by Wesley Ratko
Sanjiv Jain, the owner of 8524 Germantown Ave., asked the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Development Review Committee to support a zoning variance that would allow him to build an extension onto the rear of that building to accommodate the growing success of Greene Street Consignment, the building’s current tenant.
The building now covers 75 percent of the property . Jain is proposing to build an extension that would cover the remainder of the lot. According to Jain, all but four buildings on the block cover 100 percent of their parcels.
Committee co-chair Greg Woodring asked Jain about the hardship he faced that would justify granting a variance. He told the committee that the retail space on the first floor was too small to allow either the current tenant or any future tenant to be successful.
“They can’t function as a retail store with so little space,” Jain said.
Jain is proposing to construct a one-story addition onto the back of the store. He does not intend to add a basement. The addition will be constructed on ground that is currently used for parking. Committee member Cynthia Brey asked Jain where the drivers who park in those parking spaces would be accommodated. Jain told her he would make arrangements with the Parking Foundation to buy permits for use in one of their nearby lots.
CHCA board member Mike Chomentowski, a near neighbor, told the committee that his neighbors on the 8500 block of Shawnee Street, were not informed about the project and that it would disrupt their access to parking in the center lot. Chomentowski said that the parking behind the building was difficult to access and that any construction, even without the construction of a basement, would limit access.
An alley behind the property provides access and parking to several adjacent property owners with easement rights to use the drive. Ownership of the alley, however, was unclear. Jain told the DRC that the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation pays the tax bill and, as a result, he suspected that they owned it. Chomentowski disputed that.
“They’ve never maintained it,” Chomentowski said.
Committee co-chair Greg Woodring asked Jain about storm water and the impact of building out to the edge of the property would have on flooding. Jain told him that the portion of the lot not covered by the building is paved and, therefore, impervious to water. He said his engineer (who was not present) was looking at the possibility of creating a green roof and installing a storm water retention tank, but he offered no details.
The DRC took no formal action beyond asking Jain to present his proposal to the Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee and the Historic District Advisory Committee. HDAC Board member and Chestnut Hill Historical Society president Frank Niepold said the building was listed as “contributing” to the Chestnut Hill Historic District and that even though no changes are planned for the front of the building, it still warranted examination by the HDAC.
Magarity Ford Property
No one was present to report on the Magarity Ford/Fresh Market project at 8200 Germantown Avenue. Cynthia Brey told the committee that a meeting between the LUPZ’s negotiating subcommittee and Bowman Properties at the Historical Society has been tentatively scheduled for next week and that a request for term sheets, drawings, and the massing model has been conveyed.
Committee co-chair Greg Woodring was dismayed by the lack of information Bowman has provided.
“There is a lot of technical data that is to be provided has not been provided,” Woodring said. He added that this information is necessary to determine whether the project complies with zoning and to assess the actual size of the finished building would be. Several of those present expressed concern that the plans for the building were too large for the Avenue.