City of Reading Planning Commission
August 24, 2021
Lee Olsen, AIA
Robert Conklin, AIA
Jerome Skrincosky, Hawk Valley Associates, Planning Consultant
Tim Krall, Public Works
David Peris, Planning Manager
Naomi Crimm, Planner
William Stoudt, Fire Chief
Steve Smith, SSM
Sam Zook, SSM
Tony Ganguzza, Boyle Construction
Joe Gurney, First Capital Engineering
Mark Stabolepszy, SSM
Dan Laudenslayer, Tarson, LLC
Shannon Callouri, Hailstone Economics
Chairman Olsen called the meeting to order at 6:02.
Item #1 – Agenda
Commissioner Conklin made a motion to accept the agenda as presented. Commissioner Bealer seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 5-0.
Item #2: Elections
Chairman Olsen opened the floor for nominations. He asked for recommendations from the Nominating Committee. Commissioner Bealer presented himself as chair and Commissioner Cinfici as vice chair to the Commission for a vote. Chairman Olsen moved that the nominations be closed, and Commissioner Bealer seconded. Chairman Olsen said that the terms would run until August of 2022.
Action: Chairman Olsen made a motion to accept the Nominating Committee’s nominations. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 5-0. Commissioner Bealer took over as chair.
Item #3: Subdivisions and Land Developments
PC-2021-100-P/F: 1201 N. 9th Street (Marion Street Fire Station)
Joe Gurney said that he has received comments from Hawk Valley in June. They received a review letter from PennDOT in August. There are a couple of comments. They need a letter from the City approving the plan for them to issue the Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP). They got the Conservation District approval in June, and have not received additional comments from Public Works. The plans are ready to be signed and ready to record once the final HOP permit is received.
Mr. Ganguzza asked if a municipal improvements agreement would be needed. They intend to resubmit to PennDOT soon and get a permit by the end of September. They would like to break ground on October 4.
David Peris asked for confirmation that the City of Reading is the property owner and the occupant. Chief Stoudt confirmed. Mr. Krall confirmed as well: the City is the owner, operator, and developer. He said it would not make sense to have an improvements agreement in that case.
Mr. Skrincosky said that for the improvements that are related to PennDOT, PennDOT would want to have financial security themselves, so they will be covering this issue as well. He said that the PennDOT items can be resolved within sixty days. Mr. Krall said that the only items remaining are HOPs by the other utilities. Mr. Gurney said that applications only need to be submitted so that PennDOT can cross-reference them. Mr. Peris said that if the Planning Commission grants an approval, the City will provide the applicant with a copy of the approval letter. Mr. Krall said that Public Works has no other comments. Mr. Skrincosky said that he has nothing further.
Commissioner Cinfici said that he wants to make sure that the needed improvements get completed. Mr. Krall said that there is a schedule to organize the construction in accordance with the plan. Tony Ganguzza’s role is make sure that this happens. Chairman Bealer said that this would be the first time the Commission would grant a conditional approval without a PennDOT HOP in their hands. He asked if staff is comfortable with the comments, and if they are minor enough in nature. Mr. Skrincosky confirmed. The Subdivision and Land Development Ordinance revisions were passed to make sure that this happens within sixty days. Mr. Krall said that the items in the letter are administrative items.
Action: Commissioner Cinfici made a motion to approve the plans, provided that staff is satisfied with them and the PennDOT HOP is received. Commissioner Conklin seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 5-0 (Resolution # 21-2021).
Commissioner Cinfici asked what the next steps would be for this project. Chief Stoudt said that the current station will move across the street. An ambulance will be added to the station. Consolidating the downtown stations is at a standstill currently and will be looked at more in the future.
PC-2020-114: 114-118 Belvedere Avenue (Schaeffer Subdivision)
Steve Smith said that they asked for a time extension. He said that he wants to make sure that all the technical items have been resolved. They have an updated stormwater operations and maintenance agreement. They are anticipating the DEP Planning Module in mid-September.
Mr. Krall said that the addresses (114, 116, 118 Belvedere) have been confirmed with the engineering office and the postal service. For the cost estimate, there was no inspection fee. In the past, the City did not charge for inspections during construction for stormwater management. Consultants will help with that going forward, so he asked that one thousand dollars be added for an inspection fee. Mr. Smith agreed.
