Powell Property Re-Zoning at the Full Discretion of Borough Council
My Notes from the January 25th, 2021 Council Meeting
The January 25th work session focused on providing updated information to the council on the proposed Powell Property Development and establishing the next steps for the developer. At the request of Councilwoman Clarke the calculation of the number of School-Aged Children (SCA) expected in the new development was updated. The goal was to clarify if the calculation included 55 plus communities and to provide adjusted numbers. Turns out it did include those communities; creating a falsely optimistic number. With further spirited discussion Councilwoman Clarke and Mr. Greg Chestnut a resident and Schoolboard member, noted again that Brookfield should be used as a more representative sample.
The discussion included input from School Board Member, Marykay Beirne noting that in a local survey the Village of Valleybrook identified 100 children per 264 homes (or an SCA rate of .38). Mrs. Beirne added that the numbers for VoV were most likely underreported. Councilwoman Clarke asked her to obtain individual student counts for each of the borough's high-density developments in an effort to establish a better impact estimate for CHB. Mrs. Beirne agreed to provide the additional development data for the council.
Using Brookfield as the sample for further calculations, the new SAC multiplier rate would be .54 or 28 new students - not 15 or 19 as previously presented.
The updated fiscal impact study that was presented can be found HERE.
This matter remains open as the council moves on to the next steps.
The Borough Solicitor made it a point to note that we are in the preliminary phases of this process and that no official application for a zoning change under the PRD rules has been received by the borough.
The borough will be meeting with the representative of the Powel Property on February 23rd for an onsite visit. The council will consider the preliminary inquiry after the site visit and in consultation with the Natural Lands Trust Group. A date for a response has not been provided nor has it been noted whether a formal application will be considered by the council.
The question of how this decision will be made came up several times.
The first notable response is in the following exchange in a carefully worded strategic answer from the Council President to Mr. Chestnut's question showing a potential path council plans to use to approve re-zoning this R1.5 property to high-density development.
Mr. Chestnut: The council has the right to reject the request on whatever grounds you want? Is that correct?
Council President: Yes that is correct.
Mr. Chestnut: So it comes down to what is the opinion of council members as to whether or not the development of these 52 townhomes as proposed is for the benefit of Chester Heights?
Council President: I would stop you right there, Greg. According to ... my understanding the borough has an ordinance for the PRD, my understanding is that this project meets all of those requirements except that the PRD be placed in an area that is prescribed by the comprehensive plan and by the zoning map. It appears that the borough might be in error because the borough has no prescribed area for a PRD. Seems like we are limited ...seems like we should have areas according to the comprehensive plan and according to our ordinance where a PRD is permitted. That is in absence here. That has been the question in determining, interpreting if you will, the ordinance we have.
Mr. Chestnut: Council does then have some leeway in rejecting that proposal if it chooses to?
Council President: "The applicant also has the ability to appeal that to the Court of Common Pleas, where I think they would probably have a good position."
Solicitor Added that it is up to the council if they agree to approve this preliminary review and allow the developer to move forward for tentative approval under the PRD approval.
A more direct response was also provided to my question by the Solicitor.
Marta Driscoll: So the council can make this determination for the Powell Property-based solely on whether or not the council wants it to occur for the benefit of the borough?
Solicitor Response: “The Council has the discretion to approve or disapprove any application before it under the PRD process.”
So perhaps the question should be what is the point of no return? If the council provides tentative approval to proceed with the formal application process isn't that an indication that we are willing to approve the zoning change? Alas that remains to be seen.
Lucky for me and my tired eyes the Official Borough Minutes have already been published. They include information on the Powell Property presentation as well as information on the other agenda items including:
Rosehill Developer Agreements (3)
Creating an ordinance to address the possibilities of medical marijuana dispensaries
The filling of the Library Board Vacancy
Congratulations Mrs. Deborah Miller on her unanimous appointment to the Library Board.
PUBLIC COMMENTS: (not in the official minutes):
Tony Ieradi - Inquired about the date of the GVSD study used for the Powell Property fiscal impact study. The response was 2019.
Dr. Kate Nolt - As a Public Health Expert who has drafted Medical Marijuana policies offered her expertise to help the borough review the potential impact of dispensaries and what should be considered in the ordinance. Action Item: Ms. Nolt will communicate with Councilwoman Clarke to provide relevant information.
Mr. Greg Chestnut- Inquired about the process for the Powell Property approval. The bulk of his comments are included in the discussion above. Mr. Chestnut also had additional questions about the calculation of the fiscal impact study using the CLR (Common Loss Ratio) to determine the potential tax revenues. The question received no response.
Mrs. Gloriann Ellis – Advised that in the fall either PennDot and/or their tree company took down a series of trees along Baltimore Pike behind Logtown Road and left a complete mess including broken fences and down cable wires. Can the borough reach out to PennDot and have the issue addressed? Action Item: Borough Engineer to reach out and advise.
Ms. Theresa Albany Hukes: Commented that when the new development of Rosehill is built the developer should not only address the vegetation situation, but also the standing water on the road and the telephone poll that obstructs sightlines.
Question: What can the borough do about the Llewelyn Rd. potholes?
Road Master replied that it appeared that PennDot looked like they are trying to get quotes.
House Numbers along Llewelyn Rd. – There is an issue with the way the houses are being numbered can that issue be looked into? Also, why does Ms. Hukes as a resident of Chester Heights have to use Aston as the mailing address to get Items delivered accurately? The question yielded a series of responses from the council non providing a solution. If you want to learn more about the mail issues in CHB check out my blog article written in 2018 regarding borough mail.
Marta Driscoll: In addition to the above-referenced comments and as a follow-up to the President's response I asked if the PRD's we have (Darlington Woods and Village of Valleybrook) are not sufficient to meet the requirement of PRD's in our borough and if the only way to satisfy the comprehensive plan/zoning requirement is to keep enacting new ones. The response was that there is no additional requirement for us to keep adding PRD's but we are not limited if we wanted to add more as long as the criteria are met.
I also commented on the financial impact study sharing that if the Brookfield rates would be applied, the resulting 28 children School-Aged Children the impact to the school district would change by $187K, from a $150K benefit to a loss of ($37K).
And that my dear friends concludes my notes from the January 25th Council meeting.
Here are a few links that might be of interest:
If you like my notes do not hesitate to share them with your friends and neighbors.