, but said he based his opposition on a rule that one expert may not use another expert's opinion to enforce his own.
Mr. Oeste explained that Laurel Mueller was Charlestown Township's expert witness, while Dr. Palkovics was the expert witness for Toll Bros.
The legal position of Mr. Schubert included his understanding that the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence do not apply to municipal township hearings.
In the opinion of Mr. Oeste, the Pennsylvania Rules of Evidence state that the opinions of an expert witness of one party may not be used by another expert witness of another party in the case. The report submitted by Ms. Mueller to Dr. Palkovics was marked as a draft, so it is deemed to be a preliminary draft and therefore not the final opinion. Using this draft would constitute hearsay. The ruling made to the Board of Supervisors was to not allow it to be admitted as evidence.
In view of the report being taken out of evidence, Mr. Bender asked that all portions of Dr. Palkovics' report that referenced the Mueller report be redacted. Mr. Oeste assured both attorneys that a higher authority would review the record.
Since Mr. Schubert's witness for tonight is unavailable, Mr. Bender presented his witness. Richard McDevitt, of Hillsover Road, Malvern, appeared for Charlestown Township. After being sworn, the witness advised he is a lawyer and a former Judge of Chester County and has lived at his address for about 44 years. He testified that with the current traffic on Route 401, he has had to wait up to 20 minutes to exit his property, which was formerly known as 800 Conestoga Road. His fence along Conestoga Road has 50 sections, including concrete posts, many of which have had to be replaced regularly due to frequent auto accidents. His research showed that between March 1, 1999, and August 20, 2000, fourteen major accidents occurred on that portion of 401, plus many unreported fender benders. He is of the opinion that a traffic light at the intersection of Newcomen and 401 would not help but would cause congestion due to the cars having to stop. His testimony also included his opinion that if the Supervisors approve a development at the site in question, it would be a case of "gross negligence." When questioned as to where his property was, he stated it was just south of Newcomen, opposite the church and opposite the proposed site of Charlestown Meadows. He has approximately 600 feet of frontage on 401. He added that over the past five years, he has knowledge of about 50 accidents, serious and fender-benders, occurring at that location. When asked how far his driveway is from Newcomen and Conestoga, he estimated a quarter mile. The accidents he knows of were not all at the intersection, but on the hill. Many were rear-enders; some were serious. He acknowledged to Mr. Schubert's question that he is not a traffic engineer.
The next expert witness for the Township was Thomas Comitta, a professional land planner. He testified that a PRD requires a minimum of 50% of all acres to be set aside as open space. Design standards include that 25% shall be used as active recreation facilities or area. The definition of recreation facilities included both active and passive recreation facilities. Mr. Comitta examined and explained the site plan of Charlestown Meadows, pointing out that according to his calculations, eight-plus acres are still required for recreation and this plan does not meet the ordinances. Mr. Schubert inquired whether Mr. Comitta was involved in creating the ordinances and the complicated requirements? Mr. Bender objected and directed his witness not to answer this question. He should not give opinions in areas other than land planning or Section 1504 e of the ordinance. The witness testified that his letter giving his opinion that the plan does not conform was written earlier today. Mr. Schubert pointed out that a letter dated April 17, 2000, worked on by Mr. Comitta and Mr. Theurkauf, did not specifically reference a non-compliance situation, to which Mr. Comitta responded that a further review of the ordinance resulted in the opinion he submitted today. Mr. Schubert reminded the witness that the plans submitted by Toll Bros were "preliminary" and if the additional recreation space could be provided, would this be considered in another application? Mr. Comitta responded, "yes." As to whether this could be a condition of approval, Mr. Comitta responded that would be up to the Board of Supervisors. The witness was unable to say how the other.???ects of the plan would be affected if additional acreage for recreation was added later. Suggestions by Mr. Comitta were to add tennis courts, more trails, and playing fields according to the land contours.
