Few lines from American poetry are more well-known than “Good fences make good neighbors,” repeated by the neighbor of the narrator of Robert Frost’s 1914 work “Mending Wall.”

Frost’s narrator both rues the need for the wall but also respects the validity of his neighbor’s old-fashioned adage. Although there is no pressing need for the wall, it is the basis of his relationship with the neighbor. They meet annually to repair toppled stones and might otherwise never interact if not for the wall mending appointment.

The key to maintaining good terms as neighbors is the maintenance of a clear boundary. It both maintains their civility and defines their individual properties, and by extension, their rights. Without the wall, even Frost’s narrator understands, something would be lost between him and his neighbor.

In the unfolding story surrounding the disagreement brewing between the Petes and their Ardleigh Street neighbors behind the Market at the Fareway’s soon-to-open beer garden, there is a need to maintain a wall that is broken.

It goes without saying that both the neighbors and the Petes should respect the rights of each other. The neighbors deserve the right to live in their homes without constant intrusions and the Petes have the right to improve and develop their business within the law.

The neighbors are entitled to be concerned. The addition of the beer garden raises questions that are fair to ask about use and hours and noise. It’s also worth considering the added strain on the neighborhood by expanded use of the Water Tower rec center that has contributed to the volume of cars and noise in the area.

But it is also important to remember that the Petes have demonstrated over the course of the nearly 10 years they’ve owned the property that they are good neighbors with the best intentions for the property they own. They are not absentee landlords with no ties to their community. In fact, the opposite is true. They live here and do business here. Their efforts have nearly doubled the market value of the property (a likely boon to other property values in the neighborhood). Ron Pete can almost always be found on the premises making sure all is well.

It’s not fair to assume that the family has been negligent, disregarded the law or cut corners. And this is the most important thing. So many disagreements between neighbors are quick to stray from issues at hand and become personal feuds. It’s much easier to mend a wall than it is to restore trust.

Neighbors and Pete should work to resolve the issue to everyone’s satisfaction. It’s in everyone’s best interest to move forward in a way that makes everyone happy. And that would best be accomplished with face-to-face meetings and not promises to engage attorneys.

There is something that doesn’t love a wall. It was true on Frost’s farm in 1914 and it’s true in Chestnut Hill more than 100 years later. And it’s ever more important to make sure those walls are mended and that neighbors find a way to stay neighbors.

Pete Mazzaccaro

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/protestprotest/ Darryl Hart

    When will Chestnut Hillers understand they live in a city? That’s part of its appeal. Do they really think they live in some kind of gated community? If you don’t want noise or traffic, live in Bucks County.

    • robert the bruce

      I think most of us see it as a village with access to the city. Having lived here for many decades I am a little concerned that the business community’s efforts are aimed at making it a regional shopping destination. Historically the business district has supported the community with basic needs, Making it a regional destination will tax the roads and parking causing further tensions with the residents.

  • Polly M

    This current brooha is symptomatic of a larger community issue that seems to some of us an issue of pettiness, not of community. Good neighbors live and let live. I’ve never had a bad neighbor, but I’ve noted some distinctly unneighborly behavior in Chestnut Hill. People complaining about the most inconsequential things that don’t really impact them at all, causing their neighbors much trouble and expense. And I always wonder why, what is that in human nature? We ARE a village, one with a business district that has historically been much more than there to serve our basic needs. We are right to be concerned about overtaxing our streets and parking and ears. Though vigilance is ever important, we aren’t really at the point in our development where an existing space, not an expanded one, that gets a pergola overhead and fencing around it, and another merchant who sets up shop in an existing market space constitute the tipping point. In fact, in recent years we’ve lost too many long-established shops and eateries, their spaces taken by offices and banks. The Fareway market has suffered too many vacant stalls. We’ve lost old friends, elements that have made our village special. I truly doubt that’s what most residents want and why they moved here. Seems wrongminded and yes, petty, that this project, which semi-encloses an already designated space for dining and gathering, has been targeted and threatened. In particular, as Mr Mazzacaro’s opinion includes, the current owners, locals, have transformed a tired commerical complex into a bright, friendly, clean, engaging space that reflects a Chestnut Hill we’re proud of and that’s helped to revitalize Germantown Avenue. Good neighbors. My family and I hope that the people who live behind the Fareway stop, take a breath, rethink their way forward. Good neighbors work things out with their good neighbors.

  • South Silly

    Can we not refer to them as “concerned neighbors?”

    We have a name for them in South Philly–NIMBYS.

    Not In My Back Yards.

    You’ll be hard pressed to find a more pretentious, self righteous, and petty type of neighbor in Philadelphia.

    The Petes have operated with as much class and integrity as you could ever expect of a business owner. Their investment into their property has equated to increasing property values (i.e. equity) for these “concerned neighbors,” as well as providing a platform for local businesses in which to thrive.

    In my neighborhood we have legitimate concerns–methadone clinics opening up because of our proximity to a major transit hub.

    Having to park a block away is not a “concern,” it is a reality of living inside the city limits. Calling it anything but that is insulting to people who have legitimate neighborhood concerns–blight, crack dens, violence, etc.

    Dear NIMBYS–why not enjoy a nice cold brew in the beautiful new outdoor space and make a few friends? Might clear up that stormy behavior of yours.