MEETING DATE: May 23, 2019 -- Public Work Session

Duly advertised in The Pottstown Mercury and posted at

The Schuylkill Township Board of Supervisors held their public work session on Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 7:00 p.m.  This is an informal meeting to discuss township related business with the public without making any motions or voting on any discussed items.  The work session was called to order at 7:00 p.m. by Board Chair Martha Majewski.

The working meeting’s agenda was a review of certain Township Zoning Ordinance Changes and/or Improvements to Chapter 370, Subdivision and Land Development Changes/Improvements-Chapter 320 and Traffic Impact Fee/Act 209 Study.  In attendance were Supervisors Mark Donovan, Susan Guerette, Martha Majewski, and Jim Morrisson, Township Manager, E.J. Mentry, Township Solicitor, William Brennan, Esq., and Zoning Officer, Kimberly Yocom.  Supervisor Fred Parry was excused from this meeting.  

Conservation Subdivision Overlay: Mr. Mentry informed the Board that the Schuylkill Township Planning Commission voted 4-1 in favor of the new overlay.  The SALDO and Zoning draft ordinance amendments are to be drafted by Ann Hutchinson of Natural Lands.  While this task was not included in the original proposal to review the Township’s ordinance, Ms. Hutchinson has agreed to prepare the draft ordinance at no additional charge under the William Penn Foundation grant.  Ms. Hutchinson tentatively expects to have the draft SALDO and Zoning amendments completed by the end of June 2019.  The draft ordinances will be reviewed by the Township Solicitor prior to the Board forwarding the drafts to the Chester County Planning Commission (“CCPC”) for review.

Zoning Ordinance Changes:  Mr. Mentry reported that the Zoning Officer and the Township Solicitor are working on the drafts for the accessory structures, sign requirements and commercial district setbacks amendments for the Board’s review.  The goal is to incorporate these amendments with the Conservation Subdivision Overlay zoning ordinance changes and submit to the CCPC as one review.

Impact Fees: Mr. Mentry advised the Board that in Pennsylvania, only two (2) impact fees may be imposed by municipalities; those being a Recreation Fee and a Traffic Impact Fee. 

Recreation Fees-In-Lieu - The Township already has a Recreation Fee-in-Lieu (§320-27) in place but the Board may wish to consider updating the 1992 Open Space, Recreation and Environmental Resources Plan.  Depending on how comprehensive an update the Board wishes to undertake, it will cost between $15,000 for a quick update up to $60,000 for a complete re-write.  There may be grants available for this update.  Some things to consider before incurring this expense may be the fact that the township is substantially developed and may not reap much benefit from this fee; the Township must have a dedicated account for recreation fees-expenditures are restricted, and our current code is well-written and only needs to incorporate minor updates to reflect changes in state laws and Township development since 1992.  Our current recreation fee ordinance only applies to residential development; if the Board wishes to expand it to include commercial development a comprehensive update would be required.  Mr. Morrisson expressed reservations about the amount of land required to be set aside as open space in the current plan; his opinion is that 350 s.f. per resident is too small.  He also has concerns relating to the Conservation Subdivision Overlay currently in development; the Township should ensure that one plan does not cancel out the other.  Ms. Guerette questioned whether the return on investment would justify spending thousands of dollars on updating our current plan.  Mr. Mentry explained that an update would bring our code into compliance with state law. Discussion ensued.  The Board instructed Mr. Mentry to pursue the questions of applicability and feasibility of updating the 1992 plan with Ms. Ann Hutchinson of Natural Lands.

Traffic Impact Fees (“TIF”) (Act 209 Study) – Mr. Mentry explained that TIF is more common in municipalities with major interchanges or an anticipated influx of development.  The presence of Route 23 in the Township would make us a candidate but without much potential development, the cost of the study may not be cost-effective.  In order to levy TIF, the Township must conduct an Act 209 Study, the first step of which is to identify the area(s) it anticipates growth will occur.  This will determine the cost and scope of the study.  The study is usually a 1-2 year process and, depending on the scope, would cost between $50,000 - $100,000.  Ms. Guerette questioned whether there was a formula the Township could use to calculate potential revenue.  The Board instructed Mr. Mentry to research this question with the Township Engineer as well as other municipalities currently levying TIF.

