The Schuylkill Township Planning Commission held their regularly scheduled meeting at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at the Township hall. Members of the Planning Commission present were Mr. Jim Reading, Mr. Morris Quigg, Mr. Eric Rahe, Mr. Curt English, Mr. Mike Bauer and Mr. Mark Donovan. Mr. Reading chaired the meeting. Mr. Jim Morrisson and Mrs. Barbara Cohen from the Board of Supervisors were present at the meeting as was Mr. Bob Mauch chairman of the Open Space Commission.
On motion by Mr. Quigg, seconded by Mr. English, and passed, the September 20, 2017 minutes were approved. On motion by Mr. English, seconded by Mr. Rahe, and passed, the November 15, 2017 minutes were approved.
Pickering Valley Golf Course – Mr. Ben Thompson, one of the owners of the golf course, came before the commission to discuss revising the layout of the lots on the previously approved preliminary plan. The plan was approved on October 5, 2011 with a conservation easement on 184 acres. The golf course spans both Charlestown and Schuylkill Townships. Most of the golf course is in Schuylkill Township. The conservation easement is to protect the scenic area within the golf course and along White Horse Road. Mr. Thompson stated that there is flexibility in the conservation easement to move some of the lots. He advised that he also contacted Steve Johnson of North American Land Trust (NALT) regarding the matter. Mr. Thompson advised that they would like to keep the golf course for as long as possible.
Mr. Thompson advised that the alternate plan removes the lots from within the golf course to the perimeter of the property. There are five lots to be moved to the perimeter that would have more of a cluster type design. Perc tests will need to be completed. He stated that the agricultural area will be absorbed by the residential lots should the golf course cease to exist. Mr. Reading stated that in 2011 the thought was that the PVGC would cease to exist. He advised that keeping the golf course running is a good thing. Mr. Thompson relayed that was NALT’s thinking as well.
Mr. Reading stated that what is being proposed seems like a favorable concept depending on NALT’s review. Mr. Mauch questioned if the Thompsons were increasing the number of lots. Mr. Thompson replied that they were not increasing the number of lots.
Pickering Woods – Mr. Lou Colagreco representing the Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU), Mr. Joe Lubitsky of the CCIU and Paul Leopard of Nave Newell came before the commission to discuss a residential sketch plan for 146 townhomes on approximately 36.8 acres of the CCIU property off of Charlestown and Buckwalter Roads. A majority of the CCIU is located in the Commercial District with a small portion in the Farm/Residential (FR) and another small portion in the R-2 Residential zoning districts. Mr. Lubitsky advised that the CCIU is expensive to run. Programs within the school have evolved and students are getting instruction offsite at employer locations. The proposed development would also provide some reimbursement for the CCIU renovation recently completed. He advised that the CCIU has partnered with Pulte Group. The plan proposes a trail head with parking as well as preserving the farmstead.
Mr. Leopard stated that the stormwater management for the site would be basin areas that would be located along the future Devault trail area which is the abandoned railroad Norfolk-Southern rail line. There is no ingress or egress for the townhomes on Charlestown Road. The access will be Buckwalter Road. There will be however an emergency access from the CCIU parking lot into the development. The townhome development will not be age-targeted or restricted. The development will have private roads maintained by an HOA. Every townhome will have a two-car garage and off-street parking. The townhome units will be 24’ wide. Mr. Rahe stated that from a streetscape point of view the developer should consider a split garage door.
Mr. Quigg stated that Buckwalter Road is narrow and may not handle the extra traffic and that Charlestown Road is a better ingress/egress. Preliminary traffic analysis has been done and signalization is not out of the question for this development. Mr. English advised that with the proposed development Bob’s Haven Deli is cut off from the rest of the commercial district because the proposed townhome development is bisecting the district.
Mr. Colagreco advised that the property for the proposed townhomes would be rezoned APO-II. Mr. Lubitsky stated that the CCIU Board of Directors has approved moving forward with the project. Ms. Judy Galenos, a resident, questioned of there was any restrictive language in the original deed to the property. Mr. Jethro Monetti stated that he lives in the Glenn Court cul-de-sac and the development will create a significant change in landscape. Mrs. Joann Hines stated that she has lived on the farm for 54 years and all of the proposed homes makes no sense. Mr. Joe Flanagan of Buckwalter Road questioned how lighting of this development would affect surrounding neighbors. He also stated that townhome residency was different and he was concerned with keeping his property line clean from the new townhomes. Mr. Flanagan stated that the beauty of Buckwalter Road would be gone should this development be built. He stated that he is worried about the impact outside of the development. Mrs. Deuble of Audrey Lane questioned if any other type of development for the property has been looked at. Mr. Lubitsky stated that since it is zoned commercial it could be developed with office and warehouse space. He advised that homes are less invasive. Mr. Serdy of Buckwalter Road questioned if this was spot zoning.
Mrs. Barbara Smith, owner of Bob’s Haven Deli, questioned if the proposed development would affect her or her and her husband’s business since they would remain Commercial but now be bisected from the rest of the commercial area. She stated that she does not want to see homes being developed. Mr. John Horseman of Buckwalter Road stated that this plan has not been presented to Charlestown Township. He stated that the development is out of character for the area. Mr. Seamus Mulryan stated that he has a one acre wildlife habitat on his property. He stated that he was concerned about the impact to the habitat as well as the water wells in the Wilbourne Acres development. He questioned why the CCIU was not considering selling the land to the Township as open space. Mr. Mauch stated that the Open Space Commission has an interest if the landowner has an interest. Mr. Ed Brennan of Buckwalter Road stated that his well is only 60’ deep and he is on septic. He is concerned about stormwater from the proposed development coming on to his property. A resident from Charlestown Township stated she was also concerned about the wells and the high density development.
