Chester County Planning Commission Comments Reflect the Views of Many Tredyffrin Residents … Will the Board of Supervisors Listen

As follow-up to my Community Matters post of July 20,Tredyffrin’s Proposed C1 Zoning Amendment Change … Where do we go from here’, here’s the latest installment in the continuing saga of the proposed C-1 zoning ordinance change to permit assisted living facilities. Although the proposed C-1 zoning ordinance change would permit assisted living as a ‘by-right’ use for all C-1 township properties, the focus is on the 1-acre Jimmy Duffy property on Lancaster Ave in Daylesford.

Tredyffrin Township’s proposed C-1 zoning ordinance amendment (below),

“A residential care facility for older persons providing permanent residential accommodations and/or assisted living facilities/services (and supplemental services) as defined in the applicable Pennsylvania state statutes, rules and regulations along with support services, which may include, but not limited to: personal care and health care services, medical services, skilled nursing, community facilities, and congregate dining facilities; provided that the property shall have direct access to an arterial street.”

was sent to the Chester County Planning Commission for review on July 5 and this past week Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission received their comments/remarks. (Click here to read the CCPC response).

Although we were told that is procedurally OK that the township sent the proposed zoning ordinance amendment to Chester County Planning Commission, it struck some of the residents (myself included) rather pre-emptive to ask for comments from the county in advance of our own Planning Commission giving their ‘thumbs-up or thumbs-down’ on the amendment.  As many Daylesford neighbors and other township residents have repeatedly commented, the proposed zoning ordinance amendment needs restrictions/requirements attached to it.

Reading the comments on Tredyffrin’s proposed C-1 zoning amendment change, it is apparent that the Chester County Planning Commission echos concerns of many township residents.  The official response from the county, offered the following comments in regards to the proposed C-1 zoning amendment change:

  1. The proposed zoning amendment does not appear to be consistent with the Township’s land use policies as currently written.
  2. The proposed zoning amendment does not appear to be consistent with the goals and objectives specified on page 67 of Tredyffrin’s Comprehensive plan.
  3. The proposed zoning amendment does not appear to be consistent with the purpose statement of the C-1 Commercial District, which, according to Section 208-64, is “designed to encourage and provide for attractive, company, retail convenience-type commercial development in locations close to the residents served”.
  4. Residential care facilities are currently permitted by conditional use in the IO Institutional Overlay District with specified bulk, height and buffer regulations.
  5. Other Chester County municipalities address assisted living facilities utilizing conditional use in medium to high-density residential or institutional zoning areas.
  6. Assisted living facilities are not found in any other Chester County Commercial zoning districts.

If I did not know better, it would seem as if the Chester County Planning Commission were audience members at Tredyffrin’s supervisor and Planning Commission meetings.  Every one of the points that the Chester County Planning Commission presented in their review of the township’s proposed C-1 ordinance amendment have been made repeatedly during the last several months by  township residents.

The Chester County Planning Commission summarizes their remarks by stating, “Tredyffrin Township should consider the comments contained in this review before taking action on the proposed zoning ordinance amendment.”  Well, … by their comments, it appears to me that Chester County Planning Commission is suggesting that assisted living facilities should not be in Tredyffrin’s C-1 zoning districts.  My understanding of their comments appears to suggest that clarity is needed from the township with respect to restrictions and regulations.

Here’s an interesting point to consider – although the Chester County Planning Commission looks to be in complete agreement with many of the township residents opposing the proposed C-1 zoning ordinance amendment change, their opinion will not decide the matter.  Members of Tredyffrin’s Planning Commission, and ultimately the Board of Supervisors, will have the final say on whether assisted living facilities become a ‘by-right use’  in all C-1 zoning districts.  Should the supervisors approve this proposed zoning ordinance amendment change, they will also decide whether to add any restrictions to the ordinance, such as bed density, height, buffer requirements, etc.

Although not a legal requirement for our Planning Commissioners or supervisors to give any credence to Chester County’s recommendations on the proposed C-1 zoning amendment change, I would hope that they seriously consider these comments in advance of the next Planning Commission meeting on August 16.

