Township of Upper Uwchlan, PA
Chester County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[Added 12-15-2003 by Ord. No. 03-05]
The broad purpose of this article, and its related provisions, is to preserve and protect Upper Uwchlan Township's natural resources, which include but are not limited to steep slopes (i.e., prohibitive and precautionary slopes); woodlands and hedgerows; wetlands and watercourses; riparian buffers; trails; and historic features.
A. 
Intended purposes. The purposes of this section are as follows:
(1) 
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 Upper Uwchlan Township.
(2) 
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:
(a) 
Minimizing disturbances to vegetative ground covers; and
(b) 
Restricting the regrading of steep slope areas.
(3) 
To limit soil erosion and the resultant destruction of the land, siltation of streams, and damage to the property of individuals.
(4) 
To protect low-lying areas from flooding by limiting the increase in stormwater runoff caused by grading of slope areas, changes of ground cover, or the erection of structures.
(5) 
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.
(6) 
To allow the continuing replenishment of groundwater resources and the maintenance of springs.
B. 
General provisions.
(1) 
Compliance. No area within the Steep Slope Conservation District shall hereafter be used without full compliance with the terms of this section and other applicable regulations.
(2) 
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 Upper Uwchlan Township.
(a) 
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 section.
(b) 
In those areas of Upper Uwchlan 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).
(c) 
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 section.
(d) 
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.
(3) 
Preservation of other restrictions. It is not intended by this section to repeal, abrogate, or impair any existing easements, covenants, or deed restrictions. However, where this section imposes greater restrictions, the provisions of this section shall prevail.
(4) 
Municipal liability. The granting of a zoning permit or approval of a subdivision or land development plan within or near the Steep Slope Conservation District shall not constitute a representation, guarantee, or warranty of any kind by Upper Uwchlan Township, or by any official or employee thereof, of the practicability or safety of the proposed use and shall create no liability upon Upper Uwchlan Township, its officials or employees. This chapter does not imply that areas outside the Steep Slope Conservation District boundaries or land uses permitted within said District will always be totally free from the adverse effects of erosion.
C. 
Designation and interpretation of district boundary.
(1) 
The Steep Slope Conservation District consists of two areas (i.e., prohibitive slopes and precautionary slopes) which are defined and delineated as follows:
(a) 
Prohibitive slopes. Prohibitive slopes are those land areas with slopes of 25% or greater, as determined using the methodology outlined in the following sections:
[1] 
The maximum elevation difference over which slope may be determined is 20 feet.
[2] 
The limit of prohibitive slopes is to be determined by the first contour interval, with contour intervals measured at five-foot intervals, over which 25% slopes occur. Prohibitive slopes shall not be averaged over areas which do not slope 25% or more.
[3] 
Areas of land over 25% slope consisting of less than two contour intervals, with contour intervals measured at five-foot intervals, and less than 1,000 square feet in extent may be excluded provided that they do not adjoin or abut larger areas of precautionary slopes or prohibitive slopes as defined herein.
[4] 
Areas of prohibitive slopes shall be carefully measured and enumerated on the plan with respect to their occurrences in each of the individual lots proposed.
(b) 
Precautionary slopes. Precautionary slopes are those land areas with slopes between 15% and 25%, as determined using the methodology outlined in the following sections:
[1] 
The maximum elevation difference over which slope may be determined is 20 feet.
[2] 
The limit of precautionary slopes is to be determined by the first contour interval, with contour intervals measured at five-foot intervals, over which 15% slopes occur. Precautionary slopes shall not be averaged over areas which do not slope between 15% and 25% or more.
[3] 
Areas of land with 15% to 25% slope consisting of less than two contour intervals, with contour intervals measured at five-foot intervals, and less than 1,000 square feet in extent may be excluded provided that they do not adjoin or abut larger areas of precautionary slopes or prohibitive slopes as defined herein.
[4] 
Areas of less than 15% slope which are abutted on more than one side by an area of precautionary slopes shall be averaged with the adjoining area of precautionary slopes.
[5] 
Areas of precautionary slopes shall be carefully measured and enumerated on the plan with respect to their occurrence in each of the individual lots proposed.
(2) 
Boundary interpretation and appeals procedure.
(a) 
Each application for construction or land disturbance within the Steep Slope Conservation District shall be submitted in accordance with Subsection E. Any area of Steep Slope Conservation District that falls within the subject lot or lots shall be interpolated and shown on the site plan required under Subsection E through shading of such area or areas.
(b) 
Where an interpretation is needed as to the exact location of the boundaries of the district in relation to a given parcel, an initial determination shall be made by the Township Engineer. Any party seeking such a determination may submit a topographic survey of the property and any other pertinent documentation for consideration. The Township Engineer shall make a written report of the results of his initial determination, a copy of which shall be provided to the Board of Supervisors.
