Germantown United CDC seeks board members

Since the Germantown United CDC incorporated late last year, its founding members have met in small groups and at large forums, discussing and eventually agreeing on a set of bylaws and appointing a board of directors to run things.

The new CDC has drawn a varied crop of members, from John Churchville, a respected businessman “of a certain age,” to Emaleigh Doley, a young professional who’s been trying to improve Germantown starting on her own block.

But there is room, and need, for more.

How to get involved

Germantown United is currently accepting applications to join its first full board of directors. Nine members of the original steering committee will serve on the permanent board, but a full board will include up to 21 members, drawn from various constituencies.

Applications and information about serving on the board are available on the group’s website, along with a questionnaire and the Code of Conduct for board members.

A nominating committee, chaired by Sandi Weckesser, is gathering the applications and will make selections. Some steering-committee members, like Doley, are not seeking board seats but will continue to be involved in committees.

“People are putting in an incredible amount of hours” on meetings, research and organization, Doley, 28, said.

Evolving neighborhood focuses

Though many got involved around the Chelten Plaza fight — the catalyzing event for Germantown United — revitalization of the neighborhood’s commercial corridors overall is the focus going forward.

“I feel like it has shifted in a very positive direction,” Doley said. “The best thing to come out of Chelten Plaza is the organization, the uniting.”

Zoning is also an issue, one highlighted by the recent minor flap that erupted when New Directions For Women sought a variance to continue operating a correctional facility on Germantown Avenue.

Many in the community had never realized the facility existed, and without one umbrella civic group or zoning committee for Germantown, it was left to the property’s owner to hold a public meeting to let people know what was going on.

A common zoning-review committee for the neighborhood would give developers a starting point for communication and accountability with the community.

Weckesser has lived in Germantown since the 1970s — her house, a Victorian castle, is sort of a local celebrity — but for her, too, it took the Chelten Plaza debacle to get her really involved in neighborhood activism.

A former development executive for Fox Chase Cancer Center, she’s worked with corporate boards of directors and is coordinating the selection of board members for Germantown United.

The rules

Anyone is welcome to apply, but there will be standards, Weckesser said.

The group’s bylaws call for the board to be comprised of about 30 percent “highly functioning members of the Germantown community,” likely representatives of other civic groups; 15 percent local business owners; 15 percent commercial developers with track records of sustainable smart-growth projects; and 40 percent professionals or experts in areas such as accounting, law and design.

Bylaws also set forth requirements for involvement for board members and require outside audits of Germantown United’s budgets — not that the group has any money right now, but members of the steering committee thought it was important to set ethical standards from day one, Weckesser said.

Germantown United’s website calls for an April 1 deadline on applications, but that’s not an absolute cutoff date, Weckesser said.

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NewsWorks has partnered with independent news gatherer PlanPhilly to provide regular, in-depth, timely coverage of planning, zoning and development news. Contact Amy Z. Quinn at azquinn@planphilly.com.

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