Pennhurst Zoning Amendment

A request to amend the Zoning Amendment Application for Pennhurst to include a rental residential reuse of 11 buildings of the historic core* has been made to the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors of East Vincent Township.

There is a recent market and financial feasibility study undertaken by Urban Partners and supported by the Community Design Collaborative that documents a market demand to preserve the core historic buildings at Pennhurst. This amounts to 11 out of over 20 buildings at Pennhurst.

The analysis shows that there is a market demand for 250 units of housing in the area that could be provided in the 11 core buildings using 25% of the site and leaving the remaining 75  acres to be developed for other types of uses.

The project cost for the historic adaptive reuse of the 11 core buildings is slightly above $88 million, or approximately $308,000 per unit. The report documents $77.6 million from three funding sources — federal historic tax credits, investors seeking the tax credits, and net operation income supporting mortgage debt and economic equity. This leaves a $10.5 million financing gap that would need to be met through grant funding, real estate tax incentives, a state historic tax credit program, and/or other sources. (

The Pennhurst State Hospital and School buildings are constructed in the Jacobean Revival Style. They are not only eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places but also eligible as a National Historic Landmark (of which there are only 2,400 in the country). The site is also under consideration for inclusion on the World Monuments List. Given the substantial historical significance of these buildings it is imperative that East Vincent Township provides every opportunity to facilitate the adaptive reuse of the historic core.

The inclusion of language that allows for an adaptive reuse of the 11 historic core buildings as residential to support 250 units is essential. On Wednesday, September 7, the East Vincent Board of Supervisors agenda includes scheduling the public hearing date for the Pennhurst zoning amendment. As the amendment stands now, no provision for a residential adaptive reuse of the 11 historic core buildings exists.

Please come to the September 7th Supervisor’s meeting to urge the Board of Supervisors to direct that this provision be included in any amendment that would come before them in a future public hearing.

The East Vincent Planning Commission, at its last 3 meetings, has requested numerous changes to the Pennhurst Acquisitions’ petition to amend the zoning ordinance. Pennhurst Acquisitions has neither made those changes nor has even attended the last two PC meetings, even though discussion of the amendment was on the agenda. At its August meeting, the PC voted to advise denying the amendment and agreed to support a mixed use amendment for the site.

*The 11 core historic buildings are the following:


Posted in Pennhurst Amendment | 1 Comment

The Rape of East Vincent Township

The zoning petition now before the Planning Commission represents one of the most egregious attempts by a landowner to flaunt against the will of the residents of East Vincent in her long history.

Seemingly without faith in the EVT Zoning Hearing Board’s May 2011 decision being upheld by the Chester County Court of Common Pleas, the landowner, Richard Chakejian, is trying to subvert the legal system by petitioning for a change to just his property within the LR zone that includes the former Pennhurst Hospital, as well as land owned by the Pennsylvania Department of Military Affairs, the Owen J. Roberts school system and East Vincent itself.

The introductory letter joining the petition submitted by Mr. Chakejian’s attorney, Michael Murray, Esq., states: “Due to the Property’s location, condition of existing structures, and buildings…and environmental conditions, the Property is not conducive for development with Single Family Residential uses …”

Further, Mr. Murray continues: “…the Property…would be more appropriately utilized to be redeveloped for the uses permitted in the General Industrial and the Professional Office / Research district…”

No plan describing a possible redevelopment scenario was submitted to the Township. In essence, Mr. Chakejian wants East Vincent to change the zoning of his property so that he can do anything with it he wants, regardless of any appropriateness to the surrounding residential area. And for insurance, the following new use by right is included: LL – Recreation Building, including but not limited to use for entertainment, historical and amusement-oriented tours and events, such as but not limited to a haunted house and other theme-oriented uses.

At last month’s PC meeting, the Commissioners seemed to agree to a one that the road network leading to Pennhurst is not able to handle the traffic that would result from the alleged development of the commercial nature that would be permitted by the petitioned change.

Also, they spoke of the long-standing analysis of the “724 corridor” and how any changes to the Pennhurst property must be considered in a global sense.

Is all of that to be left behind in order to let the opportunistic Mr. Chakejian operate his haunted house attraction? Because if any casual observer examined the real issue at hand, what truly matters to the property owner is the Asylum – an extraordinary cash cow that wreaks havoc for seven weeks upon those living near Pennhurst, and, determined by the EVT Zoning Hearing Board, can now operate all year round.

