The Van Wyck News
|Volume 5 Number 17
||A Voice for Freedom||26 November 2013|
Cluster Development passed first reading at the County Council meeting on 25 November 2013, “Just so we can get it on the table and talk about it.” The values of the important parameters included in the Cluster Development version passed by County Council are the very small numbers required to permit Matamy Homes to develop the Treetops site to 933 homes. We will call these values the Matamy Home Treetops Profit Numbers (MHTPN).
The very small values of the MHTPN carry with them substantial increased risk for the residents of the developments built with them. There is an an increased risk that a fire started in one house will quickly spread to adjacent houses. There are reports of fires spreading to as many as five houses in the time required for the firefighters to respond and attack the fire, turning a single house fire into a major disaster in developments using MHTPN.
Matamy Homes responded to this situation by requiring the use of fire resistant siding, forbidding vented soffits and requiring that the windows of adjacent houses be offset when 5 foot side setbacks are used. The effect of the first two of these conditions is unknown, although they are expected to reduce the risk due to fire spreading rapidly from house to house. The value of the offset windows is well known; one of the primary ways that fire spreads from house to house is burning debris blown into an adjacent house through an opposing window broken by the fire. Unfortunately this fine sounding condition cannot be enforced in practice because it requires the building official to actually lay the plans out on the ground to be sure that the windows will not oppose.
The traditional Lancaster County way to deal with the fire risk described above is simply to require somewhat larger values of the basic parameters . These numbers have been in successful use in Lancaster County for 20 years (UDO 5.2.4), most recently in the Estates at Audobon Lake development to be heard at the County Council meeting on 9 December (86 acres, 125 lots, 39 acres (45%) open space.
Matamy Homes, the Planning Department and members of the Planning Commission and County Council refuse to allow the use of these numbers in the Cluster Development Proposal because their use, while substantially reducing the fire risk, much reducing clear cutting and preserving open space, would also reduce the number of houses that could be built on the Treetops site.
A second situation concerns the width of the streets combined with the 20 foot front setback. The two or three garages included with each of these houses will have to be included within the footprint of the house; there is no room for separate garages on the very small lots. The very small front setback means that at most one car can be parked in front of each garage; on street parking will have to be permitted on at least one side of the street. With a 20 foot paved street width and cars parked on even one side there is not enough room for two cars to pass and barely room for a wide vehicle such as a fire truck or ambulance to move past the parked car. Essentially, if lots are so small that guests cannot park on the homeowner's property, provision must be made for guests to park elsewhere so that streets are still wide enough to permit two vehicles to pass and emergency vehicles have adequate access. Usually this is done by making the streets wider, perhaps by paving them to 30 feet rather than 20 feet.
This situation was brought up at the Public Hearing conducted by the Planning Commission on 14 November 2013. The response by the Planning Commission was “We agree that the streets are too narrow, but they meet the requirements of the UDO and now is not the time to change them.” The purpose of this ordinance is to adapt the UDO to the needs of Cluster development; if not now, when?
The third situation involves the required infrastructure. Matamy Homes proposes to deal with infrastructure by agreeing to pay for road improvements shown necessary by a traffic study to be designed, specified, ordered and paid for by Matamy Homes. This impact is expected to be small compares with the $50MM in infrastructure required to support the Treetops development.
Given that Council seems determined to have a Cluster Development Ordinance, it is necessary that this ordinance should be returned once again to the Planning Commission with instructions to implement the fire hazard free numbers suggested by Ken Faulknberry, streets wide enough to allow adequate access by emergency vehicles with cars parked on them and some provision for dealing with the infrastructure needed to support these developments. There is no point to forcing the hazards required for Matamy Homes to make money on Treetops on all other Cluster Developments in Lancaster County. Fire safety and emergency vehicle access should trump developer profits and some way must be found to deal with infrastructure costs without dumping them all on current taxpayers.
Alex Sims Turns 100
Alex Sims, Marine, celebrated his 100th birthday Saturday with 130 friends and relatives at Van Wyck Presbyterian Church, where he is a long time member.
Saturday, November 30, 9:00 a.m. Put up Christmas Lighting Poles and chili
Tuesday December 3,7:00 PM CrimeWatch and Community meeting, put up Christmas decorations
Saturday, December 7. noon, Van Wyck Christmas Parade and Candy Toss. 2:00 PM put out candles and globes for Lighting the Way.
Sunday, December 8, 4:30p.m. Lighting Of The Way
Feeding the HungryDonations to Lancaster County food programs have fallen off recently. The recession increases the number of people facing hunger and the need for food. The Van Wyck Press is happy to transport food to the agencies serving the needy in Lancaster. If you have food that you would like to donate and would like us to transport it for you, let me know.
- District 1 - Chairman (Larry McCullough)