The Schuylkill Township Planning Commission held their regularly scheduled meeting at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, July 20, 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 Mrs. Barbara Cohen, Mrs. Martha Majewski, Mr. Jim Morrisson and Mr. Fred Parry from the Board of Supervisors and Ms. Mary Lou Lowrie, Township Engineer from Gilmore & Associates.
On motion by Mr. Quigg and seconded by Mr. Lombardi, and passed, the Planning Commission approved the minutes of May 18, 2016. There was no Planning Commission meeting in June.
The Phoenixville Regional Planning Commission discussion as shown on the agenda was moved to the September 21, 2016 meeting.
Chester County Intermediate Unit (CCIU) Technical College High School, Pickering Campus, 1580 Charlestown Road – Mr. Joe Lubitsky, attorney for the CCIU, Mr. Paul Lepard of NaveNewell and John Morrissey and David Mackey of Jackson Cross came before the Planning Commission to present a concept plan of subdivision of the CCIU property located at 1580 Charlestown Road.
The CCIU property consists of 5 lots that total 60.10 acres with frontage on both Charlestown Road and Buckwalter Road. The lots are currently located in three different zoning districts – Commercial, R-2 and FR. A majority of the acreage is in the Commercial district. The CCIU proposes to retain approximately 20 +/- acres for the school within the Commercial District and sell the 40+/- acres for development. The sale of the 40 +/- acres would defray the renovation costs of the CAT Pickering building. The small two acre parcel owned by CCIU on the North side of the Norfolk Southern rail line, the CCIU hopes to convey to the Township as open space.
The concept plan presented showed 89 smaller sized single-family dwellings (SFD) located on the 40 acres with an approximate 7 acre area set aside within the 40 acres for open space and a trail ead location next to the Norfolk-Southern rail line. The homes would be approximately 2,500 square feet located on 5,000 square foot lots. Mr. Lepard stated that the development concept is similar to Potters Pond. Ownership would be fee simple with an HOA. Mr. Reading stated that a 20 foot separation between homes is very tight especially when factoring in cantilevered chimneys, bay windows, etc. which could affect fire department response.
The approximate selling price for each home would be $400,000 to $450,000. Mr. Lubitsky stated that the development is age targeted but not age restricted. He advised that the development would increase the Township’s tax base and since the development would not attract young families should not increase student population with the school district.
Mr. Lepard stated that the plan provides for approximately 70% open space that encompasses both the retained CCIU lot and the newly created housing development lot. The entrance to the development would be off of Buckwalter Road. An emergency fire road would traverse the school property and exit onto Charlestown Road. Mr. Morrisson advised that ideally for the number of homes it would be better to have two entrances to the development. Mr. Lepard stated that there is a partial boulevard entrance off of Buckwalter Road.
There will also be a small trail head parking lot area next to the existing Norfolk-Southern rail line in anticipation of a rails to trails project that would span Charlestown and Schuylkill Township as well as the Borough of Phoenixville.
Mrs. Cohen stated that the development looked crowded. Mr. English stated that with the open space area adjacent to Charlestown Road, it does not allow for a continuous commercial district which leaves Bob’s Haven Deli as a dangling commercial entity. Mr. Quigg and Mr. Parry stated that the concept plan as presented looked good.
Later in the evening after the next agenda item, Mrs. Cohen stated that to carry the commercial district across the open space area, TechShop an open-access, DIY workshop and fabrication studio whereby entrepreneurs, artists, makers, teachers and students come together to learn and work together could be considered.
University of Valley Forge (UVF) - Dr. Dan Mortensen, Vice President of Development for the University of Valley Forge, Mr. Lou Colagreco representing Endeavor Property Group (EPG), Mr. Peter Monaghan, of Endeavor Property Group and Mr. Mike Rosen of BSB Design came before the commission to present a concept plan for the former 50 acre National Christian Conference Center now owned by the UVF. Dr. Mortensen advised that the college would like to sell the property and use the profits for their campus on Charlestown Road. The property is currently zoned Residential - R-1.
Dr. Mortensen stated that the UVF is no longer working with Harmony Senior Living LLC with whom they had partnered with in 2015 to develop the UVF property. The university was concerned about the complexity of what was being proposed by Harmony and the UVF was looking for a partner that would work within the restrictions of the site and develop something that was more appropriate. He stated that there is a great deal of interest in the property with the adjacent residents, the township, UVF and the developer. He concluded that the UVF is committed to being a good neighbor.
Mr. Colagreco advised that the development of the property would be a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) that would include independent, assisted living and personal care type living along with townhomes, carriage homes and apartment “villages” located on the property.
Mr. Monaghan stated that EPG wanted to engage the Township early in the process of a possible development on the property. He stated that they have done a few projects whereby they have incorporated adaptive reuse in the development of a property. He stated that EPG was founded in 2001 and has been working with senior housing since 2010 and that senior housing is underserved. He advised that they are currently looking at using the existing NCCC buildings for the assisted living and personal care.
Mr. Rosen of BSD Design stated that the site is heavily wooded and the site will be analyzed from both an environmental and historical perspective. He advised that they are proposing a quadrangle concept with the existing buildings for assisted living that would take advantage of the outdoor space.
Mr. Rahe questioned what the approximate population that Endeavor envisions living on the property whether it is independent, assisted or personal care living. Mr. Monaghan stated that the development would be 100% age restricted. Mr. Monaghan stated it would be about 1.2 or 1.3 people per unit. Plans have not been developed for the number of townhomes, carriage homes or apartments.
