Several residents waited until after midnight to let their voices be heard on a proposed development on the north side of Phoenixville.
The plan for Fillmore Village includes 141 townhomes on 19 acres off Fillmore Street, west of Franklin Avenue. Phase one was before borough council at its March 13 meeting, and that includes 62 townhomes, according to developer David Moskowitz. The project has been in the works for five years, he said, and the plan was originally to begin Fillmore Village when the last home was put in Northridge Village. The bad economy, however, stunted progress on Fillmore Village.
Moskowitz, representing the applicant Coventry Ridge/Hasting Development Co., said the plan has fewer homes than the 196 units allowed by the borough’s zoning and offers double the open space required. He said he hopes construction can begin in a few months, and pointed out that the plan allows for a pass through for what’s been referred to as the northern relief road, which would connect Route 113 to Township Line Road.
The plan received a 5-1-1 recommendation from the planning commission at its March 8 meeting, with Ron Knabb casting the no vote and one commission member abstaining.
Resident Yvonne Brownlee said she hoped to see more improvements on Fillmore Street as a result of the development. The road needs repairs and widening to accommodate the added traffic, she said. Brownlee also expressed concern about an abandoned tunnel in the area, which is near the site but not on Moskowitz’s property. She said she’d like to see the area around the tunnel fenced so kids can’t get into it.
“If a child does step off of that, it will absolutely mean death,” Brownlee said.
Pete Luciano, who owns a business in that area, voiced similar concerns. Fillmore Street, he said, includes dangerous curves and he asked why a left-turn lane wouldn’t be installed.
“When this gets built, there will be 143 people saying this road is dangerous. It should be widened,” Luciano said.
Garrett Vail, who lives near the site, said the plan was for 35 wider homes, but that changed and the developer then requested 62 homes that are taller. He brought up a plan to change the definition of building height that was discussed at planning commission as well.
“I feel strong-armed. I feel the planning commission was strong-armed, too,” Vail said.
Amanda Vail agreed, saying the new plan was “rammed down the throats” of planners and residents.
Resident Irene Hilly said she finds the plan confusing and worried about children and school buses.
“You have to think this through,” Hilly said. “I don’t approve of this.”
Dr. David Saneck noted concerns about the phasing plan. Saneck recused himself from discussion at the planning commission as he lives close to the property. He said the plan should have stayed in planning commission another month.
Council President Richard Kirkner agreed.
“This plan really doesn’t seem like it’s ready to come to us,” Kirkner said.
Councilman Dave Gautreau said he’s for the project, but would like to see it done right. Several other council members agreed that it should go back before the planning commission.
Moskowitz said the plan is consistent with the borough’s comprehensive plan, and said the density is less than what’s permitted, even with more homes.
“I haven’t heard anything yet that would justify rejecting this plan,” he said.
Kirkner again said he hoped the plan would go back before the planning commission.
“We are nowhere near being comfortable enough with this plan to approve it right now,” Kirkner said.
Moskowtiz said it’s already been in front of the planning commission a half dozen times, and he noted that borough council had already granted preliminary approval back in 2008. The plan was up for final approval at council’s March 13 meeting.
Because the final action date was set for April 2 and the next council meeting is April 10, an extension was discussed. Moskowitz said he wasn’t for the idea, explaining that the plan has already been reviewed a number of times.
Councilwoman Jennifer Mayo said with the applicant unwilling to grant an extension, the only option would be to turn the plan down. She asked what else council hoped to get from the planning commission.
“They’re not traffic planners,” Mayo said.
Kirkner pointed out the fire chief’s recommendation that the alleys on the plan be widened to 24 feet. They are currently 16 feet.
“The fire chief can’t require that those alleys be 24 feet,” Moskowitz said.
Council Vice President Mike Speck explained that he’s seen fire apparatus maneuver around Northridge Village and said that it’s very tight. He said he would stand by the chief’s recommendation.
Moskowitz said he’d be amenable to an extension until the April meeting if council pulled together a list of its concerns. Kirkner named several of the issues mentioned earlier, including the phasing plan, the intersection with Fillmore Street and the eight items on the planning commission’s action memo.
Also related to the Fillmore Village development, the planning commission recommended a zoning amendment that would change the definition on how building heights are calculated. Instead of the finished grade to the peak of the roof, the new definition would be from the finished grade to the cornice. Borough Manager Jean Krack said this would allow for more variety in roof styles. Before council at the March meeting was a decision on whether or not to schedule a public hearing on the matter. Council voted unanimously against scheduling the hearing.
The Fillmore Village plans will be on the April 10 Phoenixville Borough Council agenda early in the meeting, as the plans were not discussed until around midnight at the March meeting. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in borough hall.