Development Decision Making Process

The complexity of the project and of the process may require the assistance of a variety of professionals.


Even the simplest land development must be shown on a plan that has been prepared and sealed by a professional engineer or professional land surveyor.

Sketch Plan

West Whiteland provides for the Sketch Plan as an optional step in the review and approval process. For simple plans this step can be skipped, but it is in the Applicant’s interest to do a Sketch Plan for larger, more complex projects. The intent of a Sketch Plan is to give the Township an idea of what is planned, providing them an opportunity to comment on the general concept before a lot of money has been invested in design and engineering costs. The Sketch Plan should demonstrate that the proposed development will comply with the local regulations, particularly the Zoning Ordinance.

Preliminary Plan

The Preliminary Plan is the first fully engineered plan to be presented to the municipality. Under the provisions of Act 247, a municipality has ninety days to act upon the plan, but longer periods are common, particularly for large projects; this is permissible when both the developer and the Township agree to an extension. The details of the procedure vary among communities. In West Whiteland, the required components of the Preliminary Plan “package” are available from the Planning and Zoning Department, and completed packages are submitted to her to begin the process. Depending upon the size and complexity of the project, a package may require one or more of the following items in addition to the plan drawings:
  • Erosion and sedimentation pollution control (E&S) plan - Most development activities involve some earth disturbance. This creates a potential for soil erosion during storms, which may in turn cause mud and other water-borne matter to be deposited upon public roads, adjacent properties, and into streams. The E&S plan shows how this will be prevented. These plans are required for all except the smallest earth disturbance activities. If a plan calls for a large area of disturbance, an NPDES permit will also be required. E&S plans are reviewed for us by the Chester County Conservation District as well as our own Township Engineer; NPDES permits are granted by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.
  • Stormwater management plan - New construction usually increases the extent of impervious surface on a property. This decreases the ability of the land to act as a recharge area for groundwater, which is a critical concern in this area where so much of the water supply is provided by wells. We require that this additional runoff be detained on the property such that recharge may still occur. This requires either an underground infiltration structure or an above-ground detention basin. The design of these facilities as well as the calculations demonstrating their adequacy are reviewed by our Township Engineer.
  • Water supply - The plan must show how water will be supplied to the new development. If the property is within the franchise area of a water utility, this requires only a design for the connection to the water main as well as some indication from the utility company of their capacity and willingness to serve the project. If the property is not within any service area, then the developer must make some other provision. If a well is to be provided, the Township may require some documentation of its adequacy.
  • Sanitary sewage disposal - The plan must provide for the sanitary disposal of sewage waste from the development. In many cases this involves the preparation of “planning modules” for review by the Department of Environmental Protection. The purpose of the planning modules is to document that sewage disposal will be provided in accordance with the Township Sewage Facilities Plan - or that this Plan will be revised to accommodate the project. Where there will be a connection to a collection and treatment system, the system owner must document its ability to treat the additional waste. Once approved, the Applicant only needs to provide for a connection to the system. If no public system is accessible, the Applicant will need to provide for an on-site system.
  • Highway occupancy and/or driveway permits - If the development entails any kind of activity within a PennDOT right-of-way, it will be necessary to secure a Highway Occupancy Permit (HOP) from them prior to beginning the work. This obviously includes developments that propose a new driveway or new public street giving access to the State road, but it also applies to any construction within the right-of-way - such as the installation of water or sewer lines. West Whiteland also has its own permitting requirements for new driveways and road intersections. If your project proposes new roads for dedication to the Township, you will be required to demonstrate that the proposed streets meet our design standards. Beyond these fairly typical items, more complex projects will require additional information such as landscaping plans, exterior lighting plans, site analysis, and various impact studies, such as for traffic, recreation, noise, and municipal finances. If your project is within 300 feet of one of our documented historic sites, you will also need to present your project to the Township Historical Commission so that they may assess what impact there may be upon the historic site and recommend measures to minimize any negative impact.
    Once the complete package has been submitted to the Planning and Zoning Department, the Township will distribute it to various review agencies. At a minimum, this will include our own engineer, who will conduct a detailed review against the municipal requirements and accepted engineering practices, and the County Planning Commission, which, according to Act 247, must have an opportunity to review the plan. The various reviewers will submit their comments to the Planning Commission, which will in turn consider the comments in discussion at a public meeting. For more complicated plans, this phase of the process usually takes several meetings, during which the Applicant refines the plan in response to local concerns. Once the Planning Commission is satisfied with the plan, they will pass a motion recommending that the Township Supervisors approve the plan.

Final Plan

In many cases, an Applicant will provide all of the information necessary for a Final Plan with their Preliminary Plan. Since our regulations allow the Board of Supervisors to approve a Preliminary Plan as a Final Plan when this information is given, this shortens the approval process considerably. Otherwise, after the approval of the Preliminary Plan, a Final Plan must be submitted. Since Township concerns should have been fully resolved during the Preliminary Plan phase, the Final Plan should be nearly identical to the approved Preliminary Plan. Submission of the Final Plan begins another 90-day review period, although the actual time required for the review is often shorter. The principal difference between the Preliminary and Final Plans is that Final Plans will bear a variety of certifications attesting to ownership of the property and the accuracy of the drawing (although these are increasingly required of Preliminary Plans).

The Final Plan will also be used as the basis for provision of any financial security required by the Township. Some kind of financial security (usually called a performance bond or construction guarantee) is required whenever there are elements that will be dedicated to the Township. The guarantee assures the proper construction of the public improvements. As the project progresses, an appropriate portion of the guarantee is refunded to the developer.

The approved and endorsed Final Plan is recorded at the office of the Recorder of Deeds, thereby completing the subdivision/land development process.