Mr. Morrisson stated that the UVF property would need to be rezoned to allow the assisted living facility. He advised that where they are conceptually showing the villages there are steep slopes, woods and stream areas.
Mr. Mauch of the Township’s Open Space Commission stated that the concept plan does not show the percentage of open space to be saved. He advised that the plan does not show any meaningful contiguous open space area. Mr. Mauch stated that the UVF property is one of the most beautiful properties in the Township and is ranked very high for open space preservation both with the Township and Chester County. He stated that he would strongly oppose the development unless at least 22 acres were preserved. Mr. O’Dell of the Township’s Environmental Advisory Council stated that he supported the Open Space Commission’s concerns. Mr. Rosen stated that they have not identified open space areas yet. He stated that the plan before the commission is to see if the housing product types are acceptable. Mr. Monaghan stated that they are interested in incorporating trails.
Mr. Parry stated he was concerned about the traffic that would be generated by this type of development. Mr. Monaghan stated that traffic would be distributed throughout the day. Mr. Rosen advised that a traffic study would need to be done as part of the land development process.
Mr. Colagreco advised that the presentation was just for the use concept. He stated that when they plan to meet with the Planning Commission again there would be more definition to the plan.
Freedom Trail Feasibility Study – Mr. Chris Green of Gilmore & Associates presented the draft Freedom Trail Feasibility Study to the Planning Commission. Mr. Green advised that the trail steering committee held eight committee meetings and three public meetings during the course of putting the study together. The trail is an attempt to make a connection from the Valley Forge National Historic Park to the Borough of Phoenixville where it will ultimately connect with the Schuylkill River Trail that will create a 14 mile loop trail. He stated that field work was also conducted that included looking at the Norfolk-Southern rail corridor and larger roadways for opportunities to work within rights-of-way and private property parcels such as Aqua and Freedoms Foundation.
Mr. Green advised that currently there are a number of obstructions with creating the trail: 1) the significant grade on Valley Forge Road; 2) the disinterest in the trail by Norfolk-Southern; 3) no room for pedestrian facilities on Pawlings Road bridge; 4) safety concerns with the Aqua Pennsylvania and McAvoy Brick property; and 5) safety of visiting students to the Freedoms Foundation in conflict with trail users. Due to these concerns there is not a continuous off-road ten foot wide trail. The VFNHP although on board with the trail connection to the park does not want a paved trail on their property. The park would prefer a gravel trail that they would maintain.
The trail will start at the Joseph Plum Martin trail in the VFNHP and end at the Borough of Phoenixville/Schuylkill Township municipal boundary line on South Second Avenue. Mr. Green stated that some phases of the trail have been coordinated with sidewalk areas shown in the sidewalk feasibility study that was recently completed by the Township. There are overlapping corridors between the two studies.
There are two roadway areas where vehicle travel lanes will need to be narrowed or adjusted to allow for pedestrian use: 1) the culvert bridge near Route 252 would require the travel lanes to be narrowed to 11 foot wide to accommodate bike and pedestrians and, 2) the Aqua dam bridge travel lanes would also need to be adjusted to allow for bicycles and pedestrians on the south side of the bridge.
Freedoms Foundation currently does not want the trail on their property. The feasibility study had originally shown the trail to enter the foundation property, link to the Medal of Honor grove and then enter the University of Valley Forge property and then exiting onto Valley Forge Road. The feasibility study plan now shows the trail traversing along Valley Forge Road up to the Ferry Lane/Valley Forge Road intersection. Mrs. Cohen stated that Mr. DeYeso, President and CEO of Freedoms Foundation may change his mind about the trail traversing the foundation property. She stated that she will continue to have conversations with him.
Mr. Green stated that the 4-way intersection of Ferry Lane/Valley Forge Road/Country Club Road is a critical intersection in the study. Pedestrian crossing is needed since the trail crosses over to Country Club Road to then traverse to Maisfield Road. The trail would then ultimately go through the Aqua Pennsylvania property next to the fenced in reservoir and would then exit onto the south side of Valley Forge Road. Mr. Morrisson stated that there are two eagle nests in the area. One may not be active. He stated that the nests need to be taken into consideration when the trail is ultimately laid out and constructed.
The next Valley Forge Road crossing would be at Dorchester Way and Moorehall Drive crossing from the south side to the north side of the road. From there walking on established sidewalks in the Moorehall development to South Second Avenue.
The total cost to implement the Freedom trail including design costs is approximately $7,680.000. The most costly segment of the trail is the portion along Route 23 from the Freedoms Foundation to Ferry Lane with an approximate cost of $4,420,000. Mr. Rahe stated that not allowing the trail through the Freedom Foundation property doubles the cost of the trail due to the obstructions along Valley Forge Road in that area. The Township will need the assistance of Federal and State grants for implementation of any segment of the Freedom Trail. Prior to Board of Supervisors acceptance and adoption of the Freedom Trail Study, the Chester County Planning Commission will have a 30-day review period.
On motion by Mr. Quigg, seconded by Mr. Rahe, and passed, the Planning Commission recommended that the Board of Supervisors accept the Freedom Trail Feasibility Study.
There being no further business before the Planning Commission, the meeting was adjourned at 10:00 pm.
Mary R. Bird
Next Meeting: Wednesday, September 21, 2016