by Kevin Dicciani

The Chestnut Hill Community Association, at its Sept. 18 board meeting, approved publication of a fence communication statement that discusses the zoning code and where the CHCA currently stands in regards to it.

Introduced by Larry McEwen, vice president of the CHCA’s Physical Division, the motion was passed with a 12-1 vote.

With the recent controversy surrounding a non-compliant fence at 8010 Winston Rd., McEwen said he  felt it was necessary to get as much information to Chestnut Hill residents as possible in order to help them avoid further issues with the city’s Department of Licenses and Inspections.

That fence, which replaced an old 6-foot fence with another, was cited several months ago by L&I as illegal, leading the property owners to seek the CHCA’s aid in getting the fence legalized.

McEwen said that although the CHCA does not write the zoning code or report any violations, it is often called upon for support – which he said it will only bestow if the fences in question are compliant with the law.

The statement, which will be published shortly on CHCA’s website, is for property owners who are contemplating building a new fence or replacing an existing fence. The document is also for Realtors, contractors, fence companies, design professionals and any other entity in a position to advise on the installation of a fence.

The statement contains three points from the Philadelphia Zoning Code (PZC) that McEwen said the CHCA supports:

1. For fences along property street frontages, and on side property lines forward to the front wall of the house, fences can be a maximum of 4 feet in height and must be no more than 50 percent opaque, allowing one to see through to the other side. At side property lines from the front wall of the house back, and along the back property line, fences can be a maximum of 6 feet in height and can be 100 percent opaque.

2. A zoning permit is NOT required for a fence if the conditions in point 1 are satisfied. A zoning variance from the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) IS required if the fence design does not comply with these conditions.

3. Existing, non-compliant fences are NOT “grandfathered.” When replacing a non-compliant fence, property owners must either install a compliant fence or obtain a zoning variance.

McEwen said the CHCA understands that there may be certain conditions where the additional height or opacity may be appropriate, but overall they would try to fundamentally stick to the law when issues arise.

Will Detweiler, CHCA president, said he felt L&I was being “a bit heavy-handed” when handing out violations and fines.

McEwen responded by saying the inspectors are only doing what they were hired to do: enforce the law; and, by publishing this statement, residents will understand what needs to be done in order to avoid falling on the wrong side of it.

In other news

The Green Space Initiative Tree-Planting program has been officially named “Re-tree the Avenue.”

The Chestnut Hill Community Fund’s aim for the program is to “re-tree” Germantown Avenue by planting 50 trees between Bethlehem Pike and Cresheim Valley Drive. The fund will be taking donations, and donors can either adopt a tree branch for $150, a tree for $500, which gets your name on a honorarium plaque, or an entire tree well for $1,500, which gets your name on a cobblestone marker.

The program is scheduled to begin in November.

For more information, visit