ZBA approves signage, smaller retail spaces for Chelten Plaza

The final pieces of the new Chelten Plaza shopping center are falling into place, as developer Pulaski Partners now has city approval for smaller retail tenant spaces and signage for the whole property.

On Wednesday, the Zoning Board of Adjustment voted to grant variances needed to erect lighted signs for the new Save-a-Lot that opened in December, plus a row of eight retail tenants fronting Chelten Avenue.

The property at 301 W. Chelten Ave. falls within the Lower and Central Germantown Special District Controls, a zoning overlay controlling property uses and sign standards.

Scant opposition

Given the rocky route Chelten Plaza took in getting to its current point, where construction is nearly complete and much of the center is open for business, the signs hearing went smoothly. Well, almost.

Only one person, former Germantown Community Connection member Megan Fitzpatrick, came to speak against the variance, rather than the busloads of protesters who packed the room at earlier hearings.

Several times, Fitzpatrick tried to interject or join the discussion, but zoning board members had little desire to hear any rehash of the previous Chelten Plaza drama.

She said the sign “is aesthetically not pleasing” and that “we just don’t want people to count on getting a variance.”

Asked ZBA member Carol Tinari, “So you just don’t like the sign?”

Fitzpatrick claimed workers were already on-site at Chelten Plaza yesterday ready to install the new signs because “they’re counting on a variance.”

After the hearing, Pulaski’s attorney Ronald J. Patterson denied that. He said Fitzpatrick was among a group of Germantown residents still bitter about how the Chelten Plaza situation happened.

Variance support

The variance request came with letters of support issued from City Councilwoman Cindy Bass and the GCC, which has continued to work with Pulaski Partners. GCC members helped choose a Chelten Plaza-branded logo sign that will adorn the shopping center, Patterson added.

Ultimately, the board voted unanimously to approve the variances, which allow Pulaski Partners to create eight smaller retail spaces from the six which were originally approved.

That change, Patterson said, was made in response to feedback from GCC, which said smaller, less-expensive spaces would be more likely to draw locally owned businesses.

So far, confirmed tenants include the already-open Citibank branch, Anna’s Linens and Deal$ variety store, as well as a Subway sandwich shop and a second location of the Wired Beans coffee shop. Another three spaces remain vacant.

Sign specifics

Pulaski Partners agreed to reduce the height of the tall highway-style sign from the current 65 feet to 52.7 feet, Patterson said, and have reduced the dimensions of the double-sided accessory signs.

For the retail spaces, the variance will allow them to put flat-panel signs above the 14-foot height called for in the overlay.

Also, because the Chelten Plaza shopping center actually sits on two parcels, a variance was needed to put the sign for the Save-a-Lot on the tall sign.

Editor’s note: A reference to a letter of support from West Central Germantown Neighbors was taken out of this story.

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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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