Lower Pottsgrove engineering representative Chad Camburn (above) as he talked about the Spring Valley Farms community Monday to the township Planning Commission
SANATOGA PA – Spring Valley Farms, the proposed 178-unit housing community in Lower Pottsgrove bordered in part by North Pleasant View and Bleim roads, won preliminary approval Monday (Sept. 21, 2015) from the township Planning Commission.
The board’s unanimous vote allows the plan by developer Brennan Marion to now be considered for review by the Pottstown Water Authority, the Montgomery County Conservation District and other agencies that must agree to it before moving to final consideration by the township Board of Commissioners.
As they have in earlier meetings, planners continued to question the development’s potential impact on traffic levels and congestion on Bleim and nearby Pruss Hill roads. They also raised concerns about the number of children living within the community who likely would attend Pottsgrove School District schools.
The group was openly critical of a traffic impact study done for Marion, which showed that vehicles leaving or entering the community via Bleim Road at peak hours would add only seconds per trip of additional travel time. Its members also scoffed at estimates that 178 single-family units of three or more bedrooms would house a total of only 73 children during its five-phase build-out.
Newly arrived commissioner and former Board of School Directors’ President Scott Fulmer expressed reservations about student population growth because of Spring Valley. “I think you’re missing a large group of individuals,” Fulmer told the developer, and noted he considered an estimate of .41 students per household to be far too low.
Spring Valley engineer Rolph Graf said both numbers were based on standard and state-accepted formulas for determining traffic and school loads, and “not just made up.” The determinations are provided in widely recognized Rutgers University planning documents, Graf added. He conceded, however, that actual results could be substantially different than what applied formulas indicate.
“It’s a guesstimate,” Graf said. “It could be more, or it could be less.”
In answering planners’ questions, township Manager Ed Wagner said Police Chief Michael Foltz had not, to his knowledge, studied the issue of Spring Valley traffic flow, and also said the school district “was very aware” of the project but had not commented on it.
The board seemed somewhat re-assured by Wagner’s promise that he and other township representatives would collectively meet with Marion, his team, and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials to discuss those issues. PennDOT plays a final arbiter role in the development, because both North Pleasant View and Bliem are state-owned and -maintained highways.
Bursich Associates, the township engineering firm represented Monday by Chad Camburn, has recommended PennDOT consider authorizing deceleration lanes on Bleim that would allow cars entering Spring Valley to pull out of the primary traffic lane for safety and to and relieve some congestion.
Commission member William Wolfgang asked Marion to consider adding more plantings to portions of the development along North Pleasant View, so night lighting and activity there would not disturb neighbors living on the road’s east side. Graf did not immediately agree, but said the request would be considered.
In a separate vote, board members approved Spring Valley’s request for waviers regarding seven different items in which the project would vary with township code. Almost all dealt with aesthetic issues like tree placement and selection, other landscaping issues, curbing, and street width.
Fire Marshal Lew Babel, who reviewed the plans for fire companies’ access and safety, praised the developer for readily making changes he deemed important.
Township resident and former Board of Commissioners’ President Tom Troutman asked if the developer could install a safe pathway that would allow residents and children alike to safely walk from Spring Valley to nearby Gerald Richards Park. Wagner responded the best way to accomplish that likely would involve another parcel the developer does not own.