Mr. Krall said that he did not see a sidewalk from the street sidewalk to the three units. Steve Smith said that it should be there. He will look into it. Mr. Skrincosky said that it is required. Mr. Krall said that the stormwater issues have been addressed, the City will just need an updated agreement. A deposit of one thousand five hundred dollars will cover inspections over ten years. Mr. Smith said that they will take care of all of those things, and return after they get a DEP letter.
Mr. Peris said that a zoning permit will be required for each home on each lot. Mr. Krall said that Public Works will inspect the existing sanitary laterals.
Commissioner Olsen made a motion to accept the time extension until November 22, 2021. Mr. Peris asked if the 23rd was the intended the date of the time extension. Commissioner Olsen clarified to extend the Time until November 23, 2021. Mr. Smith agreed. Commissioner Ashear seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 5-0.
Action: Commissioner Cinfici moved to table the plan. Chairman Bealer seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 5-0.
PC-2021-113-P:1124 Schuylkill Ave & 1119 Luzerne St. (Iglesia Pentecostal Movimiento de Fe)
Mr. Peris said the project came to the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB) for a building expansion for an existing church at 1124 Schuylkill Avenue. The project has since expanded to the building behind it to 1119 Luzerne Street.
Mr. Laudenslayer said that the project is complicated because it has been done over a long period of time. In 1996 there was a subdivision that separated the former restaurant from the laundromat. A joint fifteen-foot access was created between the laundromat and the church. There has always been a fifteen-foot alley behind the church. It dead-ends at the Warren Street bypass. Neighbors use the access by the laundromat because it is more convenient. He tried to create a parking plan that would facilitate improvement of the alley, improve the parking, and improve access to the laundromat. The laundromat would like to prevent residents from using their lot for access. They widened the alley from fifteen feet to twenty-two feet where they could to provide access. Along the southern side of the church the alley is twenty feet.
Mr. Peris said that the conditions of the Zoning Hearing Board are addressed and incorporated in this submission.
Mr. Skrincosky said that his first comments outline the history of the project. The ZHB decision was included on the plan. The ZHB did not go into the specifics of the site design and site accessibility. He outlined the proposed improvements to the alleys. He suggested discussing these issues with Mr. Laudenslayer. The remaining comments can be resolved easily. The landscaping plan should be looked at in more detail. More landscaping could be added to Lot One. Lot Two has some existing vegetation, but more buffering and screening should be added.
Mr. Laudenslayer said that they received erosion and sedimentation plan approval in a letter from the Conservation District on August 19th.
Mr. Krall asked about the Highway Occupancy Permits (HOP) to the two driveways. Mr. Laudenslayer said that the driveway HOPs are existing. He doesn’t know if there is an HOP on file. Mr. Krall said that the Planning Commission cannot approve a plan without there being HOPs for the driveways on file. They need to see that the existing or proposed driveways are acceptable to PennDOT. The northern entrance is unclear. Mr. Laudenslayer said that the northern part of the site was laid out with slanted parking, so it looks like it was intended for one-way traffic through the site, but there is a note on the plan for ingress and egress. The owner of the restaurant would like the church to use that access exclusively to prevent the residents from the north going through, entering the alley, and going out to Schuylkill Avenue.
Mr. Krall asked if the alley to the south would be opened, widened, and developed. Mr. Laudenslayer said that it is an alley by deed. The alley that goes out to Luzerne Street is a paper alley. He did not open it to Luzerne because the applicant did not want extra traffic going that way. Mr. Krall said that his understanding is that it is a legal alley. He will need to confirm if it can dead-end. He told Mr. Laudenslayer to reach out to Chris Lovell in Public Works. Mr. Skrincosky said that a similar example is Miltimore Street for the Buttonwood Gateway project.
Mr. Krall said that he didn’t see a drainage area and the dimensions in the calculations for the minimum infiltration area for stormwater management. He said that the soils are well-suited for infiltration. Mr. Laudenslayer said that he tried to put a catch basin in the alley to catch runoff from the north and the runoff from the church basin into an infiltration basin.
Mr. Krall said that he went back to 2011 and 2012 for the church property in the City’s Hansen database to look at water usage for sewer planning. It is not the volume that Mr. Laudenslayer calculated, however the volume when it was a restaurant did exceed what is being proposed. He anticipated that planning modules would not be required. Deb Hoag, the Utilities Manager, will need to review and confirm. Mr. Laudenslayer said that the Luzerne Street property would be used as a Bible School, as a space for visiting dignitaries, and as a Sunday school room. He doesn’t think that it would exceed one equivalent dwelling unit. Mr. Krall agreed. He asked if the proposed uses were stated on the plan. Mr. Laudenslayer said that he will add it to the plan.
