Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Lower Pottsgrove OKs 1st Phase of Sanatoga Green

An early rendition of the Sanatoga Green plan.

With little fanfare and no comment, the Lower Pottsgrove Township Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to approve the first phase of a $146 million project which, when finished, will construct nearly 500 housing units near the Limerick outlets.

The first phase, which is what was approved Monday night, calls for the construction of 147 town homes. The final site plan for this phase was recommended by the township planning commission in October, said Township Manager Ed Wagner.

A rendering of the town homes planned for Sanatoga Green.
Construction is set to begin in the spring.

Located on a total of 57 acres, the project calls for the construction of 490 housing units comprised of the approved 147 town homes; 343 apartments in 17 buildings; a 50,000 square foot medical office building and a 108-room hotel.

The site is located off Evergreen Road, near the entrance to the Costco and Philadelphia Premium Outlets, both of which are in Limerick Township. 

The project was first envisioned in 2014, when the township commissioners agreed to change the zoning to “gateway mixed use” at the suggestion of the developers, Castle Caldecott, LLC.

The project won preliminary site plan approval from the township commissioners in July, 2017.

Commercial Comes Next

Township Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. said a clause remains in place that requires the commercial phases of the project to be built next, before the apartments, otherwise the developers can be subject to a penalty of $375,000.
A rendering of the medical office building proposed for
Sanatoga Green.

The commissioners had previously expressed concern that if all the housing were built first, the commercial properties might never get built.

That would be of gravest concern to the Pottsgrove School District, which benefits from tax revenues from commercial properties because they do not add to the district's enrollment. Residential development, on the other hand, does.

Last year, Pottsgrove School District Business Manager David Nester shared the results of a demographic study that forecast the district could see growth of as much as 3,700 more students in the next 10 years.

However, the scenario the consultant hired by the board in November considers the most likely is an 8-percent increase in the next 10 years, which works out to 262 additional children.

Nester said the buildings most likely to see the greatest impact under this scenario are Lower Pottsgrove Elementary School (53 more students) and Pottsgrove Middle School, which would see 109 more.

The primary drivers behind this forecast are the residential units in Sanatoga Green, the Spring Valley Farms project now under construction at Pleasantview and Bliem roads — both in Lower Pottsgrove — and the 58-unit rental development off Moyer Road in Upper Pottsgrove.

“We’ve never had his kind of influx of housing before. These numbers are conservative, and frankly they’re still twice what developers said,” Nester told the board last year.

Tax Windfall?

But Castle Caldecott's analysis predicted the Sanatoga Green project will generate only 58 additional students for the school district and will be a tax windfall.

Estimated to generate just over $3 million in additional tax revenue for the school district, a 2016 analysis done for the developers, estimated $1.1 million in costs to the district.

That leaves Pottsgrove Schools $2.6 million on the positive side when Sanatoga Green is completed, according to the analysis.

As for the township, which has a much lower millage rate, the total revenues would rise by $627,159, minus $385,400 in costs for township services — again, undocumented — leaving a net gain of $241,759.

More Traffic?

The exact impact the project will have on local traffic was not immediately available Monday night.
Plans for a new ramp at the Sanatoga interchange are in the works.
However, more homes usually equals more cars.

As it stands, PennDOT is already moving ahead with upgrades to Route 422's Sanatoga interchange, which is nearby to the project.

The $3 million project will allow traffic driving away from the Philadelphia Outlets and Costco to get onto westbound Route 422 without having to cross opposing traffic on Evergreen Road as it does now

The project is expected to take most of 2019 to construct and is not likely to be ready for use until 2020.

Sewer Impacts

Sanatoga Green will generate 78,000 gallons of wastewater per day. It will be pumped to the Pottstown Wastewater Treatment Plant with the help of $500,000 worth of improvements to a township pump station.

The state, concerned about the amount of stormwater and groundwater infiltrating Lower Pottsgrove’s sewer system, approved the additional flow after the township increased its efforts to stem that infiltration from $175,000 per year to $435,000, said Wagner.

No Tax Hike

In other business, the commissioners also voted unanimously to advertise the 2019 budget which calls for a 1 percent increase in spending, but no tax hike.

Wagner said the 2019 budget is $6,366,989, which is only $35,059 more than the current budget.

However, the budget nevertheless calls for using $328,749 of reserve funds to balance the budget and avoid the tax hike.

He said during the budget process more than $400,000 in spending was cut from the 2019 budget draft to get it to this point.

Sewer fees remain $136 per quarter, as they have been since 2014, Wagner said.

The commissioners are expected to adopt the final budget at the Dec. 20 meeting.

Police News

District Judge Maurice Saylor, in robe, administers the oath to 
Lower Pottsgrove's newest police officer, Aaron Diefenderfer.
The township swore in a new police officer Monday night. His name is Aaron Diefenderfer and he previously worked in Philadelphia, has emergency medical training and is currently pursuing a master's degree, according to Police Chief Mike Foltz.

Another candidate, Michael Tantorno Jr. has also accepted a conditional offer of employment and will be sworn in at a meeting in January.

Foltz also reported that during an intense rainstorm on Nov. 2, one of the department's patrol carts was "overcome by flood water."

Moisture remains trapped in patrol car 88-2 after
it was flooded during 
a Nov. 2 rainstorm.
"I imagine it has quite bit of mildew inside it now," said the chief. An insurance claim has been filed.

Foltz also fielded a complaint made Monday night by a resident of Pebble Beach Drive about residents of the Rolling Hills public housing development creating problems on his street.

"They steal from our cars. When I come home at 2 and 3 in the morning, they're walking down the middle of the street," said Brian Sacks. "I feel like I'm living in the hood."

He asked for a fence to block access, but Foltz said he did not think that would work because there is a fence between Rolling Hills and neighboring Walnut Ridge development and "it keeps getting torn down."

And with that, here are the Tweets from the meeting:

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