• Marta Kathryn Driscoll

Powell Property Development & Other CHB Matters

Meeting Notes for the November 23rd Chester Heights Borough Council Work Session


The Powell family and their team presented for a second time their plans for developing 63-acre property along Valleybrook Road. The presentation focused on laying the groundwork for rezoning the Powell Property to a PRD (Planned Residential Development) which would permit high-density housing on R1.5 lots.

The first presentation was made on January 6th. This time additional information was presented including a

Use By-Right Plan and a new calculation for fiscal impact.


USE BY RIGHT PLAN

Simply put, this plan shows what can be built on the Powell property under the current zoning. Current zoning permits 1 home per 1.5 acres. 23 homes could be built if the code is not changed -Exhibit 6. Based on the calculation presented by TCA (Thomas Comitta Associates, Inc.), this configuration of homes would yield 18 new students in the Garnet Valley School District. With only 23 homes to generate tax revenue, the school district would lose $203K per year in the deal.

Concerns about the boundary lines & the "buildability" of the land were raised by Mr. Greg Chestnut, a member of the GVSD School Board and a resident of the Rochford Estates (24 homes that share a boundary with the Powell property). He referenced a survey prepared for the HOA by G.D. Houtman in 2012 that shows the Powell family does not own land on the Southwest side of Chester Creek as represented in the drawings and the HOA is prepared to dispute this matter. Mr. Chestnut also reminded the council that the land shown in Exhibit 3 in the orange and purple areas is not simply a slope, but rather a full flood plain that would not be buildable as designed in Exhibit 6. Taking into account the boundary dispute and the smaller buildable area, the plans should be re-evaluated by the borough to reflect an accurate number of homes that could be built by right.


MAP EXHIBITS

FISCAL IMPACT

In January, the Powell team indicated that 52 townhomes would add 15 students to the school district. They were asked to update their numbers using local data. It was suggested that the Brookfield development be used as an example. The team opted to approach the school district for the school-aged children (SAC) per household multiplier instead. GVSD provided data from their last district enrollment study as follows:

  • 0.75 school-aged children (SAC) per detached home

  • 0.36 SAC per attached home.

This new calculation [52 homes x 0.36 students per home] yielded the number of 19 new students. In stark contrast to the single-family home calculations, the attached home projection showed the school district with a net gain of $232.9K, rather than a loss.

Councilwoman Clarke inquired about these calculations, asking if the data for attached dwellings included 55+ communities that do not allow children. Using such data would create a deceptively low number of students per attached home. There was no clear response from the Powell team. Mr. Chestnut suggested that they return to the school district and ask Mr. Chris Wilson, the Director of Business & Support Services, for his comments on the fiscal impact study. The experience of the school district with attached dwellings at Brookfield yielded higher numbers than were presented.

Outside of what appears to be an overly optimistic view of the fiscal impact on the school district, there were other financial matters to consider. Mr. Chestnut advised that the property is currently taking advantage of ACT 319 "Clean & Green", a property tax abatement program run by the state. If the properties transfer out of the abatement program back taxes will be due to the county, the school district, and Chester Heights.

The full fiscal impact study was sent back to TAC Assoc. Inc. for a few typographical corrections. Once received the Council committed to posting it on the borough website.


OTHER CONSIDERATIONS and Public Comment

The plan includes a dedication of approximately 48 acres of land to the borough with 25 acres of it located in the flood plain, preserving a large portion as open space. The Powell home on the property would be included in the dedication allowing the borough to "do with it as they please".

Mrs. Beth McKinnon asked about the borough plans for the Powell house.

It was determined that options include: occupying the home for borough business, rental, and/or demolition, and no decision was rendered.

Mr. Tony Ieradi asked if this would be the first time the borough has owned property. Mr. Larry Ward, responded that the borough did at one point own the schoolhouse on Valleybrook and Lewellyn, but it was sold to an individual.

Mr. Bill Burke noted he lives on the northeast quadrant of the property and asked the following questions:

Question: Will the gravel road be changed to macadam and who would be responsible for the access drive?

Response: On Exhibit 4 - There is a note that indicates that emergency access would be maintained by whoever owns the land on where the 52 townhomes are built.

The principal access is proposed along Smithbridge Road. There will need to be a reconfigured driveway because the geometry is not quite right.

Question: How is access for the businesses going to work? Currently, emergency access is used for those emergency businesses.

Response: The question was deferred to Mr. Glen Powell as the disposition of those businesses is unknown. Mr. Powell did not respond.

Question: At the backside of the houses would there be a possibility to have privacy trees along the part?

Response: Yes. In the drawing, there is a conceptual illustration for the landscaping.


OTHER MEETING AGENDA ITEMS:


Zoning Hearing Board Vacancy

Ms. Cynthia McNichols resigned from the Zoning Hearing Board effective Dec. 31st, 2020. The vacancy to be filled at the Next Council Meeting on December 7th, 2020.


If you or someone you know is interested please submit a

Letter of Interest and Resume by December 4th. send to Info@ChesterHeights.org.


Approved the Contract for stray dogs with Mr. Allen Strickler. The new contract requires the borough to cancel its existing contract entered into in 2018 with the SPCA. Council voted to approve the cancelation fee of $5064.39, not to exceed $6000.


Approved Contract for snow removal with MOR Construction per bid.


2021 Budget Hearing will be part of the regular council meeting on December 7th.

The county is scheduled to provide the CHB assessment by Nov. 30th given the dispute of assessment for The Summit. The assessment should not change the revenue amount, but rather the millage that will be imposed. The following will be presented.

2021 General Fund Budget

2021 Fire Fund Budget

2021 Liquid Fuels

2021 Open Space


Mr. Rohana gave an update on the ZHB Hearing for Hamanassett Special Exception that occurred on November 17th. That hearing was extended to Dec 15th, 7 pm.


Spotted Lantern Fly

At the request of Councilwoman Clarke representatives from the USDA visited Chester Heights on Friday, November 20th to identify trees of heaven throughout the borough. These trees are known to be the host trees for the Spotted Lantern Fly.


The report was as follows:


Darlington Woods - 1 tree identified the HOA president, Mr. Goldberg, committed to cutting down the tree when they are at their weakest which is in the summer.


Wood Property - Has quite a few of the trees. He plans to take down a few within the next 2 years as part of the preservation plans in collaboration with Natural Lands Trust who owns the agricultural easement on the property.


Walnut Hill Blvd - 7 trees - Susan Clarke to work with the borough engineer to identify who is responsible for these troubling trees.


Madison Apartments- 12 Trees throughout that need to be addressed.


Borough Park - None


St. Thomas - 1 large infested tree and a "nearly dead"


Councilwoman Clarke will work with fellow Councilman Firkser to notify the responsible parties and collaborate to find a solution to mitigate the risk.




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