GCC stance on Chelten Plaza appears to soften

Two Germantown community groups are battling over how to deal with the controversial Chelten Plaza development – most recently the disagreement hinges on an apparent softening of position on the part of one of the groups.

“I came away from that meeting disappointed that [Germantown Community Connection] has gone away from what the members asked them to do,” said Yvonne Haskins about a June 9 meeting of GCC.

In the meeting members, including Haskins, voted to support a resolution that specified numerous actions the group will take to negotiate with Chelten Plaza developer Pat Burns about what will go into the development at Chelten and Pulaski avenues.

An earlier resolution by GCC opposed all aspects of the development but authorized some GCC members to keep negotiating with Burns in an ad hoc committee. The resolution June 9 seems to move further in Burns’ direction by taking as a given one of the most controversial aspects of his plan – the Save-A-Lot discount grocery store.

Even though some members of GCC signed a petition to oppose the Chelten Plaza on the basis of Save-A-Lot’s presence, along with other stores, and many have complained about the presence of the Save-A-Lot in the plan, the newest resolution seeks only “community input to the product line sold at the Save-A-Lot.” Though the resolution calls for other actions on the part of the ad hoc committee, the only body authorized by GCC to act in regards to Chelten Plaza, it specifies no other action in regards to the Save-A-Lot.

Haskins worries this could be giving up too much ground.  “I think some people believe that you can do both, negotiate and still fight the development but you can’t,” she said.

The ad hoc committee is also seeking to form a cooperation agreement with Burns about how to proceed with Chelten Plaza. Among other things the agreement could cover: design of the development, traffic flow, green space and possible alternatives to the Dollar Tree, the second anchor tenant in the development.

GCC President Betty Turner said the new resolution does not put the organization in opposition to it’s earlier position.

“Nothing is in stone,” she said. “We are not in opposition to GCC’s opposition to the original plan.”

Haskins and fellow GCC member Robyn Tevah are also participants in the new Germantown Cares group, which formed recently to take a harder line against Chelten Plaza. Tevah also voted in favor of the resolution but did not see it as excluding future opposition to the whole of the project.

“Obviously there should be meetings with developers, but to me that doesn’t mean it’s a done deal,” she said. “Negotiations should be happening, I didn’t understand it as the only approach – that we are giving up totally.”

Turner said any agreement reached by the ad hoc committee with the developer would have to be ratified by the whole of GCC membership before it became binding.

In one of its rogue efforts, not sanctioned by GCC, Germantown Cares plans a show of protest against Chelten Plaza before the scheduled GCC meeting tonight.

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