By approving the exploitive zoning change, the Planning Commission and the BOS would be signing East Vincent’s death warrant. By allowing the continuing carpetbagging of Richard Chakejian, who by the way lives in WEST Vincent, our lifestyle as we know it disappears forever.

This is the desperate desire of the current and soon to be retiring Board Chairman, John Funk. It is his intent to leave what he believes to be a legacy of creating rateables and ensuring East Vincent’s future financial stability. What his myopic vision will actually leave behind is the utter destruction of what is our home. The place where our children grow up in safety and away from the problems of urbanization.

I fear the time has come to take off the gloves. To call things as they appear. To let the citizens of East Vincent see that they are being sold out for a 1,000 daffodil bulbs. To scream as loudly as I can that changing Pennhurst to a new GI/PO will not bring about any sustainable value driven changes. It will simply let Mr. Chakejian continue with his Pennhurst Asylum “amusement” at the cost of everything we hold dear. And bear in mind that if this change is approved, it will apply to the Jones site as well.

Our township could boast of a mini-Great Adventure in the Jones 186 acres. Dorney Park is 200 acres. Hershey Park is 110 acres growing to 140 acres. The Magic Kingdom in Orlando is 107 acres. EPCOT is a little over 300 acres, much of which is the lake.

I invite any resident who thinks this is bombast to visit the Penn Organics commercial composting site. See for yourself how a Chakejian business is operated. See how pre-compost material and finished compost material is placed against old, stately buildings accelerating their demise.

See the missing windows and roofs with holes large enough to drop a car through. Demolition by neglect is the technical term, a violation of ordinance.

Understand that the site is riddled, by Mr. Chakejian’s own words, with asbestos and PCBs. Yes, Mr. Murray is correct when he refers to environmental conditions that preclude residential development. One must ask how that would not apply to any commercial development.

Come to Pennhurst Road, Brown Drive, and Old Schuylkill Road, and Church Street in Spring City, and judge for yourself as to the capacity and appropriateness of those feeders.

While the Asylum in is operation, go to the WaWa on Bridge and sit in the parking lot for a few minutes and watch the pandemonium at the Jones site being used as parking for the “amusement”. Then stay there until 1:30 – 3:00 AM and watch the continuing parade of buses bringing patrons out of Pennhurst and to their cars.

Here are some consequences of the approval of this zoning change:

  • We will see this year, as we did last year, bonfires lit on the Pennhurst site in absolute violation of East Vincent’s open fires ordinance.
  • We will again hear live bands and the raucous noise from the amplified radio station presence, helping to market the “amusement”.
  • We will see large-scale food kiosks come to feed and nourish the patrons standing on line for 3-4 hours as they await their 15-20 minute “amusement”.
  • We will hear diesel buses running on Brown Drive and Bridge Street until 3:00 AM or later ferrying Asylum attendees from the “amusement” to their cars.
  • We will see T-shirts, hats, sweatshirts and other merchandise sold to additionally line Mr. Chakejian’s pockets with no value to East Vincent since it does not benefit from sales tax.
  • We will again have beer cans in our yards and Asylum patrons urinating on our lawns at all hours.
  • We will again watch this “amusement” drain our township police services – at the resident’s expense, for while Pennhurst Asylum grossed $985,000 last year, East Vincent has no amusement tax to compensate us.
  • We will see Spring City memorialized, as the home of what Chakejian’s Pennhurst Asylum business partner, Randy Bates, says will be the premier haunted house attraction on the East Coast.

And what if, as the proposed ordinance would allow, the property is split up into individual 3-acre subdivisions? What other menacing commercial “amusements” would come about playing off of the Asylum?

Mr. Chakejian is holding interviews for actors and has be seen driving around town in a PT Cruiser that has Pennhurst Asylum logos affixed to its body. As I have been accused of having, what hubris!

Now is the time to say “NO!” Now is the time for East Vincent to come together and stop this madness. Mark Dunphy has said to me that he will not permit any residential development at that site. John Funk believes that commercial ventures will add to East Vincent’s treasury with no proof offered by him. This is what we are up against. They did it last week. They’ll do it again.

