by Pete Mazzaccaro

The Philadelphia Cricket Club, 415 W. Willow Grove Ave. in Chestnut Hill, has asked for and received an expedited schedule from the Chestnut Hill Community Association to review an extensive renovation of the club, which will include a remodeled paddle-tennis court and an expanded squash facility.

The CHCA board voted Thursday, Nov. 30, to delegate its approval authority to the CHCA’s Development Review Committee, the umbrella committee that guides local zoning applications through the CHCA’s process to vet the project and gather public input. The reasoning is that the Cricket Club is scheduled for a hearing at the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Jan. 19, before the CHCA board meets again.

The club is seeking a number of variances including the legalization of a line of iron fencing, a variance to allow the club to build 8 inches above that allowed by code, to allow for a small increase in coverage of open space and a general requirement under the new law that insists on the review of all prior variances issued on the property.

DRC co-chair Larry McEwen told the board that the request was a courtesy and would not be a precedent for future exemptions from the usual process.

Board Member Joyce Lenhardt, who also serves on the DRC and the CHCA’s Land Use Planning and Zoning committee, noted that the Cricket Club’s project is the first before the CHCA under the city’s new zoning laws, which do not require an applicant to go through the community process. Current law states that applicants need only hold one meeting for all registered community organizations (known as RCOs). The Cricket Club agreed to the CHCA process as a courtesy.

Tim Muessle, CEO and general manager of the club, told board members that the club had solicited the opinions of all its neighbors “in the vicinity.”

“We reached out to all the neighbors in the area and held a meeting,” Muessle said, noting that five of the six households next to the property on St. Martins Lane are members of the club. He said the club’s plan has also been supported by adjacent Church of St. Martin-in-the-Fields.

“Most of the concerns I’ve fielded from non-members concern the lighting, which now isn’t very good,” Muessle said in response to questions from the board about neighbor input.

The board voted unanimously to let the DRC make the final decision on whether or not to support the Cricket Club’s variance requests.

Residents interested in the Cricket Club’s plans should come to the the next meeting of the LUPZ on Thursday, Dec. 6, and the DRC on Tuesday, Dec. 18.