Saturday, September 7, 2013

Council Poised to Reduce Borough Tree Requirements

Photo by Evan Brandt

Street trees blossom in spring time on Beech Street in Pottstown.
Borough council is expected to vote Monday on a proposal to lessen the requirements for planting trees when a property is developed or re-developed.

Specifically, the vote would authorize Borough Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. to advertise an amendment to the borough's sub-division and land development ordinance, known as a SLDO, and apply to the rules governing "open space trees" and "parking lot trees."

"This is the result of an ongoing theme at the planning commission," Garner told council during the Wednesday work session.

"We were calculating a large number of trees and then granting waivers and it was becoming problematic," he said.

Photo by Evan Brandt

The number of trees required in the current ordinance "was a little bit extreme," said James Majewski, a senior project engineer with Remington, Vernick and Beach, which advised the planning commission.

Reviewing the tree requirements and making changes "was definitely time well-spent," Majewski said.

"This change primarily reduces parking lot trees and open space trees. Developers are still required to plant trees, but this change makes it a little more reasonable and a little more fair to those trying to develop their land," said Garner.

The change would reduce the number of open space trees required from the current level of one new tree for every 2,500 square feet to one new tree for every 8,000 square feet, said Garner.

Additionally, where the current standard requires one tree for every two parking spaces, the proposed new standard would be two trees for every eight parking spaces, he said.

Steve Toroney
The amendment would also result in more control over the species of trees planted, referring to the borough's current list of approved species; as well as the newer rules about locating trees, both of which were drawn up and are administered by Public Works Director Doug Yerger.

"This will create a lot more leeway then there is now," said Borough Council President Stephen Toroney, who sits on the planning commission.

Toroney, said the long-simmering issue came to a head when the school district presented its plans for the renovation of the three elementary schools.

"It was ridiculous. They were going to have to plant like a thousand trees," Toroney said.

Councilman Dan Weand, who is also the chairman of the Pottstown Planning Commission, added "where there was supposed to be open space and play space, there would have been a maze," "or Sherwood Forest," quipped Toroney.

"Also, its important to note that Pottstown has a lot more trees now than it used to. We've got pretty good tree cover now," Weand said.

Councilman Jeff Chomnuk said under the new guidelines, a space the size of the football field at Pottstown High School would require only six trees.

"It's definitely more workable," he said.




11 comments:

  1. Again, another instance where Council had to spend time correcting past practices. I remember when McDonalds on High Street remodeled their location. A huge, somewhat heated discussion persisted about trees in their parking lot. The zoning commission at the time would not budge on the amount and species of trees to be planted. And a "payment in lieu of trees" was made to the Trees Inc. organization. Why do I continue to bring this up? Because the taxpayers of Pottstown can't forget the past or we will be doomed to repeat it.

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  2. Actually, I suspect that payment was made to the borough, not to Trees Inc.

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  3. No Evan, when that part of the Zoning was written, payment was made directly to Trees Inc. According to their website, for example, when PMMC made their expansion, in 2004 and 2005, they contributed a total of $36,400 "in lieu of trees". During that time the Boro made payments of $21,000 per year to Trees Inc.This was done during the time Mr. Jack Wolf was Council President.

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    1. OK, I stand corrected. So much for that suspicion.

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  4. Opps, forgot to clarify, the "in lieu of trees" was paid to Trees Inc. Payments was discussed at several council meetings. I should have the minutes, but trying to search the Mercury website.

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    1. Searching The Mercury web site is a lost cause!

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  5. My whole point with this discussion, I just wish the people of Pottstown would come to some of the Council and School board meetings to see what really goes on in this town. They need to see who, and there are more than one, that, through the years, go unchallenged, to bring some kind of personal agenda to better themselves. (pardon my punctuation, I tend to type like I talk) I can also think of the Boyer home as an example. But that is for a future time. Thank you for all your reporting. It is appreciated!

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  6. No one thought of buying books instead?

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  7. At all the meetings I have attended at the school board, the topic usually ran first it was the Boyer Home. Then it was the neighborhood schools. Then it would be the teacher's contract. Never did I attend a meeting where the quality of education was discussed. Never talked about library access. Oh I do remember when the High School was being built, someone complained about the size and "fanciness" of the library. I'm not kidding! I wanted to run for school board, but not with the group of 5 that was running. They were more concerned about buildings than education quality.

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    1. Sadly, this time around, all candidates for school board are unopposed.

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