Duly advertised in The Pottstown Mercury and posted at www.schuylkilltwp.com
The Schuylkill Township Board of Supervisors held their regular monthly public work session meeting on Thursday, June 28, 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 7:50 p.m. In attendance were Board of Supervisors members Fred Parry, Jim Morrisson, Susan Guerette, Mark Donovan, Township Solicitor William Brennan, Esq. and Township Engineer, John Sartor P.E. Present at the request of the Board were the Township’s Code Enforcement/Zoning Officer, Mr. Richard O’Brien and Mr. Gary Smith of Keystone Municipal Services, Inc., and Ms. Kimberly Yocom, Schuylkill Township Zoning Administration Officer
Mr. Brennan announced that an executive session was held prior to the meeting to discuss personnel issues and that an additional executive session would be held immediately after the meeting for deliberations on a planned residential development tentative plan application.
Historic Resource Protection: Ms. Guerette opened the discussion on the Township’s Historic Resource Protection ordinance (“HRP”) with a statement of her concerns on what she sees as an absence of action on the part of the Code Enforcement/Zoning Officer (“CEZO”) in the area of historic property protection; specifically that she believes there is a reluctance on the part of the CEZO to issue citations even when she directed them to do so and invited Mr. John Gregory, Vice Chair of the Schuylkill Township Historical Commission (“HC”) to provide to the Board the issues raised by the HC. Mr. Gregory advised the Board that the Code Enforcement/Zoning Officer met with the HC in September 2017 at which time a watch list of 10 historic properties and an enforcement process was drafted and agreed upon; that being 1) a distressed property is identified by the HC; 2) the CEZO sends a “friendly” letter advising the property owner of the HRP requirements; 3) if no response/action is forthcoming within 30 days, a notice of violation is issued; 4) if the property owner does not respond to the notice within 30 days, a citation or citations are filed with the District Justice. Mr. Gregory stated that it was the HC’s opinion that the process is not being followed, there is a lack of action on historic property enforcement and the HC recommends to the Board that an alternate CEZO service provider be found.
Mr. O’Brien mentioned that all the properties on the HC list were issues prior to Keystone Municipal Services, Inc.’s involvement and proceeded to review the top 3 properties on the HC watch list as identified by the HC, 29 S. White Horse Road, 25 Jug Hollow Road and 100 Country Club Road. Mr. Gregory interjected that the Meehan barn property should be added and stated Mr. Meehan should have been fined to the maximum. Mr. Gregory went on to say that by delaying citing the owner until the property went into foreclosure, it removed any possibility of action on the part of the Township until the property is sold. Ms. Guerette questioned why Mr. Meehan was not fined. Mr. O’Brien responded that the Township took Mr. Meehan to court 4 times. Mr. Brennan added that the Township spent about $10,000.00 dollars in legal and court costs to obtain a ruling against Mr. Meehan for $500.00. Mr. Brennan went on to say that this problem is not unique to Schuylkill Township, that historic protection enforcement is exhaustive and expensive throughout the County. Ms. Guerette responded that she did not think that was relevant, that the Township is not getting to court with these properties; that citations are not being issued.
Mr. Smith readdressed the HC watch list, speaking to the 25 Jug Hollow Road property. Mr. Smith reviewed the timeline for this property (said timeline is attached to these minutes and incorporated herein by reference), stating that in October of 2017, the CEZO was directed by the HC to inspect the property after which a report was submitted to the Township Manager. Following a November notification letter, in December of 2017 a demo by neglect notice of violation was issued to the property owner. In mid-January, the CEZO was contacted by the owner’s attorney who requested an extension because the property was being sold. At the end of January 2018, a 90 day extension was issued. In May, a structural engineering report was received and the attorney advised the CEZO that a potential sale was being pursued and the parties wished to meet with the CEZO. Subsequently, the attorney has been in communication with the Township regarding easement issues blocking the sale. Mr. Morrisson asked for what reason(s) was the notice of violation issued. Ms. Majewski responded that the property was in violation of the demo by neglect section of the Historic Resource Protection ordinance and proceeded to read the list of violations contained within the ordinance. Ms. Guerette added that all the criteria were met, why were citations not issued for 25 Jug Hollow Road? Mr. O’Brien responded that in his experience, it is more prudent to work with the property owner in order to obtain the best possible outcome for the property.
