NORTH COVENTRY - The township has won a legal battle against a developer wishing to build a cluster development on Sheep Hill Road.

The Chester County Court of Common Pleas upheld the supervisors' decision to reject Heritage Building Group's request for conditional use approval, Township Solicitor Kevin Hennesey told township supervisors at a recent meeting.

In a decision dated March 24, the court cited a number of instances in which the developer failed to comply with the township zoning ordinance.

Heritage had proposed constructing 33 single-family homes on three adjoining tracts of land totaling 62.4 acres off Sheep Hill Road, known as the Bishop-Font-Gerber tract. The board had voted earlier this year to reject the developer's conditional use application, pointing to inconsistencies and "gross inadequacies" in the plans.

Because the developers wanted to build a cluster development, in which homes are clustered on a portion of the land, while the rest remains as open space, conditional use approval by township supervisors was required.

Conditional use approval means the development is allowed in that residential zone, but only if certain conditions are met.

After a hearing on the matter, supervisors rejected the plan, in part because they were displeased with the quality of open space being offered by Heritage.

Township ordinances concerning cluster developments require that 60-percent of a parcel be left as open space. However, all the designated open space must be on land suitable for development.

Supervisors maintained much of the 11 acres delineated as open space by Heritage contained woodlands and wetlands, and steep slopes was, therefore, not developable land.

In addition, supervisors said the plan did not address a number of other issues in the zoning ordinance.

Heritage then filed an appeal with the Chester County Court of Common Pleas.

"The court found the board had substantial findings of fact and Heritage did not meet the qualifications" for conditional use approval, Hennessey told supervisors.

In its decision, the court enumerated a number of instances in which the plan failed to comply with township codes.

These included failure to: identify and map natural resources; provide calculations that minimum setback requirements were met; show the number of two-acre lots allowable in a conventional plan; address a section of the ordinance that regulates the amount of natural resources that can be removed from a protected area.

The decision also brought into question the number of homes proposed by Heritage.

"The evidence indicates that extensive wetlands, woodlands and steep slopes on the property would further reduce the number of two-acre lots available for development. (Heritage's) plan entirely ignored this restrict," the decision states.

It concludes, "Heritage was given an opportunity to comply with these sections (of the zoning law), but chose to move forward on its application without revising the contents of its application, sketches or assessment plan."

Heritage has 30 days from the March 24 ruling to appeal the decision.

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