Springside Chestnut Hill Academy neighbors want trees added to new athletic field project

Near neighbors want a guarantee that new trees will be planted around Springside Chestnut Hill Academy‘s renovated athletic field complex. This concern came up at last Thursday’s Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA) meeting.

A handful of residents of the 600 block of W. Hartwell Lane testified that they had been told the academy would provide landscape screening of its athletic fields, however, they do not yet have a guarantee that will happen.

“We were assured major plantings,” stated Peter Marvin, representing the W. Hartwell Lane neighbors. Marvin said he is not opposed to new fields, but wants a commitment from the school.

The private school will need the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustments (ZBA) to approve variances on the land. Community support is a factor the ZBA considers in making its decisions. Springside was represented by  Henry O’Reilly, co-chair of the academy’s master plan, who presented the latest schematic drawing to the CHCA board.

Older trees removed

Peg Wellington, of 604 W. Hartwell Lane said she was “devastated” when the trees came down in order to make room for the academy’s playing athletic playing fields. She said the spirit of the neighborhood has changed as a result. “It’s awful, just awful,” she cried. Wellington also noted that she feels her property value has also been impacted by the tree removal.

“A landscape plan is absolutely integral to our approval”, insisted CHCA board member, Richard Snowden. Snowden called the area “ground zero” for Henry Houston’s original plan for Chestnut Hill, and pointed out that W. Hartwell Lane still retains a lot of 19th century character and is important to the neighborhood’s historic district. “We have to treat this entire master plan and the inevitable expansion that will occur here very delicately,” he stated. Snowden said he is in support of the variances, but feels the academy needs a community development agreement concerning the landscaping with a guarantee to the neighbors.

In an unanimous vote, the Chestnut Hill Community Association board moved to allow CHCA’s Executive Committee to vote on its behalf when that committee meets next week.

Springside to go before ZBA

The postponement comes as compromise to provide an additional two weeks for Springside Chestnut Hill Academy to continue discussion with its neighbors about its landscaping plans, while still allowing time enough for the school to obtain the board’s approval in time for its zoning hearing. The academy will face the ZBA on August 20

The three variances Springside Chestnut Hill Academy have won approval from two CHCA committees on several conditions, one which states that letters of support for the athletic fields must obtained from the project’s near neighbors.

The variances being sought are the expansion of the parking lot, the addition of a tennis pavilion, replacement of dugouts and replacement of existing aluminum bleachers with a stone structure that will contain additional seating, restrooms, concession area and lockers.

Other Business

CHCA board elected the following committee chairs: Aesthetics Committee – Jane M. Piotrowski, Development Review Committee – John Landis, Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee – Ned Mitinger and Membership Committee – Jay Valinis.

Jane Piotrowski handed out “Save the Date” gourmet white and black swirled lollipops to mark to approach of CHCA’s Black & White Gala. She said there is $5,000 left to raise for the event, but assured the board that would likely be met or exceeded soon. This year’s sponsors include the Chestnut Hill Hotel, Chestnut HIll College, Merrill Lynch and Valley Green Bank. Piotrowski noted that plans are in the works to commence outreach to retailers for participation in the Gala’s silent auction.

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