Mr. Bender moved to enter pages of the 1985 Practitioners' Guide dealing with cost projections into the record, but Mr. Schubert objected on the basis they could be out of context. Therefore, the entire book was entered by reference, along with Zoning ordinances, Subdivision and Land ordinances, and Mr. Kohli's letter of July 2000.
The next witness for the Township was Surender Kohli, of Kohli and Associates, Malvern, Pa., a consulting engineer registered in five states. He has worked for Charlestown Township as well as East Whiteland and Easttown Townships.
His review letter dated July 29, 2000 listed 19 items that were submitted by the applicant and which were reviewed. He testified that his opinion is that the plan submitted does not comply. There are problems with regard to the flooding at the culvert on 401. PRD provisions of the ordinances require a public water and sewer feasibility study to show where the lines would be and whether the affected townships are aware of the proposal, which information is necessary for planning purposes. Parking areas should be surfaced with better paving materials than the proposed grass pavers. The ordinance requires variations of the buildings for architectural interest. The flood plain must be shown. Storm sewer system must be adequate to control storm water coming from on and off the property. Drainage areas must be adequate to handle runoff. A hydrologic study is required. The planned extra parking was not sufficient because autos had to back out onto the street. Private driveways also require backing out. He suggested that end units could have side-facing garages, but he did not recall any on the plan.
In regard to the traffic signals for Newcomen and 401, per Mr. Kohli, meetings were held with PennDOT July 25 and August 10. The Pennoni Associates minutes of the August 10th meeting were submitted for the record, which lists several options for controlling the intersection. Mr. Kohli said that a split-phase design, where there were signals for all directions, would work to back up traffic. The application for the light has not been approved. Pennoni Associates recommends a four-way stop, to which Charlestown Township is strongly opposed, both townships desiring a full 4-way light signals.
Mr. Kohli testified that street lights and signs were not submitted in detail for this plan. He was also concerned about site distances on the road.
Water management plans were incomplete as to studies required, and he strongly recommended the use of underground basins.
The stream in the area of the proposed development is "high quality" and Best Management Practices should be used to protect it regarding discharged water and to control the water flow. This stream eventually ends up in the Pickering Creek.
After a short break in the proceedings, Mr. Schubert questioned Mr. Kohli about his review letter, as to when it was prepared, signed and mailed, remarking that his copy was postmarked August 4. Mr. Schubert inquired whether the contents were discussed with anyone prior to its issuance. Mr. Kohli said he talked to Mr. Comitta's office in effort to prevent duplication. Mr. Schubert pointed out several documents in the 19-item list that may not pertain to the present application. The Declaration of Covenants dated 5/18/00 contained a landscaping provision, which has subsequently been removed. In light of this, Mr. Kohli deleted a previous comment. Mr. Schubert determined, in questioning Mr. Kohli, that a proposed plan for public water is sufficient, but added that distance and elevation issues should be worked out with PSW and questioned where in the ordinance a "final" water plan is required for a tentative plan. Mr. Schubert asked if this was not a design issue to be worked out with PSW.
As for the sewer system, Mr. Kohli said that a tentative plan is necessary so the townships can form their Act 537 plans. Sewer system needs to be designed tentatively to determine the feasibility. Mr. Schubert again asked if this is not a design issue to be worked out by Toll and the VFSA before ground is broken. Mr. Schubert asked where in the ordinance it is stated that the Board of Supervisors decides if it can approve "force" or "gravity" mains? Mr. Kohli responded that they approve the planning module and there is a procedure for appeal.
Capacity issues, feasibility of extending the sewer lines, and the proposed pump station in East Whiteland Township was discussed. Mr.Kohli stated that the sewer trunk lines are "no where near" the Charlestown Meadows site, that the DEP is still in the process of approving the station, and that East Whiteland has not planned for extra effluent expected from Charlestown Meadows in this station.
