Balance, Rotary signs and SCH Academy round out full DRC agenda
by Wesley Ratko
Patricia Cove, chair of the Historic District Advisory Committee, presented the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Development review committee with a six-point statement issued by the Chestnut Hill Historical Society regarding the installation of murals on buildings within the historic district.
The statement is in response to the CHCA Board’s approval last month of a mural proposed to be painted on the side of Bredenbeck’s Bakery at 8126 Germantown Ave.. Cove told the committee she and the historical society are concerned that the approval of the mural could “open the floodgates” to allowing murals on buildings along the Avenue.
The statement, written in consultation with the Philadelphia Historic Commission and the Preservation Alliance, asks that murals not be applied directly to historic “fabrics” such as masonry or stucco, that the paint used be of a kind that doesn’t trap moisture, that an agreement between the building owner, the community, and the Mural Arts Program regarding continued maintenance be put in place, and that any future murals go through the normal design review process. The statement also asks that a “sunset” date be put in place, “at which time the mural can be reviewed and its future determined.”
She asked that the statement be circulated among the member committees of the DRC for approval.
Ultimately, the DRC moved to invite Caroline King from the Mural Arts Program Public Engagement Office to the next meeting of the Land Use Planning and Zoning committee to talk more about the Bredenbeck’s mural and the process through which the Mural Arts program selects buildings on which murals are placed.
The Rotary Club returned to the DRC Tuesday night seeking approval for the placement of three permanent signs at locations along or near Germantown Avenue. The signs, which measure two feet by three feet and read “Drive Carefully – Protect Our Children,” are a Rotary Club standard blue and gold on a white background. Rotary is proposing they be placed where children are expected to cross the street: in front of the J.S. Jenks elementary school, on Bethlehem Pike next to the future site of Children of America (formerly Borders), and in front of Chestnut Hill College.
Rotary past-president Christian Mongrain presented the committee with information they requested last December when he first proposed the sign concept, including the required height of the signs in the Americans with Disabilities Act and proof of permission from the Jenks school, Children of America, and Chestnut Hill College.
Rotary will take their proposal to the Streets Department next week.
Historic District Advisory Committee representative Patricia Cove expressed concerns that the signs don’t fit in with the urban design guidelines of the Avenue. She said that because the signs represent a type of advertising, it could open the door for other organizations to post similar signs. She asked Mongrain to reconsider posting the signs.
“Perhaps you could find another way to get your name out there in the community,” she said.
Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee representative Cynthia Brey asked Cove what specific section of the guidelines the signs violated. Cove said that she couldn’t point to a specific page but said that because the purpose of the sign was advertising for an organization, they should be discouraged.
Traffic, Transportation, and Parking Committee representative Tom Hemphill disagreed and expressed support for the signs.
“Anything we can do prevent accidents,” he said, was a good idea. He said that traffic along the Avenue is too fast, and a sign could serve as a warning to drivers to slow down.
The committee approved a motion in a 3-2 vote.*
Co-owners of Balance Chestnut Hill, Amy Carolla and Aaron Sistrunk, were present, along with Andrew Eisenstein, owner of 12 West Willow Grove Avenue, to follow-up on a request made earlier this month at the Land Use Planning and Zoning committee in their pursuit of a use variance to move their fitness studio from 5 East Highland Avenue to 12 West Willow Grove Avenue.
The LUPZ asked Balance to provide proof that they have made every effort to contact near and adjacent neighbors regarding the proposal to relocate the studio from its current location on East Highland Avenue.
No neighbors were present Tuesday night to protest the proposal, and no responses were received from any neighbors regarding the relocation.
Cove asked whether there were any outstanding issues regarding the availability of parking along West Willow Grove Avenue. Hemphill responded there were not, adding that many will walk or ride their bikes to get to the gym.
The committee unanimously approved support for the use variance.
Springside-Chestnut Hill Academy
Representing Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, Henry O’Reilly appeared before the DRC to make an informal presentation and show off some concept sketches for proposed improvements to playing fields at 585 West Willow Grove Avenue, across the street from the school.
O’Reilly told the committee that the school is looking to install turf fields this summer, a project that will require the installation of stormwater management facilities under the field. A grandstand with steel bleachers has also been proposed, but not committed to.
Springside will return next month to make a formal presentation.
* The original version of this story stated that Patricia Cove was the sole dissenting vote.