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Township of West Whiteland, PA
Chester County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
The purposes of this article are as follows:
A. 
To promote the public health, safety and welfare by the protection of steep slope areas and by encouraging the retention of open space located and designed so as to constitute a harmonious and appropriate part of the physical development of West Whiteland Township.
B. 
To permit only those uses of steep slope areas which are compatible with the conservation of natural conditions and which maintain stable soil conditions by:
(1) 
Minimizing disturbances to vegetative ground covers.
(2) 
Restricting the regrading of steep slope areas.
C. 
To limit soil erosion and the resultant destruction of the land, siltation of streams and damage to the property of individuals.
D. 
To protect low-lying areas from flooding by limiting the increase in stormwater runoff caused by grading of slopes areas, changes of ground cover or the erection of structures.
E. 
To maintain the ecological integrity and habitat value of steeply sloped areas, i.e., indigenous vegetation and wildlife, which could be adversely affected by otherwise permitted disturbances.
F. 
To allow the continuing replenishment of ground resources and the maintenance of springs.
A. 
Compliance. No area within the Steep Slope Conservation District shall hereafter be used without full compliance with the terms of this chapter and other applicable regulations.
B. 
Steep Slope Conservation District overlay concept. The Steep Slope Conservation District shall be deemed to be an overlay on any zoning district(s) now or hereafter enacted to regulate the use of land in West Whiteland Township.
(1) 
The Steep Slope Conservation District shall have no effect on the permitted uses in the underlying zoning district, except where said uses are intended to be located within the boundaries of the Steep Slope Conservation District, as defined herein, and said uses are in conflict with the permitted uses set forth in this chapter.
(2) 
In those areas of West Whiteland Township where the Steep Slope Conservation District applies, the requirements of the Steep Slope Conservation District shall supersede the requirements of the underlying zoning district(s).
(3) 
Should the Steep Slope Conservation District boundaries be revised as a result of legislative or administrative actions or judicial decision, the zoning requirements applicable to the area in question shall revert to the requirements of the underlying zoning district(s) without consideration of this article.
(4) 
For any parcel or any part thereof on which the Steep Slope Conservation District is an overlay, should the zoning classification(s) be changed as a result of legislative or administrative actions or judicial decision, such change(s) in classification shall have no effect on the boundaries of the Steep Slope Conservation District, unless an amendment to said boundaries was included as part of the proceedings from which the subsequent change(s) originated.
C. 
Preservation of other restrictions. It is not intended by this article to repeal, abrogate or impair any existing easements, covenants or deed restrictions. However, where this article imposes greater restrictions, the provisions of this article shall prevail.
D. 
Municipal liability. The granting of a building permit or approval of a subdivision or land development plan within or near the Steep Slope Conservation District shall not constitute a representation, guaranty or warranty of any kind by the Township of West Whiteland, or by any official or employee thereof, of the practicability or safety of the proposed use and shall create no liability upon West Whiteland Township, its officials or employees. This chapter does not imply that areas outside of the Steep Slope Conservation District boundaries or land uses permitted within said district will always be totally free from the adverse effects created by steep slopes.
A. 
The Steep Slope Conservation District consists of two areas which are delineated and defined as follows:
(1) 
Prohibitive slope.
(a) 
Prohibitive slopes are those of greater than 25% slope measured over three or more two-foot contour lines established from field survey. For land where construction, development or improvement is not proposed, aerial survey may be permitted by the Township at its discretion. Areas of less than 1,000 square feet in area shown in plan view shall be excluded from the Steep Slope Conservation District.
(b) 
The Board of Supervisors may permit by conditional use the exemption of man-made slopes (e.g., man-made slopes within a street or railroad right-of-way) equal to or greater than 1,000 square feet in area when it determines that construction, development or improvement within the man-made slope will not be inconsistent with the purposes of § 325-68 above and the standards and criteria in § 325-72B following and without environmental degradation. The determination of what constitutes man-made slopes shall be made by the Zoning Officer.
(2) 
Precautionary slope.
(a) 
Precautionary slopes are those of 15 to 25% slope measured over three or more two-foot contour lines established from field survey. For land where construction, development or improvement is not proposed, aerial survey may be permitted by the Township at its discretion. Areas of less than 1,000 square feet in area as shown in plan view shall be excluded from the Steep Slope Conservation District.
(b) 
The Board of Supervisors may permit by conditional use the exemption of man-made slopes (e.g., man-made slopes within a street or railroad right-of-way) equal to or greater than 1,000 square feet in area when it determines that construction, development or improvement within the man-made slope will not be inconsistent with the purposes of § 325-68 above and the standards and criteria in § 325-72B following and without environmental degradation. The determination of what constitutes man-made slopes shall be made by the Zoning Officer.