Concerning 401, Mr. Kohli said he has seen ice formed from flooding at the culvert, and he has no knowledge of any corrective action proposed. He feels the culvert pipe could be undersize, but PennDOT would ultimately decide what action should be taken. Increasing basin size would be a solution. Mr. Schubert asked if Mr. Kohli agreed that neither Toll nor Conestoga Associates has anything to do with the culvert, nor do they control down flow to the property, and is there any way a private developer can force mitigation on adjacent owners? Mr. Kohli responded no, it would take a cooperative effort. Mr. Kohli testified that although Best Management Practices regarding water quality are not required by ordinance, they are mandates of the state. This was followed by extended discussion of remedies to control the water.
Regarding the findings of Toll's soil expert, Dr. Palkovics, Mr. Kohli said he would like to see some of the tests that were done.
He declined to testify about traffic issues since he is not a traffic expert. Mr. Schubert pursued questions regarding the Pennoni meetings and approval of the signals. Per Mr. Kohli, PennDOT would approve a signal if certain conditions were met, which would include turn lanes and arrows. Pennoni discussions included left turns from all approaches at Newcomen. Charlestown Township is in favor of a signal, but Mr. Kohli testified that a split-phase signal at that intersection would not work. Mr. Schubert asked if the turn lanes could be installed with Township approval by a builder such as Toll, to which Mr. Kohli responded, yes.
In regard to parking, Mr. Schubert solicited suggestions as to how the driveways could be designed to prevent backing out over the sidewalks. Charlestown Oaks development was referenced, but no explanations came forth as to how the driveways and sidewalks were handled.
After a second break in the proceedings, Mr. Schubert asked Mr. Kohli if he was aware that grass pavers were used in the parking area to eliminate impervious surface. Mr. Kohli responded, yes, but this is not a good location for it. Mr. Schubert remarked that the applicant has provided extra parking, but if the parking were eliminated, would [the plan] still comply? Mr. Kohli responded that he didn't think so.
The appearance of the units and lighting were briefly addressed. Mr. Kohli stated that lighting should be addressed in the tentative plan.
Regarding the East Whiteland pumping station, Mr. Schubert asked if Mr. Kohli would agree to work with the applicant to size the pump station? Mr. Kohli responded that the issue would have to go through the Supervisors of East Whiteland Township.
Mr. Bender, in follow-up questions, asked if the 401 and Newcomen road intersection was within Charlestown Township, and Mr. Kohli responded that it was not and would be a PennDOT issue. Also, Mr. Kohli responded that Charlestown Oaks does not report any accidents (involving their driveways, etc.) to him, but possibly would report them to the police or fire dept.
The next witness for the Township was Mr. Heinrich, of Heinrich and Kline Associates, who appeared as a traffic expert. He is licensed in nine states and estimates he does about 100 traffic studies per year.
He reviewed a traffic study prepared on April 15, 2000 for Toll Bros. by their traffic expert. He visited and photographed the site and did traffic counts. The counts, which were done in early June, were not seasonally adjusted. He testified that the speed through Charlestown on Rt. 401 is 45 mph, and that seven accidents were reported in the traffic study for a five-year period. It is his belief that number of accidents increase as volume increases, and that this will continue. He testified that the testimony of the traffic expert and his report differ in distances, grades of the roads, and site distances.
Per Mr. Heinrich, Charlestown Township has made an application for the signal at Newcomen, but widening for turn lanes was not part of that application. Mr. Bender inquired whether the witness had examined alternatives for improving the intersection, and Mr. Heinrich explained a plan of relocating Newcomen Road. He would move it eastward by means of a reverse curve intersecting 401 at a point in Charlestown Township. (Note: the road would go through Charlestown Meadows.) He felt this is more desirable and would improve visibility. Turn lanes can be added without obtaining additional rights of way. Mr. Bender asked if the new road configuration would cross "waters of the Commonwealth," to which the witness responded that it would not. This change would add 450 feet of visibility along with a safe entry into Charlestown Meadows.