Ms. Guerette directed the discussion to 100 Country Club Road. Mr. Smith reviewed the timeline for this property which is attached to these minutes and incorporated herein by reference. Mr. Smith advised the Board that the CEZO has been working with the property owner since October 2017 when first directed to inspect the property. The property owner was working with structural engineers and architects to evaluate the structure and determine how or if it could be rehabilitated. Ms. Guerette stated that anyone can see that the property is in a state of demolition by neglect; both Mr. Gregory and Ms. Guerette said that in their opinion, the property owners are blowing smoke and simply stalling until the structures are beyond rehabilitation. Mr. O’Brien repeated that in his experience, it is more prudent to work with the property owner in order to obtain the best possible outcome for the property. Ms. Guerette responded that it was not the CEZO’s job to work with property owners but rather to enforce the ordinance, and likened it to a police officer apprehending a drug dealer, stating that the officer does not work with the drug dealer, he issues a citation and takes him to court. Mr. Smith responded that he felt the owner had been acting in good faith; that structural evaluations cannot be completed in two weeks.
29 S. White Horse Road was reviewed (timeline is attached and incorporated herein by reference). Discussion ensued regarding the property owner and her intentions regarding the use of the property. Mr. Smith reported that the structure is secure and weathertight and does not fall under the demo by neglect provision. An issue with the front porch has been addressed with an active building permit in place to make repairs. Ms. Majewski stated her opinion that the owner of 100 Country Club Road and 29 South White Horse Road were pulling the wool over the CEZO’s eyes. Ms. Majewski added that the owners were not even residents and the CEZO should not be working with them; that citations should be issued.
Mr. Donovan asked if the CEZO is open to being more aggressive regarding the issuance of citations; Mr. O’Brien repeated that in his experience, it is more productive to work with property owners to obtain the best possible outcome for the property. Mr. Brennan reminded the Supervisors that while the Board may make its wishes known, it cannot order the CEZO to issue citations; the CEZO is an independent legal enforcement agent for the Township. Discussion ensued regarding the role of the CEZO. Mr. Morrisson said that in his opinion, the Township needed to get into the buildings to compile full inspection results, seeking administrative warrants if necessary, and make procedural changes to shorten time frames of enforcement Mr. Brennan stated that it would be difficult to obtain administrative warrants as the Township’s Historic Protection Ordinance only deals with the exterior of structures. Ms. Guerette instructed Mr. Gregory to take the discussion back to the Historical Commission; Mr. Gregory said there was no need, that it was the consensus of the HC that the BOS should change enforcement officers. Mr. Morrisson suggested that the CEZO develop more stringent procedures; Mr. Gregory rebutted this suggestion saying necessary procedures were already in place.
Municipal Complex Garage Building – Mr. Sartor, Township Engineer, presented a proposed site plan for the placement of a new pole building in the municipal Roads Department complex. Mr. Sartor explained that the suggested location in front of the Roads Department complex adjacent to the existing driveway was the only viable location; explaining that alternative sites in the back and sides of the complex had been evaluated and were found unsuitable due to setback and floodplain restrictions. Mr. Sartor went on to say that the proposed location would still require a variance from the Zoning Hearing Board for a small setback variance but would generate the minimum of earth disturbance for construction and required stormwater management enhancements. Discussion ensued regarding visual impact and the purpose of the proposed building. The concurrence of the Board was that the proposed location of the new building was feasible and that the process should move ahead.
Oakwood Lane Stormwater Management Improvement Project – Mr. Sartor presented to the Board the updated engineered plan for the Oakwood Lane stormwater management improvement project. Mr. Sartor explained that the planned rehabilitation and installation of stormwater inlets and pipes on Oakwood Lane between Davis Road and Colonial Springs Road would increase the capture of stormwater presently sheetflowing across Oakwood Lane. Mr. Sartor added that all the improvements are in the Township’s rights-of-way, not on private property.
Pollutant Reduction Plan (“PRP”) Update – Mr. Sartor informed the Board that the Township’s draft PRP, a requirement of its MS4 permit renewal, is completed. Mr. Sartor briefly explained that under the new MS4 permit requirements, the Township must account for and reduce the sediment from its watershed into Valley Creek. Mr. Sartor summarized the computer model used to calculate the Township’s sediment load and described briefly the best management practices (“BMP”) put forth in the draft PRP. Mr. Sartor went on to explain that at this point, the Township need only to submit its proposed BMP in the draft PRP to the Penna. Department of Environmental Protection (“PaDEP”) and that if the PRP is approved by the PaDEP, the Township will have 5 years to implement the plan.
Mr. Bill Micklow and Ms. Ginny Foseid of 762 Pickering Lane and 772 Pickering Lane, respectively, addressed the Board on their concerns regarding stormwater runoff in the backyards of their property. The Board requested that the Roadmaster investigate the situation.
Mr. Brennan announced that the executive session mentioned at the beginning of the meeting would not be held.
With no further items to discuss the meeting was adjourned at 10:00 p.m.
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 July 26, at 7:30 pm in the Township Hall.