For God’s sake tell them all “NO!”

Attend the Planning Commission meeting and say “NO!”

Posted in Pennhurst Amendment | 3 Comments

Editorial on Transfer Development Rights

Since 2009, East Vincent has protected lands valued at $6+ million in Transfer Development Rights (TDRs). The township is currently holding the TDRs. Using them judiciously can lead to the further preservation of lands in the Agricultural Zone (AP) and the Rural Conservation (RC) zones that are located throughout the township. This means that approximately 700 more acres of land can be preserved without raising more taxes through an Open Space Bond Act.

“Judiciously” is the key component when the Township sets the trade of rights for development options in the receiving zones: Light Density Residential (LR), Medium Density Residential (MR) and High Density Residential (HR). The Growth Zone in our township was selected because the public water and sewer lines and the major road arteries were located there. The township has important watershed and farmland areas that need to be protected from development. The 2002 zoning ordinance made very sure that the TDRs would not lead to an over-development scenario. For example impervious cover could not exceed 40% in the Professional Office (PO) and General Industrial (GI) Zones. If TDRs were to be used the maximum % was not to exceed 50%. In the recently passed Commercial Mixed Use (CMU) overlay of the GI and PO, those levels were abandoned and now the developer was “given” the right to go at a 10% higher level at no cost. A 70% level of impervious cover can now be achieved by applying the TDRs. In my book, we gave away the store here. A 70% impervious cover level is extremely high.

Similarly, residential use was not allowed in the GI and PO districts. I believe that if we introduce this use, it should have only been allowed with the application of TDRs. Once again the barn door was opened without a cost to the developer. The highest residential density level to be achieved in the CMU should have been 4.75 – 5.0 dwelling units and only with the application of TDRs. In my opinion, East Vincent is not an urban area and 7 dwelling units per acre is too high.

I don’t want to envision our township with 5-story, 60-foot buildings. The existing township height limit and by the way, most of Chester County’s height limit is 35 feet. I will agree with the argument to go a little higher to achieve architectural interest in the rooftops, but no further. I don’t support using TDRs to increase the height limit to 60-foot buildings.

The Route 724 corridor study is one of the most important investments the township could undertake and once it is completed there are other areas on the corridor where TDRs could be sent. I don’t buy the argument that we should let the developers set the plans for our township. I do support creating a varied business group and having the township work with our neighboring townships and the borough of Spring City to create this plan.

A careful and conservative TDR program to create compact and attractive development that blends in with our current density levels can be achieved in our township while creating a land preservation revolving fund at no additional cost to the taxpayers. With the limits on open space funds at the county and state level, the TDR program is one of the most important arrows in our land preservation toolbox. I am not willing to forfeit this valuable option in the township. I also am not willing to overuse TDRs at the expense of our residents.

Let’s be really clear. Dunphy and Funk have set the density at Jones with their votes last night. They had a simple choice to make it a smaller commercial development and chose not to listen to the residents. They voted to create a mega commercial center ranging as big as the Court at Upper Providence to the size at the Coventry Mall. They chose to apply the TDRs to allow 60 foot buildings 70% impervious coverage and to allow the density at 7 dwelling units per acre. As I said last night, this zoning ordinance does not fit the character of East Vincent. I voted against all of this. It is Mark Dunphy, John Funk and their planning commission appointees who are choosing to bring over development to the area from Stony Run to the north.

Christine McNeil

Posted in Jones Motor Amendment | 2 Comments

Results of Jones Motor Hearing

At the End of the Day in East Vincent

The evening was pleasant; the oppressive humidity was absent and the night’s temperature comfortable.

As I drove into the parking area at the Township Building, I was buoyed seeing a lack of space. Perhaps, I thought, the many efforts at getting residents to the public meeting for the Jones Motor zoning ordinance had some positive effect.

They kept coming, vehicle after vehicle. Disgorging homeowners bent on letting their elected officials know their thoughts and opinions about a zoning revision that could change their beloved Township forever.

At 7:00 PM the meeting room was filled and overflowing. People stood in the anteroom and every seat or perch where one could sit was occupied. The doors at the back of the meeting room were opened so the standees outside could hear the speakers. Supervisor Chairman John Funk called the monthly BOS meeting to order, whereupon he invited all to stand and recite the Pledge of Allegiance facing our flag. The closing words “…and justice for all.” rang with a passion that energized the space, seeming to presage the public meeting to be held after the monthly Board business was temporarily suspended.