Mr. Schubert asked when he was retained, and the witness said mid to late July, and he reviewed a working draft received from Mr. Kohli along with information from the PennDOT meetings. Mr. Schubert questioned the plan that was reviewed. It was a plan from an earlier Charlestown Meadows submission and was about ten years old. Per the witness, the intention was to show a possible realignment of Newcomen Road. The witness was not aware of any previous plans for road realignment. Mr. Schubert commented that there are other alternatives existing for improvement from PennDOT and others.
The flood hazard area is shown as a place where the road could be realigned. Mr. Schubert reviewed many.???ects of the Charlestown Meadows plan and asked the witness what effect the road realignment would have upon them. Mr. Heinrich had no substantial opinions regarding the effects.
The witness said that traffic counts were done and supplemented with automatic counting equipment. He did not do statistical analyses but, in his opinion, believes additional accidents would occur with increased traffic. Mr. Heinrich stated he worked with the April, 2000 report and recently received the August, 2000 report, which he has not reviewed in detail.
In regard to Newcomen Road, a T intersection would be safer for the six families, but their site distance would not be improved. He would recommend a "red signal ahead" sign to warn oncoming traffic when the signal is not visible. Mr. Schubert asked whether Newcomen, when relocated through Charlestown Meadows, would become a concern to the CM residents near the new road? Mr. Heinrich did not see any concern. When asked about the internal roads, the witness responded that public or private roads would have to meet township standards. Mr. Schubert asked if the witness did not take into consideration the effect of relocating a road through the development and whether he was aware that environmental concerns are important for this area? The witness had no information on this, nor was he aware whether any "cut and fill" would be required. Mr. Schubert felt the sketch was done in a "vacuum," not being aware of any impact on the development.
In follow up questions, Mr. Bender asked what the study showed regarding Newcomen and the six families. Answer was to the effect that none or few cars turned here. Mr. Bender asked a few repeat questions regarding considerations in relocating the road. Mr. Schubert asked the witness if any detours of other roads were in effect during his study, naming a few locations, but the witness could not state if any were in place.
A party in attendance, Mr. Hensler, asked the witness if he considered that traffic would back up and be a hazard to oncoming drivers. The witness said a "red signal ahead" sign and the additional site distance would help this. Mr. Hensler strongly doubted the feasibility of this, feeling that the greater the speed, the greater the site distance that is required and trucks, in particular, greatly exceeded the speed limits on down hill sections.
When Mr. Schubert advised that his witnesses were unavailable for tomorrow night (Thursday, 8/31), Mr. Oeste continued this hearing to Tuesday, September 5, at 7:30 P.M., in Classroom 103. He stated 9/5/00 would be the final night of hearings. This meeting adjourned at 12:05 a.m.
Friday, September 1, 2000  (From Loretta Watson, Charlestown Green)
Charlestown Township
Board of Supervisors' Meeting
August 28, 2000
Present for the Township: Irene Ewald, Hugh Willig, Mike Rodgers, Kevin Kuhn, Paul Hogan, Surender Kohli, and Tom Oeste, Esq. and Linda Csete
The meeting was called to order by the Chairman, Irene Ewald at 7:55 p.m.
This is to be considered the First Meeting of September, 2000, due to the fact that the first Monday in September is Labor Day this year.
Mr. Hogan commented about a post at the entrance to Charlestown Park, and it was found that the post had been purposely taken down to widen the entrance.
Citizens' Forum for Non-Agenda Items:
In answer to a question of why the meeting location has changed Mrs. Ewald informed everyone that this meeting (and the next few meetings) will be held in Class Room 103 of ?? building on the Campus, because these are specially scheduled dates other than the regular dates that the Memorial Chapel is reserved for the Township. This room is on the ground level and easily accessed by ramp.