Chairman Bealer asked why the neighboring property owners are not listed on the plan. Mr. Laudenslayer said that he will correct it.
Commissioner Cinfici asked about waivers for sidewalks and curbs on Luzerne Street. Chairman Bealer said that he will need to look at that again. He thought that there were not sidewalks there.
Commissioner Cinfici said that whole east side has no sidewalk. Chairman Bealer asked the staff to look at the sidewalk. If there are no sidewalks on that side of the street, he sees no reason to require sidewalks there. Mr. Laudenslayer said that there is not much. They did not survey curbing.
Commissioner Conklin said that the note about what the use is for the Luzerne Street property is going to be important. This will affect egress components and health and safety. Mr. Skrincosky said that he had a comment about that in his letter. Mr. Laudenslayer said that the use will be handled by the pastor at a later date. They are primarily concerned with Lot One at this point.
Chairman Bealer asked if the land development plan would need to match the zoning permit. Mr. Peris said that if the submissions are different then they will need to return to the Planning Commission. Commissioner Bealer said that the use should be clarified. Mr. Peris said that a variance for the sidewalk requirement was not requested so that was not addressed in the zoning relief.
Action: Commissioner Olsen made a motion to table the plan. Chairman Bealer seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 5-0.
PC-2021-114-PF: 825 E. Wyomissing Blvd (Reading Truck Group)
Mr. Krall said that this land development includes the eastern side of the Liggett Avenue and Hancock Boulevard intersection that the Planning Commission approved for the Reading Housing Authority project. It is a choke point for stormwater and for traffic.
Mr. Stabolepszy shared his screen to show the drawing of the intersection realignment for reference for why the annexation is happening. The realignment of Liggett Avenue will clean up the intersection for safety and access for trucks. The design is the collaboration of the Tom Masano Group and the Reading Truck Body. Tom Masano Group needs full access for the trucks, while Reading Truck Group needs an ingress and egress. This process is separate from the annexation plan. It is still being worked out who will build a new island and curbing (Reading Truck Group or Tom Masano Group). Reading Truck Group said that they need to own their entire property that they will be driving on, so they agreed to change the property line. Nothing is changing on either property as far as their operations.
Mr. Skrincosky said that the total area of annexation is 0.52 acres. Draft deed descriptions will be needed before municipal approval so that that can be recorded with the annexation plan. He outlined the waiver requests – showing contour lines, existing structures and trees on the subject properties, and street cartway and curb geometry information on the plan. It is a straight-forward plan that is primarily for ingress and egress.
Chairman Bealer asked if the Reading Truck Group would need to come before the Planning Commission for a land development. Mr. Peris said he didn’t think so. Mr. Krall said that it is a rearrangement of an intersection already there. It would not constitute a land development. Mr. Peris asked about the proposed twenty-foot egress. Mr. Stabolepszy said that the twenty-foot egress would be on Reading Truck Body’s property.
Mr. Stabolepszy showed where the sidewalk would be added. Mr. Krall said that there could be sidewalks at the Liggett Avenue intersection, but he will need to confirm if that will be implemented. Mr. Krall said that Public Works is in agreement with the plans.
Mr. Peris said that they received a zoning permit application. The annexation won’t create any nonconformities. In fact, it looks like it will make the driveway less nonconforming in terms of driveway width.
Chairman Bealer said that because the Berks County Planning Commission has not reviewed the plan, they would have to table the plan.
Action: Commissioner Conklin made a motion to grant the waiver requests for the contour lines. Commissioner Olsen seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 5-0.
Mr. Krall said that Public Works fully supports all of the waiver requests. The information being waived is being addressed in another manner.
Action: Commissioner Olsen made a motion to grant the waiver request for showing the existing structures and trees on the plan. Commissioner Cinfici seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 5-0.
Action: Commissioner Olsen made a motion to waive the street cartway and curb geometry information on the plan. Commissioner Ashear seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 5-0.
Action: Commissioner Olsen made a motion to table the plan. Commissioner Conklin seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 5-0.
Mr. Stabolepszy asked about placing the new property markers. It would not make sense to place them until after the driveway is constructed. He asked if a note on the plan is sufficient, or if a security is needed. Mr. Skrincosky said that usually when it is deferred it would be a financial security. Mr. Krall said that the project is for the City, so it would be unnecessary to have a financial security. Mr. Stabolepszy said that the corners are the responsibility of Reading Truck Body. The project would take two to three months to complete. Mr. Skrincosky suggested putting a note on the plan that placing the property markers will be a requirement of the driveway permit.
