By Richard L. Gaw
After nearly 45 minutes of discussion at the Sept. 3 meeting, the New Garden Township Board of Supervisors agreed to adopt a 200-page, county-issued stormwater model ordinance that will impact New Garden residents, and are currently reviewing some proposed modifications to the law.
Addressing the supervisors, township engineer Nate Cline said that the purpose of his presentation was to seek authorization from the board to submit the draft of the stormwater ordinance (Act 167) to the county. Cline said that he, township solicitor Vince Pompo, township zoning officer Don Suckstorf and interim township manager Spence Andress have reviewed the document, and that their review was 98 percent completed.
The ordinance, prepared by the Chester County Water Resources Authority, was submitted in draft form to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), who approved it in July. In turn, all county municipalities have six months from DEP approval to approve their own ordinances.
Given that municipalities -- like New Garden -- have been given the opportunity to "fill in the blanks" on certain options, Cline said that the group made only one significant modifications to the ordinance, which would allow a home builder to increase his or her impervious threshold for construction from between 1,000 square feet and 2,000 square feet, which would provide more flexibility for smaller home building projects in the township. Cline said that stormwater management in the township is currently not required unless it is part of a land development contract but, when the ordinance is adopted, almost any type of project in New Garden Township will require stormwater management. Modifications were also made by Cline, Pompo, Suckstorf and Andress to allow for more flexibility in water quality and stream buffers, as well as provide additional exemptions for agricultural landowners.
The supervisors then weighed in on what they felt was a restrictive policy, one that would have a negative impact on a homeowner's right to build on his or her property. Bob Perrotti said the ordinance will create a major burden for people in the township who are building new homes or adding additions.
"The thing that concerns me the most is that when we were going through our natural resource documents, I was assured that [the ordinance] was not that restrictive," Perrotti said. "Just a few months into it, and I find that that's not the case. … In the last 15 years, homes have been engineered to accommodate additional stormwater coverages, but [with the ordinance], the township and the DEP are going to force people to spend more money unnecessarily. Those who are in older homes, who are doing stormwater for the first time, you're going to make them put in a stone bed, to capture runoff, when they live in the middle of a five-acre lot. How does that in the least bit make any sense to anybody?"
Bob Norris said that although he understands that the township is required to implement the ordinance since it's a state mandate, "this seems like another incursion on a landowner's rights," he said.
Norris told Cline that acting within the constraints of the time line - which states that all modifications from all local municipalities are due in a few weeks to the county -- that the supervisors be given the opportunity to review the ordinance and report their opinions to Cline, Pompo, Suckstorf and Andress by Sept. 16, one week before the next Board of Supervisors meeting on Sept. 23, when public discussion on the stormwater ordinance will continue.
"We need to be prepared to act, so as not to delay the process, but to also get feedback from the people who live, work and play here," Norris said. "The practical impact is huge. It's not just an ordinance. It's a huge financial cost."
In order to elicit comments from township residents, Cline said that the township will put the entire ordinance on the township's website.
In other township business, the board agreed on the schedule for budget work meetings that will determine the township's budget for 2014. The meetings, all open to the public, will be held at the township building on Sept. 24, Oct. 15, Nov. 5, Nov. 26 and Dec. 16, with each meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m.
The board voted not to accept the bid submitted by a contractor for the construction of a new hangar at the New Garden Flying Field. The bid, advertised publicly, was the only bid submitted for the project, but was deemed too expensive. Board chairman Stephen Allaband said that Flying Field manager Jon Martin will make a presentation at the Sept. 23 Board of Supervisors meeting related to construction projects, as well as the Future Aviators Camp and the 2013 Air Show, held at the Flying Field on Aug. 23 and 24.
The board then began discussing the intersection of Santilli and Starr roads in the township, which they cited for having obstructed views, due mainly to overgrown trees, shrubs and a telephone pole. To alleviate the problem, Allaband recommended converting Santilli Road to a one-way road. The board then recommended that Allaband discuss the matter with the homeowner, whose shrubs and trees obstruct the view.
Andress told the supervisors that representatives from the PennDOT had met with township officials on Aug. 26 to discuss the widening of Newark and Hillendale roads. During this discussion, PennDOT informed the township that PennDOT was in a position to move forward on the project, when it discovered that there are two properties on Newark Road whose septic systems and stormwater cesspools would be impacted by the road widening. The purpose of the meeting was to explore extending the sewer main to the south to allow these homes to connect to a public sewer without impacting the road widening.
PennDOT representatives told township officials that a solution to the setback would be to extend these sewer lines through the intersection to the public sewer system south to the end of the project - estimated to be a few hundred feet - and that the project would be paid for at PennDOT's expense. After discussion, the board voted to accept PennDOT's proposal to link the two sewer systems to the public system, but recommended that a township resident first notify these homeowners about their options, prior to any work being done.
The board accepted the offer by PennDOT to improve conditions at the intersection of Route 7 and Ewart and Kaolin roads. They asked that the township agree to maintain the pavement markings in the intersection, as well as maintain the grass that is scheduled to be planted in a median island in the intersection. In addition to grass planting, the intersection will include speed bars, designed to slow down motorists traveling past the Hartefeld Country Club on Route 7.
"We've had some concerns expressed by residents in the area [about the intersection], and Rep. Chris Ross then became involved, and after his involvement, things began to move," said Andress, who added that PennDOT is now submitting the project for bid estimates.
The board also agreed to the appointment of township resident Stan Lukoff to serve as an alternate member of the township's Zoning Hearing Board. A second alternate position has yet to be named.