The Board approved its Minutes of Monday, August 21 and Thursday, August 24. The Treasurer's Report for July 1 to 31, 2000, was approved. The Accounts Payable Report for August 7 was approved in its entirety. A motion was made to approve it without check #2884, which was brought up for question, but this motion was defeated by a 3 to 2 vote.
Old Business:
The Myers asked, via a letter from their attorney Mr. Fiscaldo, for a continuance to September in the matter of their access to Moses Way.
New Business:
Blackberry Lane Paving Bids - Three bids were received: Charlestown Paving, Cedars Spring, and Delaware Valley Paving. The bids were opened but Mr. Kohli will review and tabulate them. Announcement of the successful bidder will be made upon receipt of a PennDOT approval number in about one week.
Pebble Pools, Inc. - Mr. Kohli investigated the deed restrictions and announced that Lot 17 is outside of the restricted area and, therefore, if approved, the pool can be built. The Board did not make a decision on this matter.
Toll Bros. - Charlestown Meadows:
Mr. Babbit was recalled to continue his testimony. Upon questioning, he reported that 1,395 trees 6" caliper or greater are to be removed, which is 48% of the total of that size or greater. Mr. Bender asked for an estimation of the paved area and whether this would have a negative impact upon vegetation and resources. The answer was "generally, yes" due to obvious building efforts. Some views across the site and from off the site would be negatively affected. The witness could not give a percentage figure when asked what percentage of the total open space is taken for active recreational uses.
He used the calculations from Blue Bell Country Club in figuring persons per unit. For fiscal impact number, the Fiscal Impact Analysis manual was used. For calculation of percentage of children for the school district, Great Valley SD info was used. Mr. Bender questioned the use of three different sources. A detailed discussion centered around using the BBCC figure of 2.2 persons per unit, rather than a number out of the latest guide of 3.006 persons per unit (approx. 30% difference). Mr. Babbit said that the community would have an average unit price of $288,000, but he used an average of $250,000 in his calculations.
Three methods used to do studies are: Per Capita Method, Case Study Method, and Proportional Evaluation Method.
Mr. Babbit used the per capita method in his analysis. Disadvantages of using this method, per Mr. Babbit, are the extent to which information is available. He said it is very detailed, but not to the extent of the other study methods. He only went back in time to find debt service information.
Mr. Babbit said he was not as familiar with the Case Study Method when Mr. Bender related that this method is thought to be appropriate for small developments. When asked if a population increase means a level of service increase regarding fire, police and government services, for example, Mr. Babbit responded that it's possible in regard to the County.
Discussion ensued in regard to major expenditures having 35% or more dollars devoted to non-residential development issues. Mr. Babbit thought these would include fire, emergency, telecom, and parks & recreation.
Mr. Babbit reported that the percentage (in this case: 1.38) used in his calculation is the same used nationally for those towns that have similar numbers and revenues.
He further testified that the traffic light expense was not included, since it is a one-time capital expense for an improvement that would occur before the development was finished. He further figured that any Charlestown Twp expenditures for open space would be a lump sum and non-recurring amount, not carrying debt service, therefore no dollars for open space were included in the study.
Mr. Eppleman asked what the calculations were per pupil in Great Valley School District. The response, per information from GVSD Business Manager, Mr. Lindermann, was $10,803/high school; $7,972/secondary school, and $6,000+ for elementary. Mr. Babbit used a rough estimate of $7,000 per pupil.
Mr. Bender challenged the assumptions used for open space purchases. The witness admitted that he did not have knowledge of the actual amounts to be expended but relied on previous budgetary information and purchases.
Some redirect questioning by Mr. Schubert covered tree removal, impervious coverage, site impact, and fiscal impact result.