The brief agenda was satisfied at 7:30. Funk had Township solicitor Stu Cohen announce the suspension of the meeting in order to begin the Jones public comment meeting and ordered a five minute break, saying the Jones issue would start promptly at 7:40, which it did.

Funk opened that discussion by explaining how the public meeting would be conducted and gave a brief recitation of the history of the proposed ordinance.

Of note in the ensuing parade of advocates for the zoning change was the property owner representative, James Koegel, CEO of the Jones Motor Group, providing an abridged history of the property and the efforts of his company to maximize the value of their asset. He told of his shareholder’s desire to stop the bleeding of the taxes paid on the non-productive property and that this ordinance was intended to make the Jones property attractive to a developer, ridding his company of their albatross.

Cohen described the legal process. Vice Chairman Mark Dunphy rolled his chair to the zoning map mounted on the wall behind the dais and melodramatically talked to TDR sending and receiving zones, attempting to place any blame for development on his predecessors. The township engineer passed on commentary and the Township’s planning consultant, Ray Ott, was asked to share his thoughts in his capacity.

He submitted an impact and comparison analysis, using substantiating data long past currency, and in some instances given the economic tumult of the past few years, questionably irrelevant.

I asked about Ott’s premise of agreeing with the Jones Motor projection that about 84 school age children would come from the 373 new dwellings in the possible residential component. His math was based on 2006 & 2007 statistics. Using data from the 2010 United States Federal Census, the number of school age children could be projected to at least twice the 84. Mr. Ott’s reply to why he didn’t use the census numbers was that he was unfamiliar with the data source. That is when I knew all was lost.

After Ott’s presentation, Funk opened the floor to the public, at about 8:50. And so began the wave of concern and distress from the residents who had remained silent for almost two hours.

I cannot recall a time where I heard people speak so eloquently to that which typically would elicit catcalls and emotional outbursts. I felt a pride within myself as my neighbors talked to the great need to keep East Vincent rural, to eschew a large scale commercial development, and to which the audience repeatedly pointed out the inability of the surrounding roads to handle the anticipated traffic.

As the clock ticked, people stood and spoke of their concerns. From all over the Township they came and talked. They related their concerns about the safety and education of their children and  how this ordinance could have a severe detrimental effect on their children. They shared their thoughts with clarity and purpose. It was a most wonderful expression of the will of the people. They were saying, with perhaps one or two dissenters don’t pass it. Let’s look more closely at it and try to find a better solution.

I offered the CCOEV petition to Funk, which as of 5:45 PM that day contained 98 signatures. He said he hadn’t seen it and I offered the copy I had with me. He preferred that I not give it to him then and would take it later. Another arrow in the townfolk’s quiver to not be flown.

Don’t change the rural nature of where I live was said time after time by the meeting attendees. Many told stories of moving to East Vincent to escape the over-development of other parts of the County. I heard them all, regular people, simple folk, asking for their Township to be kept the way it is.

Waiting for others to speak, I remained silent until late in the meeting. Funk had earlier advised the audience that two minutes would be given to each speaker and he would have the ability to cut off repetitive speeches. When I advised Funk that I had many questions about specific parts of the proposed ordinance, he initially refused to give me more time. I objected saying that my right to assembly and free speech was being denied and asked him why. His response was, “Because.” I yielded my time to others waiting to be the last to speak when Funk announced he would give me special dispensation and allow me three questions at two minutes each.

I asked why an anchor store had to be a mandated part of the commercial build-out citing that a creative developer might want something else. A Jones Motor representative was asked by Funk to reply. That person said that the “big box” need not be the full 135,000 maximum. I told him I clearly understood that but was asking why the anchor was required at all. He repeated the same answer. I then thought it best to sit and await what I knew was to happen next.

At about 10:30, with no more public comment offered, the meeting was formally closed and the monthly meeting resumed. Funk then said to Dunphy, “Did you hear anything that would change your mind on the ordinance.” To which Dunphy replied, “No.” Supervisor Christine McNeil offered her impassioned position, and as one would predict,
her plea to not pass the ordinance as it is now written was embraced with applause and loud cheers by the assembled residents.