B. 
The initial boundary determination shall be made by the Zoning Officer based on the Zoning Map Overlay and a site visit. In instances where in the judgment of the Zoning Officer the district boundaries, i.e., areas of precautionary and prohibitive slope, are unclear based upon the Zoning Map Overlay and the site visit, the Township will require a field survey to determine the district boundaries. Whenever there is a difference between the Zoning Map Overlay and the areas determined pursuant to Subsection A(1) and (2) above, Subsection A(1) and (2) shall determine the boundaries of the Steep Slope Conservation District.
C. 
Appeals procedure. Any party aggrieved by any such determination of the Zoning officer or other decision or determination under this chapter may appeal to the Zoning Hearing Board. The party contesting the location of the district boundary shall have the burden of proof in case of any such appeal.
A. 
Standards applicable to all uses within the Steep Slope Conservation District.
(1) 
All grading shall be minimized, and no grading shall be undertaken within any area of the Steep Slope Conservation District except where approved in conjunction with a use permitted under the terms of this article.
(2) 
Finished slopes of all cuts and fills shall not exceed 33%, unless the applicant can demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Township Engineer that steeper slopes can be stabilized and maintained adequately.
B. 
Uses permitted in areas of prohibitive slope.
(1) 
Uses permitted by right. The following are the only uses permitted as of right in areas of prohibitive slope. Such uses shall also be in compliance with the base zoning district and shall not involve the erection of buildings, construction of streets, installation of subsurface sewage disposal systems, construction of stormwater retention basins, the permanent removal of topsoil or any other excavation activity determined by the Zoning Officer not to be in compliance with the purposes of this article.
(a) 
Parks and passive outdoor recreational uses, consistent with the goals of watershed protection.
(b) 
Yard areas of a building that are not within the Steep Slope Conservation District, so long as no building is within the prohibitive slope area.
(2) 
Uses permitted by conditional use. The following uses are permitted within the areas of prohibitive slope when approved as a conditional use by the Board of Supervisors in accordance with § 325-124 of this chapter. In making its determination, the Board shall give particular weight to the criteria and standards in § 325-72B below.
(a) 
Sanitary or stormwater sewer piping and water mains where approved by all regulatory agencies.
(b) 
Logging and wood cutting, where such activity is limited to highly selective removal of trees. An arborist shall be required to mark all trees to be harvested before felling and appropriate precautions should be taken so as to prevent the compaction of the soil over the root system of trees to remain. Maximum precautions shall be taken to avoid destruction of or injury to understory brush and trees.
[Amended 5-30-2012 by Ord. No. 399]
(c) 
Grading for no more than 25% of the length of a driveway accessing a single-family dwelling when it can be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the Township that no other routing which avoids slopes exceeding 25% is feasible.
C. 
Uses permitted in areas of precautionary slope.
(1) 
Uses permitted by right. The following are the only uses as of right in areas of precautionary slope, provided they also are in compliance with the base zoning district and all other provisions of this article.
(a) 
Parks and outdoor recreational uses, consistent with the goals of watershed protection.
(b) 
Tree farming, forestry and agricultural uses when conducted in conformity with conservation practices, including minimum tillage methods, approved by the Soil Conservation Service or the Chester County Conservation District.
(c) 
Access roads for the passage of emergency vehicles in the event of fire or accident.
(d) 
Accessory uses (except swimming pools) necessary for the operation and maintenance of the above-permitted uses.
(e) 
Yard areas of a building not within the Steep Slope Conservation District.
(2) 
Uses permitted by conditional use. Any of the following uses are permitted within areas of precautionary slope when approved as a conditional use by the Board of Supervisors in accordance with § 325-124 of this chapter. In making its determination, the Board shall give particular weight to the criteria and standards in § 325-72B below.
(a) 
Any structure permitted by right or conditional use according to the terms of the underlying base zoning district.
(b) 
Any road or driveway necessary to provide primary access to a use permitted by this article, when no practical alternative exists in an area of lesser slope.
(c) 
Sealed public water supply wells and private wells, where approved by all regulatory agencies
(d) 
Sanitary or storm sewer piping, water mains and stormwater detention basins where approved by all regulatory agencies.
(3) 
No area of precautionary slope on a lot may be imperviously covered to an extent greater than 1/2 of the extent of such impervious coverage permitted on the non-sloped areas of the lot. For example, if 15% impervious coverage is maximum permitted in the zoning district generally then no precautionary sloped area of the lot may be covered to an extent greater than 7.5%. This calculation shall be made by considering each contiguous area of precautionary slope on the lot separately. For each such contiguous area, in the example, not more then 7.5% of the area may be proposed to be imperviously covered.
[Amended 3-10-2004 by Ord. No. 310]
Administration of this article is governed by Article XX of this chapter. In addition, the following requirements shall apply:
A. 