For the Mid-Atlantic region 3-bedroom townhouses were classified as follows:

  • 1960 to 1970   4.110 persons per unit (U.S.Census figure)
  • 1975 to 1980   2.808 persons per unit (New Practitioners' Guide 1985)
  • 1980 to 1987   3.006 persons per unit (Development Impact Assessment Handbook)
Mr. Bender inquired as to whether he considered that the township may be using the open space fund for payment of debt service? Mr. Babbit replied, no, since it was not stated as such in the budget.
The only Toll community studied for comparative analysis was Blue Bell CC; no Chester County Toll community was studied for comparative analysis.
Mr. Bender asked that if the figure of $290,000 average price per unit, as opposed to $250,000 average price per unit, was used, the difference could be 40%? Mr. Babbit agreed. The witness could not state if census data existed in GVSD regarding the number of bedrooms and occupants in homes.
Supervisor Kevin Kuhn asked a series of questions to determine if the witness was aware that the Board would purchase the Pyle farm, for what amount, and whether it represented an impact to the township. If so, how would the dollars be financed if they were not amortized? The witness responded that he had no knowledge of the amount of the payment for the 55 acres as of May 2000, and he likely would have been using the revised township budget from January 2000.
Mr. Schubert advised the Board that his witness, Dr. Palkovics, would not be appearing tonight due to family matters.
Mr. Babbit was re-questioned regarding the agreed upon 40% difference. He felt that the bottom line was that the township would still achieve a $25,000 revenue gain.
Toll Bros' witness, R. Douglas Stewart, of Berwyn, PA, was called to reinforce Mr. Babbit's findings. He stated various methods are primarily used for studies for different purposes. In preparation for tonight, he was asked to review and evaluate Mr. Babbit's fiscal report, along with the rest of the report generally. He did not check sources or data used, but reviewed methods. He found it thorough and complete, and the findings are supported by methodology. He supported the finding that revenue would exceed expenses for the township for Charlestown Meadows.
  • Case Study Method is used for large jurisdictions or elaborate projects (malls, regional h/q)
  • Per Capita Method is used for smaller developments
  • Proportional Evaluation Method is used for non-residential applications
Mr. Stewart reviewed the letter from Mr. Theurkauf and the assumption that increased residential development would result in the need for more services and higher expenses. He said this is based on different factors pertaining to the development and market and may not be true.
He testified that three bedroom townhouses are purchased by two groups: young, childless couples wanting an upscale home; and move-down buyers (empty nesters) coming from large homes. He felt that three bedroom homes are not oriented to school-aged children/family homes.
In making calculations, he stated that the practice is to use local multipliers rather than those referenced in the books.
Mr. Bender asked the date he was hired to review Mr. Babbit's findings and also asked for the working file. Mr. Schubert first objected to Mr. Bender having access to the file on the basis he, himself, had not seen it, but later offered the file.
Mr. Stewart reported that he and his staff spent between ten and twenty hours on this review, but he could not state how many hours he himself had spent.
The findings were that nothing was found to be unsupported by assumptions, nor was there information he didn't agree with regarding the methods and procedures used. Mr. Stewart felt the case study method would be inappropriate for Charlestown Meadows evaluation because it is very elaborate and long and thus more costly.
Proportional Evaluation Method and Case Study Method for commercial projects come to closely matching results. Mr. Bender pursued whether the change in price per home times the number of people per home would result in different findings (all other factors being equal). Mr. Stewart agreed.
Mr. Stewart worked on the Rouse/Chamberlin community of Whitehorse (in Charlestown Twp) which took nine years to achieve approval. He has worked on two projects previously with Mr. Babbit.
Mr. Stewart's file of his findings was placed into the record by Mr. Bender, and this necessarily included Mr. Babbit's entire report.
Discussion revealed that Dr. Palkovics will be a witness on August 29, along with two others. Mr. Oeste asked that all three appear.
This hearing was continued to August 29, 2000, in Class Room 103 of the Valley Forge Christian College (Location is posted on the Memorial Chapel door).
Meeting adjourned.

Continued in Archives

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