Ed Morris, the developer eyeing the Jimmy Duffy site for an assisted living facility, will need the C-1 zoning amendment change to move forward.  It was Denise Yarnoff, Morris’ attorney, who wrote the township’s proposed amendment change.  We learned at the last Planning Commission meeting that the applicant’s attorney agreed to add restrictions to the proposed amendment and re-submit for the August Planning Commission meeting.  We have been told that there is nothing wrong with the applicant’s attorney writing the proposed amendment but where does it end?  After Yarnoff created the draft amendment, I think it needs to be the responsibility of our Planning Commissioners and/or township staff to add any additional requirements or restrictions.  I am troubled that the re-write of Tredyffrin Township’s proposed zoning ordinance amendment is in the hands of the applicant’s attorney … just doesn’t feel right to me.

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  1. Pattye:

    Thanks for sharing the Chester County PC’s response to the C-1 zoning change. The DNA was pleased that they agreed C-1 is NOT the place for Assisted Living use. It will be interesting to hear how the Tredyffrin PC & BOS weigh in on the contents of the letter in upcoming meetings.

    There’s much to deliberate…and there is much at stake. We are hopeful the PC/BOS will ultimately decide they’re in agreement with the Chesco PC.

    Until then, we appreciate the support received from many Township residents. We hope to see you on Thursday, 8/16 at the PC meeting to help us oppose the C-1 zoning change!

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  2. John says this:
    “And why are some on the PC and BOS so eager to get this done? And why is the township manager, the soon to be ex-township manager so eager for this?
    Other than the applicant, his counsel, a few on the PC, the township manager and a few on the BOS – nobody is really for this project.”

    That sort of covers both sides?

    I have never understood who was propelling this process forward. Obviously the applicant and his attorneys were, but who was winking at them to move it ahead is unclear, and moot. I believe the concept (if not the process) was not ill-conceived.
    Since this is ALL purely conjecture, I speculate that some PC members who know this is a dead site were trying to advance a project with what they see as less intrusive and even a compatible use for it. I also think they relied prematurely on the developer’s claim that the neighbors were supporting it.

    Ultimately, I think that C-1 is probably not the right zoning for that parcel, so anyone willing to try to convert it to another use was likely to get some initial support.

    Based on what they built in Ardmore, the amenties of this developer are compatible with the look of that site. I think the Township Manager probably feels the pressure of a declining tax base and would like to turn these empty properties back to revenue generators. I think the legal questions are obvious, and thank John for his thorough explanation.
    Regardless, something has to go there some day. As I’ve said before — I hope the DNA are either reaching out to find an angel to rescue the site with something they want or at least a developer they trust.
    Ultimately, the price of the site may well decline to the level that an approved use that does not improve the site and is incompatible with the adjacent properties will end up as your new neighbors (storage facility, convenience store)

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  3. I continue to come back to the BOS not even being involved yet. This is ALL on the PC for now. As for sending it to the Planning Commission, I lay that squarely on Mimi and can see her doing it without BOS approval.

    Yes, the BOS could stand up and say that they won’t support a C1 change now, but that would also circumvent the correct process and could be actionable.

    I see no real support among the BOS to support this (except maybe JD.) Right now, this is being pushed by the PC and I think it dies at the BOS level.

    Once again, this is one of those times where having a fully independent PC (unlike every other municipality) means the public has no true recourse as they are unelected.

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    From The West Reply:

    John —

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear.

    Yes, to do a township-wide change to zoning the BOS has to sign-off on it.

    No, to do a variance, etc. to the property, the PC has final say.

    My point was that this project (not the twp-wide zoning change) is still before the PC and they have control right now.

    I know the developer is looking for something that requires a township wide change. I still think only JD is firmly behind this – I haven’t gotten that from Kristen. I see absolutely no one else clamoring to do it and believe at least two are dead against. Even if it were 2-2 right now, I don’t think JD has the friendship/respect to get the other 2 votes he’d need.

    I don’t feel bad for any developer who does things believing that someone is doing him a “favor.” The developer KNOWS the procedure and while he may have been hopeful that things were “wired in” that is always only supposition — until the real procedure starts, no one knows. If he chose to close his eyes and believe, that’s his fault.

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  4. Why is the township mgr so involved in this amendment change I thought she put in her resignation. Patty, you said that from a legal standpoint, the BOS did not have to follow the recommendations of the county planning commission, but how could they not? The advice made sense to me!

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