The Schuylkill Township Planning Commission held their regularly scheduled meeting at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18, 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. Martha Majewski, Mr. Jim Morrisson and Mr. Fred Parry from the Board of Supervisors and Mr. John Sartor, Township Engineer from Gilmore & Associates.
On motion by Mr. Rahe and seconded by Mr. Quigg, and passed, the Planning Commission approved the minutes of April 20, 2016.
Schuylkill Sidewalk Feasibility Study (SSS) – Mr. Morrisson presented the draft of the SSS. The study was a group effort of the SSS Steering Committee that consisted of a representative from the Chester County Planning Commission, two supervisors, a member from the Planning Commission and the Environmental Advisory Council, the Township Manager, two business owners and nine residents. The copy of the draft study provided to the Planning Commission contained Mr. Morrisson’s hand-written revisions. The revisions were not substantive in nature. Mr. Morrisson gave a brief synopsis of the feasibility study process from obtaining a grant to fund the study, obtaining the consultant, to reviewing where it may be feasible to install sidewalks. Mr. Morrisson advised that the sidewalk system is broken into fourteen segments/projects.
Mr. Morrisson stated that the SSS will be on the agenda for possible Board acceptance at the June 1 Board of Supervisors. He stated that after the acceptance of the report the Board could: 1) do nothing with the report; 2) begin with a pilot segment of sidewalk; or 3) work on a larger sidewalk project that encompasses a couple of segments. Starting sidewalk projects will be dependent on grants received and budgetary considerations. Mrs. Majewski stated that grants seldom fund 100% of a project and the Township would need to provide funds to offset what is not provided by a grant.
Mr. Tom Wand of 31 Kleyona Avenue and a member of the Sidewalk Steering Committee stated that both the steering committee meetings and the public meetings influenced the SSS. The surveys of those who attended the public workshops are included in the Appendices of the study. Mr. Morrisson advised that the surveys conducted by Mr. Tom Cehula of 94 North Whitehorse Road and Mrs. Linda Glass of 85 Kleyona Avenue are also included as well as a door-to-door survey conducted by some members of the steering committee and Mrs. Rebekah Bowser of 102 Magnolia Drive who is an interested resident that volunteered to assist the steering committee with the survey.
Mr. Jeffrey Tress of 100 Kleyona Avenue questioned who cared what residents thought about sidewalks. He stated that pictures shown at the public workshops were out of scale in showing how sidewalks could be incorporated. He also stated that neither stormwater management nor the liability of sidewalks crossing driveways had been taken into account. Mr. Tress advised that some residents on Kleyona Avenue have small front yards and adding sidewalks would make them smaller.
Mr. Quigg stated that the feasibility study does not lock the Township into anything. Mr. Lombardi questioned if sidewalks do not go in on Kleyona Avenue could they go somewhere else.
Mr. George Schlotterer of 90 Kleyona Avenue stated that he has been dealing with stormwater for thirteen years. He advised that his property has a stormwater swale within the road right-of-way. Mr. Schlotterer stated that if sidewalks are constructed and the swale is removed, there will be water in his basement. Mr. Reading stated that nothing in the sidewalk study has been engineered. When engineering does occurs that would be the time to look at issues such as stormwater. Mr. Cehula stated that the petition signed by residents of North Whitehorse Road and South Second Avenue, of those who signed the petition, the majority oppose sidewalks. He advised that there is a stormwater problem on both sides of North Whitehorse Road and South Second Avenue. He advised that grant money is still taxpayer dollars. Mr. Cehula questioned why the Board of Supervisors did not require Rouse Chamberlin, the developer of Moorehall, to put in sidewalks on North Whitehorse Road. He stated that additionally Mortimer/Sparhawk, developers of the two lot subdivision on South Second Avenue, were also not required to put in sidewalks.