Funk called for the vote. 2-1 for. The two Republicans versus the sole Democrat and the 100 or so residents present. The groan from the remaining voters was loud. The realization that it was a done deal hit them hard. Then the catcalls; the sotto voce comments about integrity and lying. The two-by-four to the forehead saying it doesn’t matter what you think. Our future profoundly affected by two people, ignoring out of hand all that was spoken by homeowners and citizens during that pleasant summer night.

We filed out into the parking lot. Residents expecting a process of representation and grievance were sorely disappointed and bitter. Cars and trucks left until the parking area was deserted.

Funk declined comment to a news reporter claiming illness and Dunphy reiterated his assertion to the Press that he had little choice since the development area in East Vincent was chosen many years ago, as if that absolved him of any responsibility in casting his vote with Funk to determine the potential size of development on that site.

At the end of the day, tyranny prevailed and citizen desire was ignored. At the end of the day, disillusionment pounded another nail into the coffin of public distrust and disgust with elected leaders. At the end of the day it was business as usual. And then the residents wept into that pleasant summer’s night.

Posted in Jones Motor Amendment | 2 Comments

Jones Motor Amendment Hearing

At the June Board of Supervisors meeting, among many agenda items, the Jones Motor property zoning petition was discussed. The Board, being advised that the final petition had been submitted to Chester County as required by the MPC, scheduled a public meeting for comment on the proposed ordinance creating a commercial-mixed use overlay (CMU). This public hearing is scheduled on Wednesday, July 13th, to immediately follow the regular monthly BOS meeting, which was moved up to 7:00 PM to accommodate the hearing.

As is described in the advertisement for the meeting, the BOS will have the ability to vote on the ordinance providing no commentary from the public necessitates any changes to the proposed ordinance.

CCOEV will be presenting information at that meeting and asking questions of the Board ensuring that the ordinance, as currently written, will satisfy the needs of all parties concerned.

It is doubtful that any East Vincent resident opposes some sort of appropriate use, either commercial, office, or agricultural, of that property, of which the commercial corner part has lain fallow for some time now.
Collectively, I’m confident that there is a Township consensus that the Jones Motor property must become attractive to a competent and perhaps daring developer. However, some of the issues all EV citizens should examine and feel certain have been addressed to their satisfaction are:

1. The CMU is an overlay on the existing GI & PO zoning. Thus, that which is currently a use by right in the existing zones will still be available to a developer. The CMU now makes it possible within a minimum 150-acre tract to include residential housing meeting the parameters of the CMU overlay.
2. The CMU will permit as much as 870,000 square feet of commercial space to be constructed including the possibility of two structures as large as 135,000 square feet each [Examples of retail stores using that much single-structure square footage are Wal-Mart Supercenter, Target, Best Buy or Wegmans. Another way of understanding the impact of the 480,000 square feet of total commercial space in the Jones Motor analysis is to look at the Lakeview Shopping Center in Royersford; the combination of all of the stores there is 195,000 square feet. Yet another way of understanding the potential scope of the commercial space provision of the petition is to know that the combined store square footage of the Philadelphia Premium Outlet in Limerick or gross leasable area is 430,000 square feet]. If that option is exercised, then the first of those buildings must be a retail operation dedicating at least 51% of the constructed space to food and ingestible products.
3. The CMU will permit a residential density creating as many as 450 or more single-family dwellings where before no residential was allowed.
4. The arterial feed of Route 724 and traffic flow on Bridge Street and Mennonite Church Road will drive cars and trucks to this site. Can those roads, even with significant upgrades handle such volume?

In the analysis provided by the Jones Motor property owners, they offered impacts based on 373 residential units comprised of a mixture of single family detached (76 units), twins (74 units) and townhouses (223 units). I’m not certain I understand the value for twins since that term is used in the Philadelphia area to describe two housing units sharing a common wall. Until clarification of that term is defined, I will use it the way Jones Motor provided it and count the “twins” as one single-family dwelling.

The Jones Motor analysis shows a population in those 373 residential units of 822 with 79 of that number representing “new school-aged children”. However, according to the 2010 US Census (, the average household size in East Vincent is 2.88 persons per house and the average family size is 3.31 persons.

