Duly advertised in The Pottstown Mercury and posted at www.schuylkilltwp.com
The Schuylkill Township Board of Supervisors held their public work session meeting on Thursday, May 24, 2018 at 7:30pm. This is an informal meeting to discuss township related business with the public, without making any motions or voting on any discussed items. Martha Majewski, Chair, called the meeting to order at 7:30p.m. In attendance were Board of Supervisors members Fred Parry, Jim Morrisson, Mark Donovan, Township Solicitor William Brennan and Township Engineer, John Sartor. Board member Susan Guerette was not in attendance.
Mr. Leroy Whitehead, Assistant School Superintendent Phoenixville Area School District (“PASD”), Mr. Ken Gibson, PASD Operations Direction and Mr. Chris Jensen, P.E., T&M Associates were present to discuss a concept the PASD is exploring for the district-owned property at 33 W. Pothouse Road adjacent to the Early Learning Center. The PASD is considering creating a Life Skills center for older students in order to expand their current program. A Life Skills center provides experience-based training for students in day-to-day activities such as doing laundry, making beds, cooking, cleaning, household finances, etc. The center is not a residential program but would be in use in an educational capacity during a regular school schedule. Mr. Whitehead explained that centers such as the one being proposed are used for “school-phobic” individuals, those who experience anxiety in high activity, noisy and crowded conditions, not students with disciplinary issues. Mr. Jensen introduced a concept drawing of what the residence might look like once converted to a Life Skills Center. Mr. Jensen explained that very little exterior modification would be done; it would still look like a residence. He said an extension to the rear of the property would be required as well as interior renovations to bring the structure to code for the proposed use. The existing driveway would not be used for student traffic to the center. Parking for and access to the proposed center would be from school grounds via a new path from an existing parking lot. Mr. Jensen added that at this time, it appears the existing stormwater management facilities are sufficient to handle stormwater from the adjacent property. Supervisor Parry and Supervisor Majewski asked why this center was needed; weren’t there other programs and facilities where these skills could be acquired? Mr. Whitehead explained that certain students do not respond to a regular school curriculum and it is for these students that the Life Skills Center is being proposed. Mr. Brennan asked what the PASD would be requesting from the Board. Mr. Whitehead responded that the school district is looking for re-zoning of the property to bring it into the Public Facilities Zoning district. Mr. Brennan said that going before the Township Zoning Hearing Board for a variance might be more practical. Mr. Sartor explained that under the R-2 Zoning District in which the subject property is located, educational use is allowed either by-right or special exception. Mr. Brennan suggested the concept be reviewed by the Township Zoning Officer to determine which course of action makes more sense for the Township. Supervisor Morrisson added that under PFZ zoning, setbacks on the subject property might be an issue. Mr. Jensen explained that the property was already an existing non-conforming use. Mr. Brennan asked if the PASD would have to send students to another facility at its cost if this center was not approved. Mr. Whitehead affirmed this but said the PASD looks upon the proposed center as an enhancement to its current curriculum. Supervisor Majewski asked if the PASD had taken this concept to the public yet. Mr. Whitehead responded that at present, no public meetings have been scheduled; the Special Programs Director is currently researching other entities’ programs and methods. Supervisor Majewski requested that the Township be kept informed and stated she would attend the public meetings on the center once scheduled. Supervisor Morrisson recommended that the present R-2 zoning be maintained and that a special exception, if needed, be obtained. The PASD’s preference is a zoning change, Mr. Whitehead replied, but it is open to consideration of keeping the present zoning. Mr. Brennan recommended that the PASD seek an opinion from counsel and schedule a meeting with the Township’s Zoning Officer to review its options.
Ordinance Review – Supervisor Majewski opened the discussion by explaining that there are discrepancies and contradictions in the Township’s Zoning Ordinance regarding processes. This came to the Township Manager’s attention when she was in the process of creating a document to streamline office procedures and inform residents on processes. It was suggested that chapters 320 SALDO and 370 zoning should be reviewed entirely and these mistakes should be corrected. The Ordinance Committee identified and listed the problem areas in the Zoning Ordinances and Subdivision and Land Development Ordinances. Supervisor Majewski stated that the next step is for the Board to decide how it would like to proceed. Mr. Brennan expressed his concerns about ambiguity in the ordinances regarding process and/or standards; these should be legal or not legal and not based on opinion. Mr. Brennan urged that specificity and neutrality be a goal in correcting and clarifying Township ordinances. Mr. Sartor advised the Board that Gilmore & Associates, Inc. is familiar with the process discrepancies in the ordinances and, if the Board concurred, could do additional review and make recommendations; then work with Township staff to remedy any contradictions and discrepancies. Supervisor Majewski recommended that the Board define the task for the Township Engineer before the June Board meeting.
Supervisor Donovan opened a discussion regarding the Township engaging a student intern for the summer. He informed the Board that a candidate from the CCIU has been recommended to him and his thought was to use this intern in the on-going website redevelopment project. Discussion ensued and the Board concurred that further discussion would take place at the June 6, 2018 Board meeting in executive session.
With no further items to discuss the meeting was adjourned at 8:45 pm.
The working session meetings will be held on the 4th Thursday of every month, at 7:30 pm. The next working session meeting will be Thursday June 28, 2018, at 7:30 pm in the Township Hall.