by Wesley Ratko

After a presenatation by Bowman Properties, The chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee discussed its own role under impending changes to the Philadelphia Zoning code and considered a possible change in meeting schedule to keep the CHCA’s zoning process relevant under the changes in the city’s zoning meeting requirements.

LUPZ Committee member Larry McEwen presented the committee with a memo that summarized the discussion he and others had with the Chestnut Hill Historical Society regarding the registered community organization (RCO) process that will become a part of the administrative procedures in the city’s new zoning code, which takes effect on August 22.

The concern from LUPZ members is that the new regulations will only require a developer to have a single meeting with any community that a project would impact. The CHCA process requires several meetings. A single-meeting requirement, it’s feared, would undermine the well-established process.

Attempts by LUPZ members to persuade the zoning code commission to include procedures that would recognize the civic design review process now practiced by the CHCA’s physical division have been unsuccessful.

“It’s just too much for them to deal with,” McEwen said.

However, in response to comments received from the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, McEwen suggested ways the CHCA process might be streamlined to, in a sense, meet the planning commission half way.

The memo included principles that focus on maximizing the value CHCA review adds to a project, strengthening communication between the subcommittees and the CHCA Board, and finding ways to streamline the CHCA review process.

To this end, McEwen proposed a modified meeting schedule that would schedule one DRC meeting an hour before the CHCA Board meeting, and three successive meetings on a single night – the first Thursday of the month. He added that they continue to press Philadelphia City Planning Commission to support a multi-meeting process.

The committee expressed some skepticism that the necessary materials required for a complete review would be available given such a compacted schedule.

Committee member Joyce Lenhardt wondered whether they weren’t trying to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.

Landis said there were the process does add value and that developers would be well-served to bring their projects to the committees for review.

Committee member John Haak said that while the new regulations only require a single meeting, there is nothing that says the outcome of that meetings must determine the next step in the process.

The committee plans to send the memo on to the Development Review Committee for discussion but took no formal action.