Chelten Plaza protesters don’t plan to give up anytime soon

A small sea of yellow, about two dozen Germantown residents milled around the corner of Chelten and Pulaski avenues Wednesday morning, across the street from the busy construction site soon to be known as Chelten Plaza.

Their T-shirts read “Dollar Tree + Sav-A-Lot = Better Germantown” with a large red circle nixing the message.

A long yellow school bus idled in front of them, and soon, they began to board en route to Center City for a Zoning Board of Adjustment hearing.

The atmosphere on the bus was jovial but nervous. Looming was the big question: What if the zoners rule against us?

Joretta Alston, a 30-year Germantown resident, said she heard about the hearing at her local library. She said she’s tired of the government and big business making decisions for her, and upset that the project was decided with what she considered to be zero community input.

“I discovered this is something where I can really have a say,” said Alston, noting that she “makes Save-A-Lot level money” and shops there sometimes, but would still prefer a full service grocery store like Acme.

Even if the zoners ruled against the group’s wishes, Alston “wouldn’t give up just because they say no, not till they start layin’ the bricks.”

Leonard Belasco said he’s willing to boycott the entire development if it comes to that.

“I don’t think it’s the end of the fight,” he said.

As the bus pulled up to Love Park, the protesters were joined by Germantown residents involved in the appeal who work in Center City.

By the time the crowd made their way to the zoning hearing room, it was standing room only. Nearly 80 people squeezed into the space while others waited in the hallway.

Once the hearing began, a nearly silent crowd in yellow T-shirts sat through the legal proceedings.

Yvonne Haskins, the attorney representing a number of local community organizations who joined the appeal, surveyed the scene.

“That’s my law firm back there,” she quipped.

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