(c) 
Any party aggrieved by any such determination of the Township Engineer, or other decision or determination under this section, 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.
D. 
Permitted uses.
(1) 
Standards applicable to all uses within the Steep Slope Conservation District.
(a) 
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 section.
(b) 
Finished slopes of all cuts and fills shall not exceed 33%, unless the applicant can demonstrate that steeper slopes can be stabilized and maintained adequately.
(c) 
No grading shall occur without an erosion and sediment control plan as may be required pursuant to applicable regulations and as may be administered by the Chester County Conservation District.
(2) 
Uses permitted in areas of prohibitive slopes. The following are the only uses permitted as of right in areas of prohibitive slopes. Such uses also shall be in compliance with the base zoning district, and shall not involve the erection of buildings, construction of streets, installation of sewage disposal systems, or permanent removal of topsoil.
(a) 
Parks and outdoor passive recreational uses, consistent with the goals of watershed protection, as established in this chapter, Chapter 162, Subdivision and Land Development, and the Township's Comprehensive Plan, as amended.
(b) 
Logging and woodcutting, where such activity is limited to highly selective removal of trees. Maximum precautions shall be taken to avoid destruction of or injury to desirable understory vegetation and remaining trees. Woodland management assistance is available through the Pennsylvania "Forest Stewardship Program" administered by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry.
(c) 
Grading for the minimum portion of a driveway accessing a single-family dwelling when it can be demonstrated that no other routing which avoids slopes exceeding 25% is feasible.
(d) 
Yard area(s) of a building where such building is not within the Steep Slope Conservation District.
(3) 
Uses permitted in areas of precautionary slopes.
(a) 
Uses permitted by right. The following are the only uses as of right in areas of precautionary slopes, provided they are also in compliance with the base zoning district and all other provisions of this chapter.
[1] 
Parks and outdoor passive recreational uses, consistent with the goals of watershed protection, as established in this chapter, Chapter 162, Subdivision and Land Development, and the Township's Comprehensive Plan, as amended.
[2] 
Tree farming, forestry, and other agricultural uses when conducted in conformity with accepted conservation practice, including minimum tillage methods, and as may be approved by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service or the Chester County Conservation District. Woodland management assistance is available through the Pennsylvania "Forest Stewardship Program" administered by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry.
[3] 
Access roads for the passage of emergency vehicles in the event of fire or accident.
[4] 
Accessory uses (except swimming pools), necessary for the operation and maintenance of the above permitted uses.
[5] 
Yard area(s) of a building where such building is not within the Steep Slope Conservation District.
(b) 
Uses permitted by conditional use. Any of the following uses are permitted within areas of Precautionary slopes when approved as a conditional use by the Board of Supervisors in accordance with § 200-116 of this chapter. In making its determination, the Board shall give particular weight to the criteria and standards in Subsection E.
[1] 
Any structure permitted by right, special exception or conditional use according to the terms of the underlying base zoning district.
[2] 
Any road necessary to provide preliminary access to a use permitted by this chapter, when no practical alternative exists in an area of lesser slope.
[3] 
Sealed public water supply wells, where approved by all regulatory agencies.
[4] 
Sanitary or storm sewers, where approved by all regulatory agencies.
(c) 
On any lot containing an area or areas of precautionary slopes, the total amount of impervious surface that may be installed or maintained within the total area or areas of precautionary slopes shall not exceed 50% of the maximum amount of impervious surface permitted on any lot in the underlying base zone district.
E. 
Administration. Administration of this section is governed by Article XIX of this chapter. In addition, the following requirements shall apply:[1]
(1) 
Application procedures. Before a permit is issued for any construction or land disturbance activity on land within or affecting the Steep Slope Conservation District, the following material, in full or in pertinent parts, shall be submitted for review by the Township Engineer.
(a) 
An earthmoving plan of the property which indicates existing grades with contour lines at five-foot intervals and proposed grades within the area of any proposed activity, disturbance, or construction. All areas of prohibitive and/or precautionary slopes shall be shaded accordingly.
(b) 
A site plan indicating existing and proposed structures, other impervious surfaces, stormwater management facilities, and retaining walls. The site plan also shall locate and identify existing vegetation and ground cover within areas of prohibitive slopes and precautionary slopes, as well as landscaping material proposed for installation.
(c) 
Architectural plans, elevations, and sections of any proposed structures.
(d) 
A report, signed and sealed by a registered architect or engineer, that describes, in detail: the site's soil, topographic, and hydrologic conditions; the building and other methods to be used to overcome foundation and other structural problems created by slope conditions; preservation of natural watershed boundaries and surface and groundwater flows; prevention of soil erosion and resulting downgradient sedimentation in accordance with § 162-51 of Chapter 162, Subdivision and Land Development; and prevention of the runoff of excess water onto neighboring properties and/or streets. In no case shall a use, as allowed by this chapter within areas of precautionary slopes or prohibitive slopes, result in an off-site increase of stormwater runoff over preapproval conditions.
