In responding to recent attempts to nullify protections for the landmark property Greylock, located at 209 W. Chestnut Hill Ave., the Chestnut Hill Landmarks Committee (CHLC) was established in March of this year under the Pennsylvania Nonprofit Corporation Law of 1988 for civic and educational purposes in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia.
The purpose of the Chestnut Hill Landmarks Committee is, in part, (a) to protect and preserve historic landmarks in or near Chestnut Hill; and (b) provide an opportunity for residents and property owners to participate in the decision-making processes of the public agencies and/or businesses that impact landmark preservation.
Currently, the CHLC has focused its attention on the Greylock property. The CHLC represents many members of the local Chestnut Hill Community in wanting to preserve Greylock through its protective easements that were put in place roughly 10 years ago through the energetic and carefully considered cooperation between the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, Friends of the Wissahickon and Greylock neighbors.
These long-standing easements have been a matter of public record, yet some persons, and/or institutions, now seem to believe that they should be discarded. As we have said before, conservation easements are not like bumper stickers that can be slapped on a property and then casually removed.
Properties like Greylock and the open spaces throughout the Chestnut Hill residential areas are part of what makes our community a unique and desirable place in which to live. Imagine what it would be like if multi-family housing and institutions were allowed to occupy all of the vacant land you see presently. Easements are a critical means to protect the appearance and character of Chestnut Hill and must be maintained.
In recent years a number of Chestnut Hill property owners have granted conservation and/or preservation easements on their properties, all to the benefit of Chestnut Hill. If the Chestnut Hill Historical Society is pressured to lift the easements, it will have a negative impact on those considering such easements.
We have talked to some easement grantors who have serious concerns about the security of their preservation plans. We encourage all easement holders and prospective donors of easements to communicate their concerns to the Chestnut Hill Historical Society.
The position of the CHLC is that the current protective easements for Greylock are reasonable, legally binding, and enforceable. They best serve the benefit of the community. There are many viable uses for Greylock that do not require such a high-impact transformation as is now proposed, but instead, remain faithful to the mandate to preserve open spaces and landmark buildings for Chestnut Hill.
Ulrich Hiesinger, Ph.D. Vice-President, Chestnut Hill Landmarks Committee.