by Wesley Ratko
Availability of parking behind the Top of the Hill shopping center, 8705 Germantown Ave., dominated discussion at the Sept. 17 meeting of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Development Review Committee related to an application for a special exception permit to allow a dental practice to set up shop there.
Applicants Jacob Orozco and Abbey Sullivan-Orozco returned to the DRC after appearing before the Land Use Planning and Zoning and Streetscape committees to address signs and parking, the two issues identified by those committees that required further discussion.
There has been no opposition to the practice opening at the location from any neighboring business or residence. There was, however, some concern about the use of the adjacent parking lot.
“Use of the parking lot is complicated,” community manager Celeste Hardester said.
Hardester explained that the owner of Spa Elysium, who was not present at Tuesday night’s meeting, expressed concern regarding the number of spaces that would reportedly be made available to employees and patients of the dental practice.
Hardester said Spa Elysium at 55 Bethlehem Pike has claimed the majority of spaces in the lot behind that business and the Top of the Hill shopping center.
Orozco told the committee that his lease states that at least six spaces would be available for their use. However, there is no lack of any enforcement or control of the spaces, combined with the fact that no space is designated for particular tenants.
“It’s a first come, first served lot,” he said. “Guaranteed spaces are a moot point.”
Hardester added that, historically, the proposal for the Top of the Hill shopping center was opposed by the city for a lack of adequate parking.
Attorney Michael Gumbel, representing the applicant, said that the parking for the dental practice should be equal to the same number of spaces as KCBA Architects, the firm that previously occupied the space. Those present said KCBA had between 20 and 35 employees at one time, all of whom parked in the lot.
Gumbel added that parking availability would have never been raised as an issue in the first place if the practice had only one doctor and did not need the special exception.
DRC co-chair John Landis thought the matter should be left to the landlord.
“The owners need to reconcile this,” he said.
Committee co-chair Larry McEwen observed that two of the tenants of the shopping center were restaurants, which see a lot of their traffic in the evening and not during normal business hours when the practice would need parking.
While long-term estimates for the total parking needs of the business were up around 20 spaces, the applicants agreed they could get by with the six spaces provided for in the lease. Orozco said he and his wife would not be in the space at the same time and would initially share the services of two employees.
The applicants haven’t proposed any signs beyond a simple hanging banner. The banner is only good for 60 days, but the applicants said that the owner of Top of the Hill plaza may be close to providing a new sign package for all tenants of the shopping center. If so, they would wait before applying for permission to post signs of their own. Until then, the applicants have no plans for any signs beyond the temporary banner.
The committee unanimously approved a recommendation of support for the special exception to be conveyed to the CHCA board at its Sept. 26 meeting.
A second motion, presented separately by Joyce Lenhardt, vice president of the CHCA’s Physical Division, asked the community manager to reach out to the owners of Top of the Hill and Spa Elysium and get resolution on the issue of who owns the lot behind both. It too passed.
“We are unanimously thrilled that you’re here and hope you’re here forever,” Landis told the applicants.
Roy Miyahara, owner of Diamond Spa at 8430 Germantown Ave., appeared before the Development Review Committee to ask for its support in renewing a use variance that will allow him to offer massages in the rear of the property.
Miyahara first received a use variance to offer massage in 2008, but the five-year period for that variance has lapsed, and his request for an extension was rejected by the Zoning Board of Adjustment. Miyahara told the committee there would be no change to the operation of his business and no additional services will be provided.
The use variance was also refused by the city five years ago before his appeal to the ZBA. This process is identical to that undertaken five years ago, but this time the intent is to obtain a use variance that will run concurrently with Miyahara’s occupation of the property, without a set expiration date..
The variance request includes details related to the sign outside the business. Miyahara said he is unsure whether or not the sign will change. If it does, it will be the same size and color as the existing sign.
Since this is Miyahara’s first appearance before the DRC, the committee voted to send the proposal to both the Land Use Planning and Zoning and Streetscape committees. DRC co-chair John Landis suggested Miyahara receive signatures from the surrounding neighbors.