by Wesley Ratko
With the deadline looming for Bowman Properties development at 8200 Germantown Ave., the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee deferred voting and scheduled another meeting on Wednesday night, Dec. 7.
The LUPZ will meet an hour before the Dec. 7 special meeting of the Development Review Committee, and, if necessary, hear additional presentations from Bowman and the negotiating subcommittee. Both the LUPZ and DRC want to have recommendations formulated in time for a specially scheduled Dec. 12 meeting of the CHCA board, which is intended to preempt City Council’s vote on legislation to change the zoning of the site and the direction of traffic on Hartwell Lane.
At Thursday night’s LUPZ meeting, approximately 60 residents filled the meeting room of Chestnut Hill Hospital to discuss the project. Bowman Properties Managing Partner Richard Snowden presented an amended site plan that featured a five-story building, one less townhouse along Shawnee Street, increased landscaping on the parameters of the site, improved circulation in the parking lot, and additional parking under the Germantown Avenue condominiums.
While the changes were the result of ongoing negotiations between the CHCA sub-committee for the project and Bowman Properties, the group still was not able to offer a formal recommendation.
Joyce Lenhardt, who co-chairs the sub-committee said the negotiations continue.
“Without a formal recommendation from the subcommittee it’s hard to decide,” said LUPZ co-chair Cynthia Brey.
Bowman’s architect Richard Gelbart, project manager Seth Shapiro and lawyer Matt McClure presented the amended plans and fielded questions from neighbors. One neighbor, Ben Brown, said he felt the renderings were deceptive. The angle, he said, made it look as though the large retail project was no larger than the neighboring Cat Clinic, a veterinarian practice located in an old, single-family home on Germantown Avenue.
Shapiro responded by explaining that several perspectives were included in the presentation to provide context from multiple angles.
While neighbors continued to question the scale and scope of the project, some said they were worried that the Community Association process was taking too long and could potentially threaten the project’s existence.
McClure explained that their urgency was to pass the rezoning through the current city council – a new council would mean starting over, which could set the project back months. In addition, he added that they had a tenant, Fresh Market, who could walk away if the project were delayed much longer.
“We have a lease,” McClure said. “If the tenant walks, then the project is dead.”
He added that construction wouldn’t begin immediately after receiving an ordinance from City Council. Part of the agreement between Bowman and the Community Association includes a provision for a design review before construction can begin.
LUPZ committee co-chair John Landis emphasized that while the sub-committee was still working, progress has been made and there continues to be a fair amount of give and take.
“Can we settle this in two weeks?” Landis said. “We’re going to give it a try.”
At one point Brey asked McClure what Bowman would do if the CHCA rejected the proposal. “We’re still going to ask City Council to approve the rezoning,” McClure said.
He emphasized that it’s no different from any other project, and that council could deny the request without support from the CHCA.