Tree Removal/Replacement Ordinance – Mr. Mentry asked the Board to consider what would be the intent of a tree removal/replacement ordinance; would it be geared towards individual property owners removing trees; for new developments; or for both?  Additionally, would this be under the Zoning Ordinance or the SALDO – either would require separate changes and standards.  Mr. Mentry mentioned that Natural Lands was working on updates and recommendations for East Whiteland Township’s tree ordinance; perhaps Schuylkill Township could piggyback off theirs.  Ann Hutchinson has already mentioned that Natural Lands could review our ordinance and provide a recommendation at no charge, but that such a review and recommendation likely would not happen until July.  Mr. Morrisson advised proceeding with caution on this and mentioned that other municipalities have had issues with similar ordinances.  Mr. Morrisson also asked the Board to consider private property rights and how this proposed ordinance would mesh with those rights.  Ms. Yocom questioned how such an ordinance would be enforced.  Discussion ensued.  Mr. Mentry said he would reach out to East Pikeland Township regarding their tree ordinance, as well as follow up with Ann Hutchison, and report back to the Board at the July work session.

Stormwater Management – Simplified Approach – Mr. Mentry informed the Board that the Simplified Approach was an option when Schuylkill Township enacted its Act 167 Ordinance, but the Township chose not to include it.  The Act 167 Ordinance is designed to discourage development, even on already built private property.  Currently, the Township’s stormwater ordinance requires engineered plans and municipal review for any improvement which increases impervious surfaces to a cumulative total of over 1,000 s.f.  The simplified approach increases the impervious cumulative total to 2,000 s.f. (designated as a ‘small project”) and utilizes a simplified permit, making it easier and less expensive for residents.  “Small projects” using the simplified approach must still be reviewed by the Township Engineer.  Municipalities can opt to add the Simplified Approach to their existing ordinance; it would require an amendment and certification to DEP.  Changes to a municipal Act 167 Ordinance are allowed provided the changes do not make the ordinance less stringent than the model ordinance.  Mr. Mentry commented that Chester County is starting an update this year to the County’s Watershed Plan and Act 167 Plan (Ordinance).  The update is being made to reflect changes in the MS4 program requirements and all municipal ordinances will have to be updated by September 30, 2022 to reflect the new MS4 requirements.  The County will be sending Act 167 plan update information to all municipalities within the next couple of months.  Mr. Mentry said that the Board may choose to amend the Township’s ordinance now to incorporate the simplified approach, but the Township would still have to go through the County review/adoption process again once the County update is completed.  The other option is to wait and do one amendment to the Act 167 ordinance in about 2 years.  The Board instructed the Zoning Officer and Township Manager to begin a review of the simplified method and how the Township might best incorporate it into its Act 167 Ordinance.

Streets Revisions to SALDO §320-22 – Mr. Mentry reported that the Planning Commission made no recommendations or comments on the proposed amendment to §320-22.  He recommended to the Board that this amendment be included with the Conservation Subdivision SALDO amendment for Chester County Planning Commission review and for public notice; this would expedite the review process and save on advertising costs.

Chapter 303 Solid Waste – Ms. Yocom indicated that this chapter of the Zoning Ordinance is out of date and ineffective and recommended it be updated.  The Board instructed the Zoning Officer to begin a review and present her recommended changes at a future date.  It was suggested that she work with the Township’s Recycling Coordinator, Mr. Jim Shaughnessy, on any revisions.

The next work session date is June 27, 2019 at 7:00 p.m.

The meeting adjourned at 9:10 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,

Madeline Harbison
Township Secretary