If those numbers are used as the expectation for the proposed residential development, which is what an urban planner would use, then the population increase once all 373 dwellings are occupied will be a mathematical projected minimum of 1,074 persons to a high (if all units are occupied by families) of 1,234 with 488 of those people being children (presuming no single parent families; if done the number of children increases). Even if we assume that only 50% of those children are of school age, the impact to OJR is 244 children, not 79. Ask yourself how this larger number may affect your property taxes.

The 2010 population of East Vincent is 6,821 with a median age of 39.8 years. Using the Jones Motor presumptions, the population addition of 822 is a 12% increase. Using the Census information, 1,074 new residents is an increase of 15.7%; and if the 1,234 population is used, it represents a staggering 18.1% increase. I fear the calculation of 450 homes at 3.31 persons per home equaling 1,490 people or a 21.8% increase!

I am becoming skeptical about the demographic information being supplied by Jones Motor, so let’s continue.

They offered that the single-family dwellings would sell for an average of $425,000 each totaling $32.3 million. The “twins” will go at an average of $375,000 each totaling $27.8 million. The townhomes will average $317,000 for a total of $70.8 million.

The proposed net sale value of the 373 homes will be $130,845,000 with the assessed value calculated at $72.3 million. Using this number, the transfer tax realized by East Vincent would be $654,000. Jones Motor also offered that East Vincent would realize $435,000 of earned income tax from the new residents. Other income and expenditure items calculated a “net township fiscal impact” of $810,700.

There are problems with this analysis. First, considering the current housing market and the predictions of economic experts as to how and when the housing market will begin to recover, these estimates provided by Jones Motor are highly optimistic. One look at our area and we see that townhomes are selling in the $175,000 to $225,000 range. Also, the market for $400,000+ homes has severely withered and is likely to not return for quite a while. Therefore, the $131 million project seems to be almost twice reality, and all numbers subsequently derived are suspect as well.

But for the purpose of this exercise, let’s assume that all 373 homes sell on day one at the full proposed price, and the Township is up the $810,700 shown by Jones Motor. The transfer tax is a single event and not recurring income. Immediately, year two shows the township seeing, again using the Jones Motor numbers, $535,000 of income from these 373 homes (Presuming $435,000 of earned income tax and $100,000 of property and non-property tax).

I’m certain anyone reading this op-ed will agree that with a minimum 12% population increase and a minimum of 486,000 square feet of commercial space, the need for at least one full-time police officer added to the current force is indicated. Using 2,080 hours per full-time employee per year, staffing for one 24/7/365 police officer requires 4.2 people hired. If we presume the landed cost of a police officer at $60,000 per year, then the cost increase to the township, including infrastructure costs such as an additional squad car, equipment and other requirements, is between $250,000 and $300,000. In year two the new population and commercial enterprises will cost the township.

Even using some sleight-of-hand to reduce the number of people required to be hired for the police force, the $538,000 of Year 2 income is substantially reduced. And other expenditures such as DPW, electricity and new infrastructure maintenance will further erode that income.

I would go on, but for now I believe I have made my point.

East Vincent residents must insist that the various scenarios that would be permitted by the Jones Motor zoning petition have been fully analyzed by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors; that they are completely aware of the financial impact of the proposed development plan example (and yes, I acknowledge it is only a suggestion by the property owner); and that the Township’s interests and needs are preserved.

I have heard Supervisors Funk and Dunphy talk about the dire need for rateables. The need to increase the tax base so as to ensure a revenue flow that will exceed the Township’s continuously increasing expenses. The cursory financial examination above seems to indicate that need may not be met as much as these Supervisors think. Accordingly, is there an analysis the Board has examined that shows otherwise? I’m certain all EVT residents would want to see it.

Your attendance at the July 13th meeting is the only way you can ensure you and your rights are protected. Asking insightful questions about how the Township benefits from the dramatic changes the Jones Motor zoning change can create is vital. Your absence will cost all of us dearly in the short run. The long run is frightening even more so.

CCOEV’s website has been updated. The amendment, a petition, and relevant articles are under the Jones Motor tab. Please visit us and let us know if there is anything else you would like to see. CCOEV is for all East Vincent residents and you will determine the future of this website and our Township. Thank you.

