The school plans to develop its 50-acre property, located on the east and west sides of Nantmeal Road south of Nantmeal Village. It wants to establish facilities for educational use as well as more residences. A master plan, dated March 28, 2002, has been submitted by the school as part of its challenge in requesting a curative amendment. The school is located in an educational/institutional district, which was established by Article X of the zoning ordinance.
Ronald C. Nagle, Esq., representing the school, claims the existing regulations are restrictive and exclusionary for the school's use in providing adequate accommodations for their residents. Currently 108 people live and work at the school.
According to the ordinance, a minimum lot size of four acres is required for all uses in the educational/institutional district. Housing is restricted to a maximum of 3,200 square feet. Population density is limited to 2.25 people per acre.
Camphill Soltane maintains there is no legal justification for the restrictions in the educational/institutional district. According to the school, unlawful limits have been put on the use of the land. It also claims that Article X of the ordinance is in violation of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988.
Nagle said Camphill Soltane has been asking for changes in the ordinance for 10 years. He cited that an agreement had been made with the supervisors in 1992 but was not accepted by the township's zoning hearing board. According to Nagle, some discrepancies exist in the number of residents permitted per acre on different tracts.
He then asked Supervisor Henry Osborn if his experiences on the zoning hearing board and the fact that his property is located close to the school what have an effect on his decision making. Osborn declined to respond.
Peter Temple, Esq., representing the township board of supervisors, said the zoning issue has had a long history. Going back to the late 1980s, Camphill Soltane had asked for a special exception. An educational/institutional district was created and made part of Zoning Ordinance of 1994. The supervisors question what effect any expansion of the school would have on roads, water, public utilities, and woodlands among other areas for consideration.
The township has proposed an amendment to certain sections of the zoning ordinance governing the educational/institutional district which would permit one residential dwelling on two acres. A master plan would alsoneed to be development.
Also attending the meeting was Gregg Davis, executive director of Camphill Soltane. He explained that the school is a non-profit charitable organization that provides care for young adults ranging in age from 18 to 25 with mild to moderate mental and physical developmental disabilities. Each receives training geared to an individual's specific capacity for learning. Half of the students are employed outside the school from three to 35 hours a week. Staffing at the school is three staff members to four residents.
Davis added that the school has received awards from the Chester County Commissioners, the Pennsylvania state legislature, Gov. Ridge, and former President Clinton.
Camphill Soltane is part of the International Camphill Foundation which maintains 80 campuses in 18 countries.
Hearings on the Camphill Soltane zoning issue are held before township supervisors, the township secretary/treasurer, and the attorney for the supervisors. A stenographer records the proceedings. The hearings are held following the monthly supervisors meeting. According to the supervisors, the hearings will continue until all information is presented. Kathy Brumfield, township secretary/treasurer said if the final decision is challenged, the case would go to the Chester County Court of Common Pleas.
In other business, Board Chairman Jim Jenkins said the Zoning Ordinance Committee will meet July 22 at 7:30 p.m. The Conservation Committee will meet July 17 at 5:30 p.m.
Solicitor Jane Shields stated that the township will keep the French Creek Golf Club and Village on the agenda as a reminder to check the dates according to a schedule for completion of its various phases.
Edwina Davis, a township representative to the Northern Federation of Chester County Municipalities, said the federation is looking into alternative means of managing development along Route 100 and other main highways. The federation will consider the impact of development on local culture and natural resources.
It includes Amity Township in Berks County, and North, South, and East Coventry, East Nantmeal, East and West Vincent, and Warwick and East Pikeland townships in Chester County. The goal of the federation is to work
together in solving regional problems that affect the group as a whole.