By Wesley Ratko
In a well-attended special December meeting, the Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee voted 6 to 1 Wednesday night to support Bowman Properties’ proposal to build a Fresh Market shopping center and mixed-use development on the site of the now-closed Magarity Ford car dealership at 8200 Germantown Avenue.
The vote came at the end of a hurried hour spent almost exclusively on committee member Joyce Lenhardt’s report detailing the results of the final negotiations between the negotiating subcommittee and Bowman Properties. Concessions made by Bowman include a lowered height for the building, a reduction in the number of townhomes at the rear of the property along Shawnee Street, and an increase in buffering around the site, among many others.
The specified terms of these concessions, organized in a document, titled “8200 Germantown Avenue – Development Standards,” fall into three main categories: building dimensional and massing standards, site development details, and deed restrictions that will run with the property regardless of owner, were presented
These terms will be incorporated into a binding legal document that Bowman Properties’ president Richard Snowden said he will sign.
Committee co-chair Cynthia Brey was the lone dissenter when the vote was taken, saying that while she applauded the efforts of Lenhardt and the other committee members, she felt the negotiated changes to the building weren’t substantive enough to make a significant difference.
“It is my opinion that the project will erode the concept of village character,” she said, adding that the project sets a dangerous prescedent for future rezoning.
Her remarks were greeted by applause by some of those present.
The crowd, close to 70 strong, and many in opposition to Bowman’s proposal, remained in place for the monthly meeting of the Development Review Committee meeting that followed immediately after.
Bowman Properties architect Richard Gelber briefly reviewed the most recent version of the plan before committee co-chair Larry McEwen surveyed DRC members for the recommendations of the represented subcommittees. Tom Hemphill indicated the favorable support of the Traffic, Transportation, and Parking Committee, as did LUPZ co-chair John Landis, indicating “majority in favor.”
Speaking for the Historic District Advisory Committee, Patricia Cove expressed concern for the impact the development might have on the historic village atmosphere of Chestnut Hill, but was encouraged by Bowman’s willingness to continue working with the CHCA through the design review process. She cited Annapolis and Princeton as examples of other historic communities that successfully incorporated similarly large developments and expressed support for the project.
The DRC ultimately voted 4 to 1 in favor, with Brey, again, the lone dissenter.
The recommendations will be sent along to the Chestnut Hill Community ASsociation board, which will vote on the matter on Monday, Dec. 12.