Date – June 21, 2012

Discussion Continues on Tredyffrin’s Proposed Stormwater Overlay District Ordinance

A continuation of the Public Hearing on the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District ordinance followed this week’s Board of Supervisors Meeting.  Click here for the June 2012 revised ordinance.

A group of 35 resident volunteers, have been working with the township staff and the potential developer of the Richter tract, Joe Duckworth, on revisions to the proposed new zoning ordinance.  (For earlier discussions and specifics of Duckworth’s proposed plans for the property, enter Richter in the search tool on the home page of Community Matters.)

As part of the proposed overlay district, large storm water basins would be included on the Walker Road side of the property – access to the property would be from Old Eagle School and Swedesford Road.  Although Duckworth has not submitted official plans, his proposal contains twin carriage houses and townhouses on the property for this property.

The resident volunteers, the Working Group, in conjunction with Duckworth and township staff, has significantly updated the original ordinance.  Tom Colman presented comments from the Working Group, and Jeff Kosterich offered specific comments from the storm water sub-group.   Based on their remarks, Colman and Kosterich suggest that although the updated draft ordinance is more satisfactory, residents feel that further modifications required before it should pass.

The Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District ordinance would be applicable to all areas in the township located in the Trout Creek Watershed.   The Working Group was composed primarily of Glenhardie residents.  The Richter tract is located in the Glenhardie neighborhood and because Duckworth’s development would most affect this section of the township, they are the ones with the louder voices on this issue.  Although different zoning changes required, in some respects, the proposed storm water overlay district ordinance is no different from how the proposed C-1 zoning change which would allow an assisted living facility in the Daylesford section of the township.  Although both the proposed Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District and the C-1 assisted living zoning change are tied to specific projects (Richter tract and Ed Morris’ assisted living project) should these zoning changes be approved, they are applicable to all the township.  My point … all residents owe it to themselves to be ‘up to speed’ on these two important proposed zoning changes, regardless if you live in the Glenhardie or Daylesford areas of the township.

As the designated representative for the Working Group, Colman asked that three specific issues be considered in conjunction with the proposed Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District ordinance.

  1. Accountability Measures:  The residents would like assurances that once the storm water basins are designed and implemented that there is accountability for ongoing maintenance and continued functionality.  They suggest that the township adopt an official policy for accountability to prevent the risk to residents of failed storm water basins after installation. It was reported that Duckworth has agreed to an accountability policy that would be applicable to all developers in the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District.  I agree that there should be a township policy (and enforcement); otherwise why bother to require storm water basins in any future land development plans.
  1. Communication/Notification Policies, Practices and Procedures on Zoning-impact Matters:  The conclusion from the Working Group members was that the Township is too lax on communicating information to those residents most impacted by zoning issues.  If you recall, many of the Glenhardie neighbors were not notified of the proposed Richter plan development project which caused much unnecessary angst in the community.  Similarly, we have seen the same lack of communication in the proposed assisted living project and C-1 zoning change in the Daylesford neighborhood of the township.  When there is a neighborhood directly impacted by a zoning change there should be specific guidelines for notification and an explanation of the process for the residents.  Many township residents are not aware of the processes required for land development plans and zoning changes that may be required for projects in the township.  Communicating the Township process and the relationship of the Planning Commission, Zoning Hearing Board, supervisors and township staff could be helpful to residents.
  1. Storm Water Action Team: The Working Group suggests that the township develop a plan to address the township’s storm water problems.  As Colman explained, “Too many areas of Tredyffrin are enduring repeated damage, hardship and risk to life and property when we get even modest rainfall.  It’s time to identify specific, measurable objectives, timelines, resources, and responsibilities to address this problem in a proactive way … This is not an issue like shade trees or pothole repairs; lives are at risk.  We need a real plan, and we need it now.”

Traditionally there has been a real reluctance in this township to increase taxes, so it was interesting to note that the Working Group offered their own suggestion for funding storm water solutions.  On a personal note, I don’t know how much longer the ‘no tax increase’ mantra can continue around here … due to increasing expenses and decreasing revenues, supervisors have been forced in recent budgets cycles to cut township staff  (among other expense reductions) in an attempt to avoid a tax increase.  As residents, we have watched as township services have continued to decline.  I use Wilson Farm Park as an example … once the jewel of the township and an award-winning municipal park design, it is very sad to see how overgrown it now looks. Wilson Farm Park’s current condition is no doubt a direct result of the personnel and funding cuts to the Public Works department in recent Township budget cycles.

In the case of the proposed Richter development, the developer (Duckworth) indicates a willingness to pay for the cost of necessary storm water improvement.  However, the storm water problem and costly solutions is more significant in the Township than could be resolved through the development of the Richter tract. The Working Group suggests that the approximate $250K yearly tax revenue from the proposed Richter tract development go towards the funding of a substantial bond issue.

Personally, I would like to see the supervisors create a resident volunteer group to review the idea for a township storm water utility.  Operating much like an electric or water utility, the storm water utility would collect fees related to the control and treatment of storm water that could be used to fund a municipal storm water management program in the township.  Based on Jeff Kosterich’s remarks that a number of engineers and storm water professionals living in the Glenhardie community volunteered their expertise on the storm water sub-committee, why not continue to tap into these valuable volunteer resources?  Our township is rich in its wealth of accomplished, educated residents; why not utilize volunteers  to help solve the storm water funding  problem.

The next step for the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay ordinance process is a review of the ordinance update by the Planning Commission.  My understanding is that the ordinance then moves to the Chester County Planning Commission for review and comments.  Following the county review, the ordinance returns to the township supervisors, presumably in time for the July Board of Supervisors meeting for further discussion and possible vote.

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