Schuylkill Township
Planning Commission
MEETING DATE: February 17, 2016

The Schuylkill Township Planning Commission held their regularly scheduled meeting at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 17, 2016 at the Township hall.  Members of the Planning Commission present were Mr. Jim Reading, Mr. Morris Quigg, Mr. Eric Rahe, Mr. Michael Bauer, Mr. Jim Lombardi and Mr. Curt English. Mr. Reading chaired the meeting.  Also in attendance were Mr. Parry, Mrs. Majewski and Mr. Morrisson from the Board of Supervisors and Mr. John Sartor and Ms. Mary Lou Lowrie, Township Engineers from Gilmore & Associates.

On motion by Mr. Lombardi and seconded by Mr. Rahe, and passed, the Planning Commission approved the minutes of January 20, 2016.

French Creek Business Park, Lot #3 – Mr. Mike Sodl of Wilkinson and Associates came before the Board with a plan to develop the last undeveloped lot in the French Creek Business Park located in the LI Zoning District off of Township Line Road. The land development plan for the lot had received conditional final approval in September 2007. The plan shows a 2-story office type building.  The plan for the lot does not infringe on the existing detention basin that was constructed when the infrastructure for the park was constructed in the early 2000’s. Mr. Sodl stated he was not sure if Wilkinson & Associates will utilize the building or if they will lease the building to another entity.

Mr. Brennan advised that the Municipal Planning Code has a five-year window for the land development to commence. However, the Development Permit Extension Act may allow for development of a property to extend beyond the 5-year period. Mr. Brennan stated that he would look into the provisions of the Act.

Mr. Sodl stated that there is a current NPDES permit for the development of the lot and that the development of the lot meets all State requirements. Mr. Sodl advised that the impervious coverage is less than what the basin is designed for. He stated that there are also infiltration beds on the lot for recharge requirements. The Gilmore & Associates letter dated February 4, 2016 reiterates the review letter from 2007.

Mr. Sodl requested a waiver of Section 503.B of the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance to provide concrete curb radii that are less than the minimum 15’ required by ordinance. If the ordinance requirement was used in all the curb radii for the site, the vehicles at the end of row would be exposed and not protected and the end of row parking islands could not be constructed.  Mr. Sodl stated that a waiver from this SALDO requirement would not affect the flow of traffic and there is no pedestrian traffic.

On motion by Mr. Quigg, seconded by Mr. Rahe, and passed, a waiver of Section 503.B of the SALDO and final land development plan approval for French Creek Business Park, Lot #3 were recommended by the Planning Commission to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Valley Park “Park” – Mr. Sartor presented the engineered plan based on the approved concept plan dated November 14, 2013 for the approximately 16 acre passive park area known as Valley Park located on Valley Park Road. Mr. Sartor advised that in developing the engineered plans for the site a number of ordinance issues came up that need to be addressed that would require waivers from certain sections of the Stormwater Management Ordinance and relief from certain sections of the Zoning Ordinance from the Zoning Hearing Board. The requesting of waivers and relief from the Zoning Hearing Board are for both Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the development of the park. Phase 2 would be for a future driveway to future additional parking and the extension/replacement of two culverts. The potential future parking is proposed not to be paved but will have a gravel/stone surface. Mr. Sartor advised that the majority of the site is in the floodplain or wetlands and the Township needs zoning relief to build what the concept plan envisioned. Even though Phase 2 may be deferred to a future date, it is better to identify all obstacles now.

Mr. Morrisson stated that the plan is compliant with the larger storm events. Mr. Bauer questioned if the Township could amend the stormwater ordinance.  The stormwater ordinance adopted was the countywide stormwater management ordinance and amending the ordinance would prove difficult. Mr. Bauer questioned if the Township could install a large basin. Mr. Rahe stated that approving a waiver is better than clear cutting the site to install a basin.

Waivers:

  1. A waiver is needed from Section 310-307.A for the 2-year storm for Phase 1 only and for Phases 1 and 2 combined.
  2. A waiver is needed from Section 310-308.A for the 1-year through the 10-year storms for Phase 1 only, and for the 2-year through 10-year storms for Phases 1 and 2 combined.

On motion by Mr. Quigg, seconded by Mr. Bauer, and passed with Mr. English abstaining, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the waivers to the Board of Supervisors.

The Township will need to go before the Zoning Hearing Board for the following Special Exceptions and Variances from the Zoning Ordinance:

  1. A variance from Section 370-73.A(2) to install the driveway and trail in the Flood Hazard District (FHD);
  2. A variance from Section 370-73.A(3)(a) to install the retaining wall within 50 feet from the FHD boundary.
  3. A special exception from Section 370-73.A(6) for the proposed culverts replacement/extension in the FHD;
  4. A variance from Section 370-181.B to permit no curbing on either parking lot and a variance to permit no paving of the rear parking lot; and,
  5. A variance from Sections 370-223.F(3)(d) to disturb more than 10% of the wetland buffer.