Mr. Lubitsy stated that the proposed development is the direction the CCIU Board of Directors wanted to go. The plan does provide some perimeter open space and future Devault Trail parking. Mr. Flanagan questioned if the Board of Directors would meet with residents to come up with a concept that is more appealing to the existing residents. Mr. Richard Deuble of Audrey Lane questioned traffic impact and fire/police/EMS response with this type of development.
Mr. Colagreco advised that a majority of the site is zoned commercial and could be 90% covered by asphalt per the Township zoning. A residential development is less intrusive and allows for open space. He stated that commercial does not allow for open space.
Valley Forge Crossing - Valley Forge Conference Center-Senior Residences – Mr. Lou Colagreco, representing the Endeavor Property Group (EPG) came before the Planning Commission with a revised concept plan presentation for the former approximately 50 acre National Christian Conference Center now owned by the University of Valley Forge (UVF). The property is currently zoned Residential – R-1. Mr. Peter Monaghan of the EPG was also present.
Mr. Lou Colagreco, representing EPG, advised that the development of the property would be a continuing care retirement community that would include independent, assisted living and personal care type living along with townhomes, carriage homes and apartment “villages” located on the property. Mr. Colagreco stated that the concept plan has been revised and there is now a total of 305 living units. There had previously been 425 units proposed.
The setback of the townhomes is now 100’ from Flintlock Lane. It has previously been 25’. The access to the development is now where the current access is for the University of Valley Forge. Townhomes are 30’ wide in 2-3 home building “chunks”.
Mr. Matthew Hammond of Traffic Planning and Design (TPD), stated that the developer is willing to discuss traffic improvements with residents. He stated that signage such as Do Not Enter, No Left Turns and No Truck Traffic can be utilized. He advised that they will also be looking at the intersection of Route 23/Country Club Road/Ferry Lane to see if any traffic improvements can be done.
Mr. Reading advised that the 100’ setback for the townhomes and the relocation of the driveway were both good revisions. Mr. Rahe concurred regarding the road relocation.
Mr. Colagreco advised that the parking shown on the concept plan is modeled after the Township’s Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance. Mr. Peter Monaghan stated that the proposed layout could use less parking. Mr. Colagreco concurred that the apartment parking lot area is bigger than it needs to be. Mr. Monaghan also stated that the townhome portion of the development could be sold to another developer to build.
Mr. Rahe questioned the usage patterns of the site during the day. Mr. Hammond stated that the proposed plan is not a high traffic generator. He stated that there may be 80 – 90 trips during the peak hour. Application must be made to PADOT. Mr. Monaghan stated that there are 35 employees per shift predominately in the memory care section. Mr. Hammond stated that there are 155 trips coming from Eastgate Drive and Flintlock Lane during peak hours. He advised that the study takes into account general growth in the area.
Mr. Wickstrom questioned if there would be access to trails. Mrs. Cohen stated that the access point would be from Freedoms Foundation. Mr. Wickstrom also questioned if the development meets the current comprehensive plan. Mr. Reading stated that it does and that adaptive reuse is consistent with the plan. Mr. Colagreco advised that this type of use is needed. He stated that the UVF has scaled back on the convention center use. He advised that he would not want to default to single-family dwellings. Mr. Mauch stated that the developer is trying to preserve about 22.9 acres that is adjacent to the acreage on the Freedom Foundation property that is already under a conservation easement. He asked if the developer would continue keeping the wooded area on the UVF property. Mr. Colagreco stated yes.
Mr. Reading stated that he liked that the existing structures would be preserved. Mr. Bauer questioned that in developing an ordinance for this type of development if saving existing buildings would be a part of the ordinance. Mr. Colagreco stated that they are proposing an overlay district for the R-1 Zoning District. Mr. Rahe stated that that type of ordinance usually has additional restrictions. Mr. Brennan, Township Solicitor, advised that the Township needs to make sure how an overlay ordinance may impact other properties in the future. Mr. Morrisson stated that the overly could be specific to the site since the ordinance function is unique. He advised that there needs to be a balance between townhomes and assisted living.
Mr. Bauer questioned if there would be any further subdivision. Mr. Colagreco stated no.
On motion by Mr. Quigg, seconded by Mr. Rahe, and passed with Mr. Donovan and Mr. Bauer dissenting, the Planning Commission recommended that the developer move forward with the concept plan, draft an overlay ordinance and take the traffic concerns seriously as well as move the concept plan to the Board of Supervisors along with the draft ordinance to be reviewed. Mr. Brennan stated that there is nothing binding on the Board of Supervisors.
At this point in the meeting, the Planning Commission went into executive session to discuss members on the commission. On their return, the planning commission accepted Mr. Donovan’s resignation due to him being elected to the Board of Supervisors. Mrs. Cohen, a resigning Board of Supervisor member, was recommended to the Board for one of the open seats on the commission. Mr. Quigg and Mr. Rahe will interview a candidate for the remaining open seat on the commission.
There being no business for discussion, the meeting was adjourned at 10:35 p.m.
Next Meeting: January 17, 2018 at 8:00 pm