The Schuylkill Township Planning Commission held their regularly scheduled meeting at 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, October 21, 2015 at the Township hall. Members of the Planning Commission present were Mr. Jim Reading, Mr. Morris Quigg, Mr. Eric Rahe, Mr. Michael Bauer, Mr. Lombardi and Mr. Curt English. Mr. Reading chaired the meeting. Also in attendance were Mr. John Sartor, Township Engineer from Gilmore & Associates as well as Mr. Parry, Mr. Morrisson, Mr. Handforth and Mrs. Majewski from the Board of Supervisors. Mr. William Brennan, the Township Solicitor, was also in attendance.
On motion by Mr. Quigg and seconded by Mr. Rahe, and passed, the Planning Commission approved the minutes of September 16, 2015.
Valley Park Subdivision, Emergency Access – Mr. Morrisson stated that the Valley Park land development plan shows a 15’ wide emergency access to the Anderson Farm development on Valley Park lots 23 and 24. Although both lots are shown as part of the overall plan, they were not sold to Bentley Homes (Bentley), the developer, but retained by Mr. & Mrs. Donald Pasquale and subsequently sold by the Pasquales to the current property owners. Mr. Morrisson stated that Bentley has taken the position that they do not have the right or authority to install the emergency access to Anderson Farm. Mr. Morrisson advised that if the entrance to either development was blocked, the residents would not be able to leave the development. He also cited the International Fire Code Appendix D that states that residential developments over a certain number of homes should have two exits. The Township adopted the code in 2011 well after the final plans for Valley Park were approved and recorded at the Chester County Recorder of Deeds.
Mr. Sartor stated that Bentley is currently working through construction items to close out the development. Once that is completed, they will want release of escrow for the project. No escrow was posted for construction of an emergency access since they did not actually own the lots.
Mr. Morrisson stated that there is access for stormwater management maintenance between two lots elsewhere in the development and that access is shown as a detail on the land development plan for pavers and a curb cut. He stated that it is logical to use those same details for the emergency access.
A question arose as to who would pay for the installation of the emergency access. Mr. Reading questioned why it should be taxpayers’ dollars to fix the issue. He stated that without a detail on the plan it did not seem to make sense to pursue.
Mr. Brennan advised that litigation would be required to make Bentley install the improvement. With no detail on the plan and no escrow in place for the work to be completed, the Township would need other evidence to succeed. Mr. Brennan advised that a settlement agreement in 2001 between the Sassos (the owner of the property that is now Anderson Farm) and the Pasquales show that the emergency access was to be constructed by the Pasquales heirs, successors and/or assigns. He stated that the Township could approach the Rileys and Brassingtons to pay for the construction of the emergency access but the Township should expect the property owners to fight it. The Township could condemn the portion of each property for the emergency access and force the access to be constructed. The paver cost would be approximately $65,000, in the alternative, the installation of a stone bed would be $80,000 and the cost of litigation could be upwards of $50,000. Mr. Brennan advised that International Fire Code is not a persuasive argument especially since it was adopted years after the development was approved.
Mr. Morrisson stated that the Chester County Planning Commission guidelines were in place at the time the development was being approved by the Township. He advised that those guidelines state that any development of more than 24 homes should have two access points. Mr. Morrisson stated that these guidelines are to protect the health, safety and welfare of the residents.
It was brought up that there are other single access developments in the Township that have more than 24 homes that do not have an emergency access. Mr. Morrisson stated that there have been inconsistences with past Board of Supervisors and they should have addressed a second access at the time of review for those developments. Mr. Rahe countered that there may have been other factors when past Boards were reviewing and ultimately approving those developments.
Mr. Handforth stated that he has spoken to both the Fire Chief and Police Chief and they have stated that an emergency access is not needed. He advised that without curb cuts on Anderson Farm Road (Anderson Farm) and Waverly Circle (Valley Park) the fire trucks would be damaged trying to drive over the granite curbs and the fire company will not use the access without something to stabilize the emergency access area.
It was questioned why this matter was before the Planning Commission. Mr. Morrisson stated that it was a planning matter and in the purview of the commission. Mr. English stated that the land development plan provides no detail for the construction of the emergency access; the fire code ordinances were adopted in 2011, too late for Valley Park; and Bentley did not own the lots. He advised that there are plenty of cul-de-sacs with more homes and no second access, emergency or otherwise. Mr. Rahe stated that an emergency access may not provide a greater measure of safety and it is not warranted.
Mr. Morrisson stated that neither he nor anyone from the Township has approached the Rileys or the Brassingtons regarding the emergency access. The matter was concluded with no general support for the issue.
There being no further business for discussion, the Planning Commission adjourned the meeting at 8:50 p.m.
Mary R. Bird
Next Meeting: November 18