Mr. Reading questioned the need for a retaining wall.  Mr. Sartor stated that the retaining wall would be needed for the construction of the parking lot near the Trolley Station. The retaining wall would minimize the encroachment into the wetland area.  Ms. Lowrie stated that if the Township does not install a retaining wall and instead fills in wetlands, it must then create wetlands somewhere else on the property which would also be an added expense.

Mr. Reading stated that the development of the park seemed a poor use of taxpayer money.  He advised that the proposed paved trails do not even connect but end in loop segments. Mrs. Majewski stated that the when the concept plan was presented to the public, they were very receptive to the park layout. She advised that the Township needs to engineer the plan for ADA compliance so that it is in a position to seek grant funding. Mr. Morrisson stated that Valley Park is a candidate for the use of up to 25% of open space funds to build and maintain the park.

The Zoning Ordinance requires that all lots that contain more than five parking spaces must be illuminated with shielded lights at night when the lot is in use. The park is to be open from dawn to dusk and the lots will not be used at night. The plan shows 9 parking spaces in the Phase 1 parking area and 20 parking spaces in the Phase 2 area. The parking spaces are based on the trail network that is proposed to be part of Phase 1. On motion by Mr. Quigg, seconded by Mr. Rahe and passed, with Mr. English abstaining, the Planning Commission recommended to the Board of Superiors that the park be considered dawn to dusk with no lighting and that the phasing of the parking to account for the total number of spaces be permitted.

Mr. Sartor discussed the two existing culverts on the property.  The location of the culverts will be under the Phase 2 future driveway. The one culvert pipe is an elliptical concrete pipe that is in relatively good shape. The pipe will need to be extended so that it accommodates the width of the driveway and the paved trail. He advised that the rectangular culvert with the stone abutments would need to be replaced in kind. Mr. Sartor stated that due to the condition of the culvert he would not recommend a vehicle driving over it.

Mr. Parry stated that where the paved trail and future driveway is shown to be installed is very wet. He questioned if stormwater management had been looked at.  Mr. Sartor stated that a small basin will be constructed next to the trail and the grading for the future macadam will divert the water away from the trail, future driveway and future parking area. Mr. Reading stated that there are roads and bridges/culverts in the Township that would better utilize Township funds instead of the park project and the amount of stormwater management needed. Mr. Parry stated that the plan should be reviewed by the Environmental Advisory Council.

Mr. Bauer questioned if what is proposed as Phase 2 could be done as Phase 1 and Phase 1 be Phase 2.  Mr. Sartor stated that the Township may have to eliminate the paved walking path. Also Phase 2 is proposed to not be paved to try and reduce impervious surface and would not be ADA compliant.  Mr. Sartor stated that if waivers are not granted and zoning relief is not given, the park cannot be built. Mr. Brennan advised that the Township can exempt itself from all zoning requirements. 

Mr. Morrisson stated that the Valley Park project is for the public. The property was purchased for $685,000 offset by a grant from Chester County so that the property could be developed into a passive recreation park. He advised that the concept plan is a minimalist approach as to what could be developed as a park.  Mr. Reading stated that the plan seems to have gone too far. Mr. Bauer questioned what the maintenance of the site will be after it has been developed since so much water flows through the site.

Phoenixville Regional Comprehensive Plan – Discussion continued from the December 16, 2015 and the January 17, 2016 Planning Commission meetings regarding the Township adopting the current Phoenixville Regional Comprehensive Plan dated 2008 as its Municipal Comprehensive Plan, and whether the Township would be interested in doing so with an updated Phoenixville Regional Comprehensive Plan. Mr. Morrisson stated that he believed the regional comprehensive plan would provide more protection that an individual municipal comprehensive plan. Mr. Brennan stated that there is no clear cut case of a regional plan having more protection than an individual plan.  He questioned if the Township would lose some control over development by using the regional comprehensive plan as its plan. Mr. Morrisson stated that a detailed review of the Zoning and Subdivision ordinances was done when the original comprehensive plan was adopted in 2008 and the ordinances were deemed at the time to be generally consistent with the regional comprehensive plan. He advised with the updating of the regional comprehensive plan the ordinances need to again be reviewed for consistency with the plan. Mr. Morrisson advised that individual municipalities are responsible to compare the regional comprehensive plan with their own comprehensive plan.  Mr. English stated that the Township does not have to adopt the regional comprehensive plan to participate in the PRPC.  Mr. Quigg stated that all that is being presented are the “pros” of adopting the regional comp plan as the Township’s plan.  No one has mentioned any downside to adopting the plan.  Mrs. Bird stated that she would reach out to the PRPC land planner and solicitor to see if they can provide both the pros and cons of adopting the Phoenixville Regional Comprehensive Plan as the municipal comprehensive plan.

There being no further discussion, the Planning Commission adjourned the meeting at 9:55 pm.

Respectfully submitted,

Mary R. Bird
Township Manager

Next Meeting: March 16, 2016