Zoning law barring large-scale retirement community is not exclusionary
The Commonwealth Court has upheld Hereford Township’s position and denied an appeal for a curative amendment that would allow Radnor Development Company of Conshohocken to construct a continuing retirement community on 99 acres of land at Kutztown Road and Route 100. According to township records, the property has been used as a farm for the last 60 years.
Officials anounced the ruling at a March 6 board of supervisors meeting.
The proposed retirement community included 15, five-story residential buildings, service building, activity building and common building. It would have included 1,819 parking spaces to serve 1,650 independent living units and 412 assisted and skilled nursing units.
Supervisors denied the curative amendment in December of 2010 and Radnor appealed shortly after. At the time, Radnor’s attorney and majority owner, Paul Bucco, said Hereford’s zoning doesn’t allow for a continuing retirement community and is exclusionary.
“I’m hoping it brings an end to that matter,” Hereford Solicitor Eugene Orlando said. He also noted that the proceedings had been “long and tortured and very expensive.”
Chairman John Membrino thanked former supervisor Karla Dexter for her “steadfast support of the zoning ordinance,” and stated that Orlando’s “legal arguments were spot on.”
He also thanked township engineering firm Technicon; the township’s special counsel Terry Parrish; Washington Township; Mr. and Mrs. Joe Wolfgang; the Berks County Commissioners; the Brandywine Conservancy; and the township office staff, including former secretary Pat White.
“I’m happy it may be over,” he said.
In other news, acting on the recommendation of the township planning commission, the supervisors decided not to include language requiring licensed professions and trades to submit proof of their licenses prior to receiving municipal use and occupancy permits.
The provision for licensing had been originally included in an amendment to the zoning ordinance under consider by the planning commission and the supervisors. It had been removed from the amendment, however, when the planning commission determined that they did not agree with it.
The provision would have required any profession or trade that is licensed – such as physicians, beauticians, or massage therapists, to name a few - to provide proof of their licenses to the township prior to setting up shop and receiving their permits.
The language originally came at the urging of FREE, Freedom and Restoration of Everybody Enslaved, a Berks County group fighting human trafficking. Unlicensed massage parlors, that were said to be fronts for prostitution rings, were targeted by the grassroots group which recommended that municipalities amend their zoning ordinances to require proof of licensing.
Supervisor Jeff Sell had agreed with the amendment. “I think it makes sense to have it there. The zoning ordinance is the least of their worries, in the legal sense.”
He added that he was a mechanic and would be in trouble with the state if he didn’t have a license.
Supervisor Keith Masemore disagreed, stating that it was another layer of bureaucracy and was an example of the township “policing” its residents and businesses.
The supervisors voted to advertise this and several other amended ordinances. A public hearing will be held on May 1 at 7 p.m.
In recycling news, the supervisors addressed the potential changes to the county recycling program, discussed at last month’s workshop meeting.
Masemore reported that he had discussed the changes with maintenance supervisor Chris Day, who said that he would like the recycling to stay as it is - open once a month. The county would like to change it to 24/7 recycling with on-demand pick up.
Day said that if it could not stay the same, he would want the county to be able to respond to pick up requests in 24 hours.
Also the township would like to be able to be compensated if the trash gets too full and they need to get rid of it themselves. Day did report to Masemore that the tonnage is less since the recycling trailers were moved out of sight from Seisholtzville Road, so that passers-by could not see them and dump their trash.
The supervisors instructed Secretary Norann Warmkessel to write a letter to the recycling authority and see if the township will be able to have changes it can live with.