At the December 9, 2013 Board of Supervisors meeting, Township Manager Jim Wendelgass read the following statement with regard to the discussion at the November 25 meeting about the BV Zoning District change proposal.
I would like to respond to several points which were raised at the last Board of Supervisors meeting with respect to the BV zoning district and the position that the Township is required to have consultants perform studies before proposing amendments to the Zoning Ordinance. I’ve looked into the entire situation, and can respond as follows
I now understand that the reference to Act 247 was to the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code, 53 P.S. Sections 10101-10107, which also was Act of 1968, P.L. 805, No. 247. Unfortunately, the Act is referred to as the "MPC" and not Act 247, which was the source of the confusion at the meeting.
Section 301 of the MPC governs the preparation of the Comprehensive Plan. West Vincent Township is part of a Regional Planning Group, and that Group prepared the last version of the Comprehensive Plan, which was adopted in 2008. KSK Architects Planners Historians, Inc. was the planning consultant used by that Group to prepare the Comprehensive Plan.
Section 401 of the MPC governs the adoption and amendments to the Official Map. The Board of Supervisors has the power to adopt the Official Map and any amendments to it. It is required to refer any proposed changes to the Planning Commission before enacting them.
Section 601 provides that the Board of Supervisors has the power to enact, amend and repeal zoning ordinances. The text and any maps associated with the Zoning Ordinance are prepared by the Planning Commission upon the request of the Board of Supervisors. Section 609 provides for the procedure for adopting amendments to the Zoning Ordinance. It requires, among other things, that for an amendment which is not prepared by the Planning Commission, that the amendment be submitted for it for review and recommendation.
The MPC does not require that outside planners be retained by the Township for any part of this process. It is important to note that for the major rewrite of the Zoning Ordinance adopted in 1998, the Township did use a planning consultant. One was also used by the Township in creating the existing Comprehensive Plan, which is the Phoenixville Regional Comprehensive Plan. In addition, the Township Engineer has input into and review of all Zoning Amendments.
With respect to the zoning for Birchrunville, the major change was adopted in 1998. The zoning for the Birchrunville area was RV (rural village) as of the 1987 version of the Zoning Ordinance. This section went through a major rewrite, which was adopted in 1998. At that time, the zoning was changed to BV (Birchrun Village). The Planning Commission for the Township discussed the changes at numerous meetings over a very lengthy time frame. Natural Lands Trust and Randall Arendt were the planning consultants who worked on this draft zoning ordinance, which was a major rewrite of the 1987 Zoning Ordinance which included major changes to the subdivision process.
In 2004, the Township adopted a map change, which changed the zoning on the Township property in Birchrunville from Municipal to BV. There have been several minor amendments since that time. Earlier this year, the Township proposed a change to the BV zoning district. That change was to eliminate commercial uses in that district but to continue to allow professional office uses in that district—which uses had been allowed since at least 1998. As you know, the Board has put that suggestion on hold pending further investigation and input from residents. Despite some suggestion at the meeting that 26 additional uses could be built in the village, I believe that if you take out steep slopes, areas in the flood plain and riparian buffers, areas within 150’ of historic structures, and apply the current area and bulk restrictions, very few additional uses could be built in the district. I also believe that the lack of sewage treatment and disposal, parking areas and inadequate infrastructure would make new uses problematic.
In summary, the Township has complied with the MPC with respect to all zoning ordinance changes and map changes.