In an unanimous vote, the Executive Committee (EC) of the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) endorsed variances for the reworking of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s existing athletic fields after the school met with its near neighbors regarding concerns over landscape screening. Last night the committee voted on behalf of CHCA Board, who deferred the decision at its last meeting in order to allow time for further dialogue on the matter to occur.
The vote is the final step for Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in gaining the community’s support in the school’s zoning variance request to the the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Assessments (ZBA). “That was a job well done,” stated CHCA President, Brien Tilley.
Peter Martin and his wife, Nancy came forward on behalf of the near neighbors to state that the school has provided an agreement in writing which has been signed by all parties involved. “The Association was a great catalyst,” Martin said in praise of CHCA’s development review process.
Nancy Martin was quick to compliment the manner in which Henry O’Reilly, co-chair of the academy’s master plan, worked to address the neighbors’ concerns. “The school really rose to the occasion,” she remarked.
The written agreement provides for tree screening along the border of all of the near neighbors. It was also noted that the dugout will also be encased in wood rather than cinderblock or cement.
While the school’s lighting plan has not yet been finalized, Nancy Martin stated that the neighbors have “tons of good faith” that the academy will confer with them to minimize impact. The agreement also stipulates that any changes to the designs will include an invitation to neighbors to be part of the development review process.
Nancy Martin stated that she will notify the ZBA to withdraw the neighbors’ previously submitted formal objection.
EC members discussed plans to continue CHCA’s role in educating the community about the potential impact the Actual Value Initiative (AVI) will have when it is implemented. CHCA intends to bring together a panel of at least five differing perspectives on the tax initiative to promote greater awareness and foster conversation about the tax. The committee is considering whether or not to host a petition on the CHCA website for those who wish to sign it. Committee members stressed that the association does not wish to endorse a position nor issue any directive, however hopes that a leader will emerge within the community as a result of the panel discussions. The neighborhood “should not expect us as an organization to take a position”, noted committee member Mark Kleinert.
Raising the profile of the CHCA is a priority for the committee and a continued conversation about AVI is helping in gaining some new associates. A 10 percent CHCA membership discount to 70 different local retailers is another way the association is looking to generate new memberships. EC members want to capitalize on the neighborhood’s recent ranking as Philadelphia Magazine’s “Best of Philly 2012 Main Street Shopping”. 1000 promotional postcards will also be mailed out this month to residents as part of CHCA’s marketing strategy.
EC members also intend to have an informational meeting with the captain of Engine 37 Fire Station on W. Highland Avenue to decide how possible plans to retrofit the building will come through the committees. The station would need to be modified in order to accommodate new firetrucks which are six to seven inches wider than the older trucks and therefore cannot get into the firehouse. At present there is no timeframe nor understanding of what may be involved in the building modifications, however the station may be architecturally significant. The committee hopes to be able to provide insights and guidance.