Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Traffic, Transportation and Parking Committee has many questions it would like to ask Children of America and plan on inviting a company representative to attend their next meeting on April 2. However, Children of America CEO, Jim Perretty indicated that the invitation will be declined.
“We are open to discuss any impacts there may be that we may have contributed to, with the Committee once we are operational,” Perretty insisted.
The CHCA’s traffic committee had expected daycare representatives at its March 5 meeting but Children of America (COA) did not send anyone.
Children of America has signed a 15-year lease to move into the old Borders building at 8701 Germantown Ave. It plans to open this summer. The daycare can operate as a matter of right under the Philadelphia zoning code and does not need the committee’s endorsement or approval.
CHCA’s Community Manager, Celeste Hardester told the committee that she has asked about traffic studies and was told that Children of America has them “but not for this site.”
“We have no traffic studies to provide to the Committee, and never intended to conduct any,” Perretty confirmed.
One of the biggest concerns the committee has is traffic congestion which may be caused by parents dropping off and retrieving their children from the daycare center. Hardester said that COA claims that drop-off and pick-up times are brief, lasting a total of five minutes. She stated that the company had also told the CHCA’s Development Review Committee that between the hours of 6 and 8:30 a.m., drop-offs occur at varying times. The facility will use a card swiping system at its entrance.
The committee voiced fears that drivers will stop along Germantown Avenue and Bethlehem Pike, turn on flashers during drop-offs and then run errands such as grabbing a cup o’ joe at Chestnut Hill Coffee House across the street.
Chestnut Hill resident Peter Yaffe attended the meeting and stated that he also believed parents will not simply push their children through the doorway and take off. The five minute estimation “defies my logic,” he remarked.
Committee member Bob Previdi is more concerned about pick up times. “It’s the afternoon that’s going to be the problem, ” he said. Previdi stated that he believes there will be more traffic conflicts during early evening, especially for drivers heading south.
This sentiment was corroborated by Committee Chair, Tom Hemphill and his wife, Susan, who observed that last Monday at 4 p.m. they witnessed bumper to bumper traffic from the former Border’s location to Chestnut Hill Avenue. “Making a left out of the lot is virtually impossible,” exclaimed Susan Hemphill.
Children of America intends its clients to use a small parking lot between the building site and a SEPTA bus loop. The lot has parking space for 19 vehicles but two of those spaces will be occupied by buses the facility will use for its field trip excursions.
The committee may consider petitioning the city to have its traffic engineers study the lot in order to designate its exit as right turn only. Committee member, Debra Ferraro, who is a traffic engineer with Pennoni and Associates, noted that left turns into the lot will still be an issue. She pointed out that if traffic cannot get out of the lot, it will be backed up inside as well, preventing drivers from entering. Since the parking lot is in the middle of “a tough intersection” she explained, “you’re going to have traffic in all directions.”
Ferraro mentioned that Children of America’s 47 other facilities are in large shopping malls with ample parking and whose traffic is controlled by signals.
Employee parking is another issue which the committee feels Children of America has not addressed. “What I’m understanding is they are not expecting to have spaces available” for their employees Hardester clarified. Hardester stated that she had forwarded SEPTA TransPass information to the company. Committee members estimated that 35 percent of the daycare’s employees may use public transportation.
According to a December press release, the Chestnut Hill site will be the company’s largest facility, able to accommodate 234 students. Pennsylvania law would require a staff of 29 child care workers, or a 2:8 employee to child ratio. Yaffe declared that he felt those numbers “just seem like a recipe for disaster.”
Perretty offered no answer regarding the committees concerns. He expressed that as a tenant rather than property owner “many of the requested items are beyond our scope of involvement or knowledge.”
“We’re trying to advise them that we see some potential pitfalls,” stated Previdi.
Should the traffic become a nightmare situation it will hurt Children of America’s business, asserted Previdi. “They’ll be coming to us when they have a problem,” he said.
We want to know what you think. Do you think the CHCA is overreacting in its concern over traffic problems? Do you expect a traffic jam when parents are picking up or dropping off their kids? Do you remember if Borders created any major traffic problems?