Mr. Morrisson advised that there were three sets of surveys completed. One was the comment cards that were completed at the public workshops on May 21, 2015 and February 2, 2016; the Mr. Cehula and Mrs. Glass surveys of residents; and the survey that as done by steering committee members. Mrs. Bowser stated that the survey conducted by the steering committee was neutral in nature. Mr. Morrisson stated that the steering committee surveyed sixteen streets. He stated that a balance was needed with the surveys and that is why the steering committee canvased streets.
Mr. Kevin Brooker of 34 South White Horse Road questioned if the purpose of the sidewalk was to keep pedestrians out of the street. Mr. Morrisson stated yes as well as sidewalks present another mode of transportation and health benefits. Mr. Brooker stated that it was baffling to him that the Township would want to expend money to put sidewalks on side streets in established neighborhoods. He stated that he understood placing sidewalks on Route 23.
Mr. Jack Urie of 95 Kleyona stated that the feasibility study is an idea on paper and he will reserve judgment. He stated that he has no problem with sidewalks along Route 23. He cautioned that the cost of the sidewalk projects will increase when engineering is factored in. He stated that there is a long way to go from feasibility study to construction of sidewalks and that even if the Board of Supervisors accepts the report, it is not even close to having a done deal. Mr. Tress stated that the feasibility study should be accurate.
Mr. Rahe stated that sidewalks on Pawlings Road connect to the Meadows at Valley Forge sidewalks. Mr. Morrisson advised that there are 17 miles of sidewalks currently in Schuylkill Township and half that number is in the Meadows. He stated that sidewalks are a connection to businesses and establishments along Route 23.
Mr. Reading stated that Route 23 may be the most problematic and expensive. Mr. Morrisson stated that the Township could apply for engineering grants first or apply for grants that would cover both engineering and construction costs together. Mr. Rahe stated that the Valley Forge Road and Pawlings Road sidewalks should be the focus.
On motion by Mr. Lombardi, seconded by Mr. Rahe, and passed, the Planning Commission recommended that the Board of Supervisors accept the Schuylkill Sidewalk Feasibility Study.
Phoenixville Regional Planning – Mr. English questioned if all the highlighted sections in the revised PRPC Intergovernmental Agreement were made by the Borough of Phoenixville. Mrs. Majewski advised that Mr. Jean Krack, the Borough Manager, thought that the Borough was being singled-out because the thresholds were too low in the agreement that was approved in 2015. Mr. Reading stated that the revised thresholds seem reasonable. Mr. Morrisson stated that the Township needs to look at the thresholds from its own perspective.
On motion by Mr. Quigg, seconded by Mr. Lombardi and passed, the Planning Commission recommended that the document be moved along to the Board of Supervisors.
Zoning Amendment – A proposed draft amendment to add retaining walls to the definition of Yard was put before the Planning Commission. Mr. Morrisson stated that the word “shall” should not be part of a definition since the word “shall” is a directive. Mr. Sartor stated that a retaining wall is currently not permitted in a yard, although accessory structures like shed and fences are allowed. He advised that he believed it was appropriate to use the five foot grading setback that is used in the Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance (SALDO) that would allow residential property owners to build a retaining wall if it makes sense to do. Mr. English stated that if there is a five foot setback in SALDO then why does the Township need a Zoning Ordinance amendment. Mr. Sartor stated that the Township cannot use SALDO ordinances with a building permit application. He advised that the retaining wall must be an integral part of the improvement to the property. Mr. English proposed making the setback one-half of the side yard setback. Mr. Rahe advised that he supported that idea.
The proposed revised definition: Yard - An open, unoccupied space on the same lot with a building or other structure or use, open and unobstructed by structures from the ground to the sky, except for permitted accessory structures, signs, fences and retaining walls, no closer than five (5) feet to property lines.
On motion by Mr. Quigg, seconded by Mr. Lombardi, and passed, the Planning Commission accepted the revised definition of Yard in the Zoning Ordinance and recommended that the Board of Supervisors adopt the amended ordinance.
There being no further business before the Planning Commission, the meeting was adjourned at 9:20 pm.
Mary R. Bird
Next Meeting: Wednesday, June 15, 2016