Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District Ordinance Passes 4-3

I guess ‘7’ was the magic number for the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District.  Following the Board of Supervisors meeting last night, the seventh public hearing was held for the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District ordinance.  With a standing room only crowd, a dozen or more residents spoke against the ordinance. Their arguments primarily targeted the stormwater issue, feeling that the language of the ordinance was not strong enough.  There is also concern about the enforcement and maintenance of the stormwater basins by the township.  Another concern cited by a couple of residents was the possible impact the development of the Richter property may have on historic preservation, believing that the property may have served as a burial ground in the 1700’s.

Laurie Elliott, a Glenhardie resident, spoke in favor of the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District and the development of the property by Arcadia Land Company.  Elliott supports the development believing that this is a step in improving the stormwater issues.  We know that it has taken over a hundred years for the stormwater problem to get to this level and it is going to take a major effort by the township, developers and residents to reduce damage caused by flooding and runoff.

Arcadia Land Company’s plan for the 36 acre Richter property site includes townhouses and carriage houses on the 26 acres zoned residential.  It is unclear how the 10 acres that is zoned ‘professional’ will be developed.  Jason Duckworth, president of Arcadia spoke at the public hearing, assuring residents that the development plan would include necessary infrastructure to help the stormwater problem.  According to Duckworth the cost for the required infrastructure and stormwater basins is $4 million; a cost absorbed by the developer versus Tredyffrin’s taxpayers.  However, some residents believe that rather than helping the current stormwater situation, the development of the Richter tract will actually increase the problems.  Arcadia Land Company may have taken a big step forward with the supervisor vote last night but I think they may be facing an uphill battle with some of the residents.

After seven public hearings, at nearly midnight the vote to approve the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District ordinance was 4-3.  Supervisors Mike Heaberg, Michelle Kichline, John DiBuonaventuro and Kristen Mayock voted in favor and Phil Donahue, EJ Richter and Paul Olson opposed the ordinance.  As I previously said, if the supervisors touted the C-1 zoning change as an economic development move, I did not see how it was possible that they could have voted against the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay ordinance.  From an economic standpoint, the development of the 36-acre Richter site will clearly benefit the township’s financial coffers.  However, I remain unconvinced about much revenue will be generated from the assisted living facility on the 1-acre commercial site at Jimmy Duffy’s.

Although I am pleased that so many residents were involved in the Trout Creek overlay ordinance, I am not sure why there needed to be seven public hearings.  Except for maybe the development of Chesterbrook, I wonder how many times there have been that many public hearings on a specific topic.  On the other side, the C-1 ordinance change only had one public hearing, one extreme to another.

I do have a lingering concern in regards to the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay ordinance. With the approval of this overlay district, which will presumably encourage redevelopment projects (beyond the Richter project), there appears an open issue on the enforcement and maintenance of the stormwater basins. From prior public hearings, we have learned that there is currently not sufficient township staff to review the existing stormwater basins.  Going forward, how will this be handled?

I asked Tom Colman, the Glenhardie resident who co-chaired the citizen-working group with township supervisor Phil Donahue, about his thoughts on the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay ordinance process and its outcome last night.  Coleman was pleased that so many residents were involved and attended the meeting.  He remarked, “I am immensely proud of the work done by all in educating the community and providing remarkable research to the process.”   I don’t speak for others, but certainly on a personal level, it has been extremely educational to better understand the township’s stormwater and runoff issues and I thank all community members that volunteered their time and expertise in this process.

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  1. Other then increased property value after development (therefore increasing real estate tax revenue) what other revenue increases can either development project produce for the township?

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    Helpful Informant Reply:

    Permit Fee Revenue as well as Sewer Revenue will increase drastically as well. The permit fees will be more of a shot in the arm for one year but it will be a extreme shot in the arm. Sewer Revenue will increase $250.00 for each house built. The other big increase revenue is the Transfer Tax. Each house sold will bring in 1.0% into the township, 1.0% into the state, 0.5% into the School District

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    CJ of the Main Line Reply:

    Thanks for the info. The sewer revenue will increase, but I would imagine the cost to operate sewer for the area will increase as well, I’m not sure what the net would be there.
    The transfer tax will be nice for the township. Maybe they can build another park.

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    Township Reader Reply:

    How many kids do you think can live here? WIll we have to build onto Valley Forge Elementary, or redictrict into New Eagle? WIll this be like the Greens at Waynesborough? Will it be 55 plus? These are the questions our township rarely considers…after all — they get 1% transfer tax. The school district gets 1/2%. Would love to know if this was a point of discussion?

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    That would be 1% to the state, 0.5% to the township and 0.5% to the schools. New development (unless it is a 55 plus development) is always a “loser” for the schools. New homes typically bring in, on average, somewhere in the range of one to two additional children into the schools per home. The transfer tax received by the schools is not enough to cover the capital cost of school expansion and the yearly RE taxes don’t cover the cost of hiring additional employees.

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    Carla Williams Reply:

    Keith:

    According to the Tredyffrin Township website, the Township gets a 1% transfer tax – plus 1% to Pa and 1/2% to TESD. Total is 2 1/2%. That’s what I have paid on Township real estate transactions.

    Township Reader Reply:

    Our township gets 1%. “First Class” or whatever.