Mr. Krall said that the West side of the intersection has been reconfigured. The curb ramps have been installed as well. The curb island for the bike safety trail is about fifty percent complete.
Item #4: Other Business
Reuse Recommendation for 638 & 640 Schuylkill Avenue
Shannon Callouri said that the Reading Redevelopment Authority (RRA) is ready to go through the eminent domain process for 638 and 640 Schuylkill Avenue.
The blighted property eminent domain law enables the City to use eminent domain. Ms. Callouri gave a quick overview of the process and the Planning Commission’s role. The urban redevelopment law requires the RRA to seek a reuse recommendation from the Planning Commission. The properties under question are a priority for the City. One of the powers of the Authority is to acquire properties under eminent domain. The properties need to meet the blighted properties criteria. The reuse recommendation should be based on the Comprehensive Plan. The next step is to file a notice to the property owner.
Mr. Peris said that the recommendation should be centered around the Comprehensive Plan, and the Zoning Ordinance is a reflection of the Comprehensive Plan. The properties are in the R-3 District. This district is primarily single family residential. These properties don’t fit the lot area requirements to support the density required for multifamily. The staff recommendation for reuse is as single family dwellings.
Commissioner Cinfici asked if there will be off-street parking. Ms. Callouri said she does not know right now, but the RRA is required to adhere to the Zoning Ordinance requirements and request a variance or other relief from the Zoning Hearing Board as needed. 638 Schuylkill Avenue has a garage, and 640 Schuylkill Avenue has a back area. Part of the process will be to rehabilitate the properties. Mr. Peris said the zoning relief is independent of this process. The RRA would still need to go through the ZHB for a variance.
Action: Commissioner Cinfici moved to recommend the reuse of the properties as single family homes. Commissioner Ashear seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 4-0.
Action: Chairman Bealer made a motion to grant the time extension request for 916 N. 9th Street until December 19, 2021. Commissioner Cinfici seconded. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 4-0.
Action: Commissioner Cinfici made a motion to grant the time extension request for the Medical Arts Building until November 23, 2021. Chairman Bealer seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 4-0.
Action: Commissioner Conklin made a motion to reaffirm the final plan approval for 810 Windsor Street. Chairman Bealer seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 4-0.
Action: Chairman Bealer made a motion to reaffirm the final plan approval for Buttonwood Gateway. Commissioner Cinfici seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 4-0.
Redistricting Commission Assignment
Mr. Peris said that with the release of the 2020 Census, City Council needs to create a Redistricting Commission within sixty days. Two members need to come from the Planning Commission. Commissioner Cinfici confirmed that it was for redrawing the City Council districts.
Chairman Bealer volunteered. He said that he would send out an email about it and notify Mr. Peris and Ms. Crimm to move it forward. Mr. Peris said that a motion could be made at the next meeting, but he would notify the City Clerk.
Acceptance of the July PC meeting minutes
Action: Commissioner Cinfici moved to accept the minutes with the minor corrections. Commissioner Conklin seconded the motion. The vote on the motion was unanimous, 4-0.
Commissioner Cinfici asked what the nominating committee’s recommendation would be for the Blight Remediation Committee. Chairman Bealer asked if Commissioner Ashear would consider. Commissioner Ashear announced that this will be his last meeting with the Planning Commission. He accepted a position in Columbus, Ohio and will have to step down. He provided a letter to Mr. Peris who will forward it to the Mayor’s Office.
For the Commission Liaison report, Chairman Bealer said provided a summary of a webinar he attended on brownfield remediation.
Commissioner Cinfici asked about amending the bylaws. Mr. Peris said that he took the bylaws to the City Solicitor. There are some inconsistencies. He wants to make sure that they are in line with the City Charter and the Municipalities Planning Code.
Chairman Bealer asked for an update on the Medical Arts building. Ms. Crimm said that Alan Shuman is still working on resolving the window issues on 224 N. 5th. Mr. Peris said that they need to resubmit to the Historic Architectural Review Board. Mr. Krall said that they still have not received planning modules.
Commissioner Cinfici asked for an update on the playground on the Marion Street Fire Station’s current site when the City is able to give one. Mr. Krall said that he will pass that along to the director of Public Works.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:28pm.
Respectfully submitted by Naomi Crimm, Planner