Posted in Jones Motor Amendment | 1 Comment

More on the Pennhurst Amendment

As you know the Planning Commission is reviewing a petition submitted to the Board Of Supervisors by Richard Chakejian, asking that the zoning of his property be changed from LR to GI. This is being requested without any plans for specific development submitted for the property by Mr. Chakejian.

The petition also begs that the definition of a GI zone be modified as well. It’s sort of a two-for-one petition. Let’s examine some of the significant changes that Mr. Chakejian asks.

First, he proposes that within the GI District “…a building may be erected, altered or used, and a lot or premises may be used for any one or combination of the following purposes as a use by right…” (emphasis supplied). This would be a change from the current “…a building may be erected, altered or used, and a lot or premises may be used for only one of the following purposes as a use by right…” (emphasis supplied).

That subtle difference means that a single structure or lot could have multiple purposes, inconsistent with East Vincent zoning principles.

He proposes that Section 27-1302 be modified to add the following uses by right:

“U. Any combination of uses permitted within the PO zoning district including uses permitted by Conditional Use and Special Exception within the PO District.”

“V. Composting.”

“W. Recreation Building, including but not limited to use for entertainment, historical, and amusement-oriented tours and events, such as, but not limited to, a haunted house and other theme-oriented uses, including any associated accessory uses.”

“Y. Age Restricted Community which may be, but is not required to be, a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) where Assisted Living and/or Nursing Home facilities are provided.”

Note that proposed uses V & W tie into the two businesses Mr. Chakejian currently operates on the Pennhurst tract. By conditional use, his company Penn Organics does commercial scale composting and the Pennhurst Asylum haunted house amusement would be a specific use by right.

The rationale for his zoning petition is obvious. If accepted, the limitations imposed on Penn Organics would disappear and the haunted house becomes an East Vincent autumn fixture regardless of the outcome of the Zoning Board Decision currently on appeal in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas.

Also, if Mr. Chakejian loses in Common Pleas, then the haunted house would likely not happen this year because the LR zone would prohibit it, a conditional use potentially granted by the Board Of Supervisors would not be able to be in place in time (that is if that use could be found to be legal as a conditional use already exists for Penn Organics), and a special exemption would probably not be valid.

So there’s why the petition exists. The notion that these changes to GI would permit development of the site is a ruse to obtain permission and latitude for existing Chakejian owned and operated businesses.

Advertisement and notices for hiring actors for the Pennhurst Asylum are on the Internet now. The thinking has to be that one way or another the attraction will happen. The question you, the reader, must ask and answer, is “Do you want this?”

I’ll delve into more of the petition next week.

Addendum: The composting at Penn Organics is not due to a conditional use, but to an amendment to the definition of “Composting” in Section 27-202 and an amendment to the zoning ordinance to allow composting as a use permitted by right in Section 27-602.1.

Posted in Pennhurst Amendment | 1 Comment

A New Zoning Hearing Board Solicitor

While wandering on the East Vincent website I noticed that the solicitor for the Township’s Zoning Board has been changed. Joseph Bagley, Esq. has replaced Glenn Diehl, Esq. Mr. Bagley is with the law firm Wisler Pearlstein, LLP ,having extensive and impressive credentials in the areas of municipal law, real estate, land use and zoning.

I might normally say this change is a good thing, and I wish Mr. Bagley well, but in light of the appeal of the Zoning Board’s recent decision regarding the Pennhurst haunted attraction, I am left to wonder about the timing.

It is reasonable to conclude that Mr. Diehl guided the ZB through the legal arguments that were presented during the appeal, aiding the ZB in reaching its decision. It will be interesting to see how this change of counsel may or may not affect the appeal now in the Chester County Court of Common Pleas asking that the ZB’s decision be overturned.

What gives me pause is that Mr. Bagley works at the same firm as does Jason Herron, current Chairman of the EV Planning Commission. I’m hard pressed to see any immediate conflict insofar as the PC can only recommend to the BOS relative to zoning issues, but this does raise the hairs on the back of my neck.

It is unclear if Mr. Diehl tendered his resignation or if the Township initiated this move. Regardless of cause, it seems that the Township felt at ease with Mr. Bagley despite his collegial association with Mr. Herron. I leave it to you, the reader, to be informed of this change and adjudge this action as you may see fit.

Posted in Haunted House | 1 Comment