    Township Reader Reply:

    Sorry — it submitted too quickly.
    I actually did a “white paper” on why the school district in this community would be ahead financially if the district acquired land instead of a developer. The township gets 1% (Easttown only gets the 1/2%) but they have this tendency to not want to raise taxes ever, and rely on transfer and interim taxes. Easttown developed an area called The Greens at Waynesborough which effectively required expansion at 3 schools because of the redistricting that came out of it. And they did not require the developer (Toll Brothers) to dedicate any land for school use….there was significant acreage there that the school would have very much appreciated as dedicated land for fields.) At least when Chesterbrook was built, there was land carved out for the district. Yes Keith — it’s where I coined the phrase for property owners who have kids in schools as “tax eaters”….only a house with no children is a taxpaying home. And when the townships approve these land development plans with homes — any number — the cost to the taxpayers is never immediately obvious, but it’s there. $500,000 townhouse….assessed likely around $300,000…but let’s say it’s asssessed at full market value. TREDYFFRIN taxes: Co: 3.9650 Twp: 2.3080 District: 19.2628 Transfer tax : $5,000 to township, 2,500 to schools. Annual tax revenue to schools is ~$1,982 county, $1,200 township, and $9,650. One student costs more than $10,000 (way more actually)….and I don’t believe a single home adds to the cost of either the county or the township. It DOES add to the cost of a school district if there are kids inside. So EVERYONE subsidizes the cost of a new home to a new family.
    By the way — this DOES influence the appeal of an assisted living property. No cost to the schools, therefore no subsidizing the cost of kids.

    I’m not saying this is a problem, but it is most definitely an issue that the township NEVER considers when approving land for development. EVER. And yet — it’s the school district that has a state limit on tax revenue increaes.

    Keith Knauss Reply:

    Carla, I stand corrected. Tredyffrin and Coatesville are the exception to the 2% transfer tax in Chester County. As stated above, Tredyffrin township collects 1%, the state 1% and the school district 0.5%. The 5 townships that make up the UCF district only levy a 0.5% tax.
    .
    TR, I always stated that I’d have to live many, many years in my home to pay off the education cost of my two children. Two kids x 13 years of education x $12K (local cost) per year = $312K. I pay $5K per year in RE taxes. Let’s see, it’s going to take 62 years. Twenty-six down; 36 to go. I don’t think I’ll make it. Many thanks all those who helped subsidize my family’s education.

    flyersfan Reply:

    keith, subsidy is the lifeline of public school education. WHen we have young family, older neighbors who have sent kids through school on a “subsidy” pay back..

    I realize you understand that. Recent school board negotiations bring to mind how important it is to control costs

  2. This vote by the BOS is another example of the problems associated with having a fully independent – and unaccountable – Planning Commission.

    The BOS is bound by the municipal planning code (as is the PC). However, unlike every other municipality in the state where the BOS can make changes to plans, fight for residents’ views more strongly, bargain with developers, etc., our Board can only vote yea or nay to what is presented to them by the PC. And, if they vote nay on items that are clearly within the law, the township faces lawsuits.

    All the while, the Planning Commission that is making the base decisions throughout the process goes merrily along and faces no accountability from the public.

    It’s time to make Tredyffrin like every other municipality in the state again and give final control back to the BOS — a group that DOES answer to voters/residents.

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  3. FTW — How do we do that? With all the noise about the St. Davids decision, everyone was cowed into letting the PC operate independently. Had they changed the rules then, everyone was SURE it would be for the benefit of St. Davids — not the benefit of the residents. In fact, without this connection to accountability — vote for the people who make these decisions….having now attended a few PC meetings, it actually scares me those folks are setting policy.

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    Trisha Larkin Reply:

    Couldn’t agree more Township Reader! After attending several PC meetings during the C-1 issue, it was frightening to see some of these policy makers at work.

    For instance:

    * When specific zoning questions were asked during June/July/August meetings, the PC turned to the ATTORNEY seeking to CHANGE zoning, versus confirming policy via Matt Baumann (TT Zoning Officer)! Really? That seems pretty dysfunctional! Who’s in charge here people??

    * When deciding on restrictions for the C-1 ordinance amendment, the PC felt it was perfectly acceptable to ask the developer & attorney what MINIMUM restrictions could they enforce but STILL BUILD THE PROJECT??
    Geez, thanks~ we taxpayers and residents really appreciate that you’ve got OUR backs!!

    * The coup de grace? One member FELL ASLEEP during the July meeting. He wasn’t dozing off, he was out cold! Nice.

    I’m often reminded these people are volunteers and they don’t make a dime for their time. Understood. But really, when you FALL ASLEEP during important policy changes, how are we (THOSE MOST AFFECTED) by the outcome supposed to feel?

    Disrespected comes to mind.

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    From The West Reply:

    How does the Board take back control from the PC? I am not sure of procedure, but if they gave it away through some procedural action, I am sure they can take it back.

    The problem is, will people support this action. As you say yourself, during the St. Davids decision, everyone wanted the PC to keep power; during the C-1 decision, a lot of the same people didn’t want them to.

    If this came to a vote, where would these people be? In my mind, they have been on both sides of this issue.

    For me, it comes back to accountability: the PC has none. That’s just wrong.

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  4. FF (and Keith)
    We can call it subsidizing, but it is in fact the social contract for the communiity. It is an important reason to pay attention to costs because people whose kids are done are often quoted as “I paid for my kids to go through school” when in fact Keith’s example is very right — It takes 2-3 years in your house per child (on average) per year in school….so 12 years of school takes 25-35 years of paying taxes. When all these schools were being built in the 60s, about 65-75% of the homes in the community had kids in them…a bigger stake in the outcome. WIth the demographic change, we have more houses now and the same number of kids but a smaller percentage of homes with children.

    Anyway……it’s why every single time a house changes from no kids to kids costs us all — but that’s the normal cycle. Fact is, we have added all kinds of housing stock since the schools in this community were built — and each time we approve NEW construction on a previously undeveloped lot, we have added significantly to the cost of doing business for the school district — where the state has capped the allowable increases.

    Makes a lot of sense, right?

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