Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District

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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Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District Petition and Response from Developer Joe Duckworth

It is anticipated that tonight’s seventh public hearing for the proposed Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District ordinance will likely result in a vote by the Board of Supervisors.  Based on the supervisor vote (6-1) to approve the C-1 zoning ordinance change to allow assisted living facilities, the vote on the Trout Creek overlay district will be interesting.  As I have previously written, economic development was touted as a primary consideration by supervisors for the C-1 zoning ordinance change.  This ‘economic’ decision was based on the proposed assisted living facility on the old Jimmy Duffy catering site, which has approximately 1-acre of C-1 commercial and 1-acre of R-1 residential property.

 Using the logic of promoting economic development, it would appear that the supervisor decision tonight on the Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay district ordinance should be easy.  The Richter tract is 36 acres located at Swedesford, Old Eagle School and Walker Roads in the Glenhardie/Wayne area of the township.   Currently, twenty-six acres of the property is zoned R-1 residential district and the remaining ten acres is zoned ‘professional’ district. There has been much public debate from the neighbors

 At the previous Trout Creek Stormwater Overlay District ordinance public hearing on July 16, there was discussion of a petition circulating the Glenhardie neighborhood, which opposed the zoning change.  The language used in petition questions can often determine its results.   However, can the results of the petition influence decision-making within the government? At the last public hearing, the petition organizers told the supervisors that would continue to collect signatures until the next public hearing.  Joe Duckworth, Arcadia Land Company, the possible developer for the Richter property, provided me with the Trout Creek ordinance petition (bold) and a copy of his responses.  Duckworth’s responses, in italics, appear under each of the petition statements.

  Trout Creek Overlay Ordinance (TCOO) Petition

We, the undersigned, representing our neighborhood, are opposed to the proposed Trout Creek Overlay Ordinance and the resulting rezoning of the Richter tract (36 acre property which is bordered by Old Eagle School Road, Walker Road and Swedesford Road) for the following reasons:

  • Current R-1 zoning has been in place since 1939. The proposed ordinance would allow the developer to build 100+ homes instead of the 24-25 it is zoned for. This extra development would increase the amount of storm water coming off of the property, contributing to an already serious situation. It would also allow housing out of character with our neighborhood (i.e. single family homes as opposed to a mixture of twin homes and townhomes, the latter of which would have a height of 45’).

1) For 95% of storm events (2-year/24 hour storm and below), all of the storm water generated by runoff from the development will be required by the proposed overlay ordinance to be held on the site. This will reduce the amount of water flowing downstream NOT increase downstream flow, since there are currently no storm water controls on the site in its existing condition.

2) Townhomes and carriage twin homes will provide new housing product to longtime residents of Tredyffrin as well as new residents who would like to live in Tredyffrin Township, but are unable to find a modern home that meets their needs. These low maintenance townhouse and carriage home communities are highly desired by the empty nesters and retirees across the region and will improve Tredyffrin’s ability to attract and retain residents to the Township.

3) Townhomes and Carriage homes provide an appropriate land use transition between the existing large scale commercial development along Swedesford Road and the existing single family homes of the Glenhardie neighborhood.

  • The proposed ordinance promises more storm water controls in exchange for increased housing density. The proposed increased controls are minimal, at best, and the downstream impact is unknown. Citizens groups have asked that the developer be held accountable for the measured performance of the storm water system, and these requests have been ignored.

1) Tredyffrin Township has spent years conducting several studies of the Trout Creek watershed. The 2010 Trout Creek Study, by the Township’s independent consultant, identified the Richter site as a great location to provide a regional storm water facility, but the costs for land acquisition and construction of such a facility were out of reach for the Township, as they are already spending significant funds to implement other proposed storm water improvement within the watershed. In order to have a significant impact on flooding in the watershed, many improvements must take place. The Trout Creek Overlay Ordinance will incentivize property owners who want to develop/redevelop certain properties in the watershed to build facilities on their sites that will improve the existing storm water problems within the watershed.

2) Proposed overlay ordinance will require of the Richter property: a) a reduction in volume of stormwater coming from the 36 acre site (100% of run-off for 95% of storm events to be held on the site) AND a 20% reduction in the rate of flow of storm water passing under Walker Road.

3) In addition, the proposed improvements at the Richter site will eliminate flooding of Walker Road for all storm events up to and including the 100-year storm.

4) No plans will be approved by the Township until the developer has met the requirements of the proposed overlay ordinance.

5) No plans will be approved by the Township until a highly detailed maintenance and operations manual that includes on-going storm water monitoring is approved by the Township. This is a requirement of the proposed overlay ordinance.

  • The proposed ordinance will assure the destruction of historically sensitive land including a burial ground active since the 1690’s, which contains the graves of the founding families of Tredyffrin Township, 300 continental soldiers who served at Valley Forge, 1777-78, and over seventy African-Americans, buried in a community cemetery at a time when African-Americans were not permitted such burials.

1) The existing Valley Meeting cemetery and adjacent meditation garden are both located next to the Richter site and will not be impacted by any development on the Richter site.

2)  There are currently NO confirmed burial locations outside of the Valley Meeting cemetery or on the Richter site.

3) As part of the development process, the developer intends to further investigate the existence of burials outside of the Valley Meeting cemetery and IF burial locations should be confirmed on the Richter site, the developer will deal with them in an appropriate and respectful way.

  • The Ordinance is an attempt to address both zoning and storm water simultaneously. These issues need to be de-coupled and addressed separately.

1)  The proposed overlay ordinance is an innovative way for the Township to implement storm water improvements, which are otherwise infeasible for the Township to implement, in a watershed that is badly in need of these improvements.

2)  No plans will be approved if they do not meet the requirements of the proposed overlay ordinance and improving the storm water issues in the Trout Creek watershed, not making them worse. 

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