(e) 
Plan, profile, and typical cross-sections of any proposed street, emergency access, or driveway within areas of prohibitive or precautionary slopes, with the seal of a registered professional engineer thereon.
(f) 
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 access stemming from steep slopes. No zoning 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.
(2) 
Standards and criteria for review of conditional use applications. In addition to the requirements of Subsection E(1) above and in evaluating any application for conditional use within areas of precautionary slopes, the Board of Supervisors shall determine consistency of the proposal with the following:
(a) 
Disturbance to particularly sensitive features of the site shall be minimized; special emphasis in planning for the site shall be given to the protection of:
[1] 
The steepest areas of precautionary slopes, i.e., those approaching 25%.
[2] 
Soils with seasonal high water table.
[3] 
Underlying geology which comprises, or contributes to, a major groundwater resource, including the flow of existing springs.
(b) 
Disturbance shall be minimized where the length of area of precautionary slopes, both on the site and on adjacent lands within 200 feet of the site, is extensive.
(c) 
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.
(d) 
Removal of, or disturbance to, existing vegetation on the site shall be minimized. The proposed impacts on existing vegetation shall be evaluated 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.
(e) 
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.
(f) 
Road construction shall follow the natural topography, with cuts and grading minimized.
(g) 
Innovative, imaginative building techniques that are well-suited to slope conditions shall be encouraged, consistent with other applicable codes and regulations.
(h) 
The equilibrium of the slope, as characterized by the existing interrelationships among the soil, water, and vegetation, shall be disturbed as little as possible.
[1]
Editor's Note: Amended at time of adoption of Code (see Ch. 1, General Provisions, Art. I).
F. 
Uses and/or structures rendered nonconforming by the adoption of this district. Following the adoption of this section, 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 Subsection D shall become a nonconforming use or structure, regardless of its conformance to the district in which it is located without consideration of this section. The expansion or continuance of said nonconforming use or structure shall be governed by the requirements of Article XVII of this chapter. However, the Zoning Hearing Board shall also ensure that the standards contained in Subsection E are applied to the expansion or continuance of said nonconforming use or structure.
A. 
Applicability.
(1) 
Except for individual lots existing at the time of adoption of this section and occupied or intended to be occupied by single-family or two-family dwellings, the provisions of § 162-55 of Chapter 162, Subdivision and Land Development, shall apply to all uses and to any change in use in Upper Uwchlan Township, such standards incorporated herein by this reference.
(2) 
Where any use or activity requires approval of any building or zoning permit, zoning variance, special exception or conditional use, such approval or permit shall be conditioned upon compliance with the provisions of said § 162-55. Plans accompanying conditional use application may be conceptual in nature but shall demonstrate the ability to achieve the objectives of § 162-55.
(3) 
It is the intention of this section that the provisions of said § 162-55 shall apply independently under this chapter only where Chapter 162, Subdivision and Land Development, does not otherwise apply to the proposed use or activity. Therefore, where any use, activity, permit or approval is also subject to subdivision or land development review, there shall be no requirement for additional review under this chapter. Further, where and to the extent that modification(s) of any of the provisions of said § 162-55 has/have been approved by the Upper Uwchlan Board of Supervisors in connection with any subdivision or land development review, the said requirements shall not be independently enforced pursuant to this chapter.
B. 
Modifications.
(1) 
For any use or activity subject to subdivision or land development review, modification(s) to the provisions of § 162-55 of Chapter 162, Subdivision and Land Development, may be requested, which modification(s) may be granted at the discretion of the Board of Supervisors pursuant to the provisions of that chapter.
(2) 
For any use or activity not subject to subdivision or land development review, but where the use or activity is subject to application for approval of a conditional use, special exception, or zoning variance, modification(s) to the provisions of said § 162-55 may be requested as part of such application.
(3) 
For any use or activity not otherwise subject to permit or approval as provided in Subsection B(1) or (2) above, modification(s) to the provisions of said § 162-55 may be requested in the form of an application for grant of a special exception by the Upper Uwchlan Zoning Hearing Board. Such applications shall be submitted to the Upper Uwchlan Planning Commission for review and comment prior to formal special exception application to the Zoning Hearing Board.
(4) 
In approving any application pursuant to Subsection B(2) or (3) above, the Zoning Hearing Board or Board of Supervisors, as applicable, as a condition of approval of such application, may permit specific modification(s) to the provisions of said § 162-55 subject to the following:
(a) 
The Zoning Hearing Board or Board of Supervisors, as applicable, shall determine that the specific nature of the lawful use or activity, existing site conditions, and/or safety considerations warrant such modification(s); and
(b) 
Permitted modifications shall be consistent with the purposes of said § 162-55.