Application procedures. With a conditional use application and before a permit is issued for any construction, development or improvement on land within or affecting the Steep Slope Conservation District, the following material, in full or in pertinent part, shall be submitted for review by the Township Engineer:
(1) 
A grading plan of the property consistent with § 325-70A above which indicates existing grades with existing contour lines at two-foot intervals from field survey and also indicates proposed grades within the area of any proposed construction, development or improvement with proposed contour lines at two-foot intervals. All areas of prohibitive and/or precautionary slopes shall be shaded accordingly. Prohibitive and precautionary slopes shall be differentiated.
(2) 
A site plan indicating existing and proposed structures, other impervious surfaces, storm drainage facilities and other utilities and retaining walls. The site plan also shall locate and identify existing vegetation and ground cover within areas of prohibitive and precautionary slopes as well as proposed landscaping material to be installed. The total impervious coverage proposed in the precautionary slope areas shall be indicated.
(3) 
Architectural plans, elevations and sections.
(4) 
A statement signed and sealed by a registered architect or engineer, explaining the building methods to be used in overcoming foundation and other structural problems created by slope conditions, preserving the natural watersheds and preventing soil erosion and excessive surface water runoff to neighboring properties and/or streets.
(5) 
Plan, profile and typical cross-sections of any proposed street, emergency access or driveway within areas of prohibitive and precautionary slopes with the seal of a registered professional engineer thereon.
(6) 
An erosion and sedimentation control plan, including a construction schedule and sequence and provisions for monitoring of the erosion and sedimentation control devices.
(7) 
A statement, signed by the owner or future occupant at the time of subdivision, land development or building permit application, that there is a full understanding of any difficulties associated with development in steeply sloped areas including without limitation, those related to access, erosion, water runoff, structural failure and collapse, and soil subsidence. No building permit shall be issued by the Zoning Officer, and no conditional use shall be granted by the Board of Supervisors, without the Township Engineer's review of this material and his recommendation thereon.
[Amended 3-10-2004 by Ord. No. 310]
B. 
Standards and criteria for review of conditional use applications. Each instance of disturbance to areas of precautionary slope within a single application shall be considered separately for conditional use approval. In evaluating any application for conditional use approval within areas of precautionary slope, the Board of Supervisors shall determine the consistency of the proposal with the following:
(1) 
Disturbance to particularly sensitive features of the site shall be minimized, special emphasis in planning for the site should be given to the protection of:
(a) 
The steepest areas of precautionary slope, i.e., those approaching 25%.
(b) 
Soils with seasonal high water table.
(c) 
Underlying geology which comprises, or contributes to, a major ground water resource including the flow of existing springs.
(d) 
Wildlife habitats.
(e) 
Springs, watercourses and areas adjacent to watercourses.
(f) 
Significant specimen vegetation.
(2) 
Disturbance shall be minimized where the length or area of precautionary slope is extensive.
(3) 
The proposed development, any impervious ground cover and the resultant disturbance to the land and existing vegetative cover will not cause runoff and/or related environmental problems off the site.
(4) 
Removal of, or disturbance to, existing vegetation on the site shall be minimized. The proposed impacts on existing vegetation shall be elevated in terms of the potentially detrimental effects on slope stability, transportation and recharge of stormwater, aesthetic and traditional characteristics of the landscape, and existing drainage patterns. Mitigation measures may be required by the Board as it deems appropriate.
(5) 
Important visual qualities of the site shall, to the maximum extent feasible be retained; in addition to vegetation, these may include hilltops/ridgelines, rock outcroppings and the natural terrain and contours of the site.
(6) 
Road construction shall follow the natural topography, with cuts, fills and grading minimized. Cuts and fills shall not exceed 10 feet except where no feasible alternative exists, in which case cuts and fills shall not exceed 15 feet.
(7) 
Innovative, imaginative building techniques that are well-suited to slope conditions shall be encouraged, consistent with other applicable codes and regulations.
(8) 
The equilibrium of the slope, as characterized by the existing interrelationships among the soil, water and vegetation shall be disturbed as little as possible.
(9) 
Erosion and sedimentation control measures considered adequate by the Board are proposed by the applicant.
Following the adoption of this chapter, any use or structure which is situated within the boundaries of the Steep Slope Conservation District and which does not conform to the permitted uses specified in § 325-71 of this article shall become a nonconforming use or structure, regardless of its conformance to the district in which it is located without consideration of this chapter. The expansion or continuance of said nonconforming use or structure shall be governed by the requirements of Article XVIII of this chapter. However, the Zoning Hearing Board shall also ensure that the standards contained in § 325-72B of this article are applied to the expansion or continuance of said nonconforming use or structure.