Dispute between Chestnut Hill building owners delays Balance fitness relocation

A week after a zoning hearing, there is still no word on whether Chestnut Hill yoga studio Balance will make a planned move to a new location at 18 W. Willow Grove Ave

Meanwhile, owner/developer Andrew Eisenstein’s Iron Stone Strategic Capital Partners, which owns the site, and developer Richard Snowden’s Bowman Properties, which owns adjoining properties, are continuing negotiations on an agreement to address problems and property damage caused by public-transit vehicles on another part of the property.

It remains unclear whether Snowden’s move to use the ongoing dispute with Eisenstein as “leverage” before the zoning board will have his desired effect. Snowden was successful in getting the Chestnut Hill Community Association to delay voting on whether to support the project, though Eisenstein followed up on his pledge to go to the zoning hearing without it.

The CHCA’s committees on traffic, land use and development review, which hear neighborhood zoning variance cases, had previously approved Balance’s application, but the executive committee balked after Snowden raised his concerns. The issue centers not on Balance or how it would use the property — the substance of the zoning variance application — but on a driveway on Germantown Avenue, around the corner from the Willow Grove Avenue front of the building. It’s owned by Eisenstein but runs between two Bowman-owned properties and provides access to an adult day-care center at the rear of Eisenstein’s property.

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The two sides had been talking about how to address past and potential future damage by the SEPTA mini-buses that make several trips each day into and out of the site, but hours before the CHCA board of directors was set to vote, Eisenstein said he received a copy of an agreement Bowman expected him to sign. It asked for a one-time payment of $18,000 to cover past damage and sought agreement that Iron Stone would pay for future damages.

Then it was Eisenstein’s turn to balk.

“They want me to have some specific responsibility if SEPTA buses are misbehaving, and I’ve told him I can’t do that,” Eisenstein said. Instead, he told NewsWorks he’ll work with the CHCA to bring SEPTA into the discussion.

At the April 18 hearing, Balance owners Aaron Sistrunk and Amy Corolla appeared, testifying they need to relocate due to a lease issue at their current site, and want to move their business from Highland Avenue in order to expand service offerings and improve service. Their attorney, Carl Primavera, told zoning board members the application has the support of Councilwoman Cindy Bass along with about 100 neighbors who also signed on in support of the move.

Not everyone is thrilled at the idea of Balance moving into the new site, which had been home to the short-lived Good Food Market but has been largely empty for the last two-plus years. Neighbor Michael Tareila appeared, telling ZBA members the yoga studio would cause traffic troubles and talking about issues with the SEPTA vans, though Zoning Board Chairwoman Lynette Brown-Sow insisted discussions focus on issues other than SEPTA.

Eisenstein said Thursday he is waiting on a response from the zoning board about their decision.

“I’m still trying to work out an agreement with Richard, and with Matt Specter who works with them,” Eisenstein said. “There are some sticking points, but we’re trying to work it out and come to some agreement about the easement, which really isn’t about Balance.”

* NewsWorks correspondent Matthew Grady contributed to this report.

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 atazquinn@planphilly.com.



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