In beer garden case, neighborhood past and future is a factor

“We have been a good neighbor and will continue to be a good neighbor.” – Ron Pete, as quoted in the Local

Three weeks ago I attended a session at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy School sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Conservancy on the future of development in Chestnut Hill. One statement, later quoted here in the Local, stood out for me. It was made by the eminent architect Witold Rybczynski: “Rybczynski said for a city to remain vibrant in the future, it must have a clear understanding of its past and be willing to embrace responsible redevelopment.”

I and my neighbors take this to heart, and we think all Chestnut Hill residents concerned about the future of our neighborhood should too. Past residents of Chestnut Hill, through great effort, created a vision for the neighborhood. We owe them a great debt and we believe that we have a duty to be just as vigilant and visionary as our forebears.

Nearly 40 years ago, under the auspices of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, and well covered by this newspaper, a covenant was hammered out between the owners of the Chestnut Hill Hotel and its near neighbors on Ardleigh Street. This was no easy task. It took the efforts of hundreds of Chestnut Hill residents, city politicians, and the CHCA. The covenant runs in perpetuity with the property.

Such covenants are extremely important and should not be discarded or ignored in a willy-nilly fashion. Certainly, any attempt to supersede or challenge the covenant should be presented and discussed with the parties involved. Such was never done with the neighbors on Ardleigh Street. Only the heavy construction work we heard coming over the fence in the dead of night alerted us that something was happening. Now we are faced with a fait accompli, and our only recourse seems to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees to have our living covenant recognized. How is this at all neighborly?

As development proceeds in Chestnut Hill, all of us should be concerned about the abrogation of covenants. Ours is not the only such covenant here, and by acceding to the development whims at the Chestnut Hill Hotel property without any review, all such covenants are mocked and threatened. I appeal to the CHCA to take careful note.

Finally, the system set up to monitor local development, which includes building codes, zoning and the associated permits, are not to be ignored. All those seemingly petty requirements – the posting of permits, height restrictions, propinquity to elementary schools – are important. And again, the wider community should take note because what is scoffed at and ignored in our neighborhood is coming your way sooner or later. There is and will continue to be voracious demand for development in Chestnut Hill.

Much has been made of the neighborliness of the owners of the hotel. We have not seen it.

Jan LeSuer
Chestnut Hill

 

Beer garden could set bad development precedent

By now, you have heard about the brew pub at the Market at the Fareway, 8223 Germantown Ave. You may have also heard that neighbors are to oppose it. Neighbors who are not directly affected may not understand our position.

We would like to set the record straight.

We appreciate the positive effect successful businesses have on our community. We understand that we live in an urban neighborhood. We want the Market at the Fareway and hotel to flourish, but not at the expense of our property values and lifestyle.

The near neighbors in the 8200 block of Ardleigh Street and east Unit Block of Hartwell Lane, hold a legal and binding covenant restricting construction and use of the Market at the Fareway property. It has been in effect since 1981. There are also deed restrictions on the property, clearly defining construction and use. The recently constructed patio and trellis for the Chestnut Hill Brewery, violate both.

Our covenant allows for no more than two restaurants in the Hotel complex. It disallows for any cooking and baking in the Farmers Market. With the recent renovations, there are now multiple venues serving food. The covenant contains a physical line restricting the proximity of construction to our backyards. The outdoor trellis for the beer pub is within 60 feet of our backyards on Ardleigh.

We can not let this go because, once the line is crossed, if the neighborhood does not hold the property owner to the restrictive covenant in the deed, we potentially give up some of our rights under the 1981 agreement. Our power may be greatly diminished by accepting the use of the property as a beer garden without restriction.

Allowing a breach of covenant/deed restrictions could mean there would be no recourse should the property owner decide to construct a five-story building (think, 1 West Hartwell Lane) to replace the market. A five-story building could be the best-case scenario. We are not saying this is what Ron Pete would do, rather we worry about what could happen whenever he sells the property.

The breach of the covenant could set a precedent potentially affecting other covenants and restrictions throughout the city. Residents of Chestnut Hill should be concerned about other deed restrictions that may more closely affect them. We should agree that unbridled power over land use is dangerous.

We are thinking of the future, like the group of neighbors who in 1981 had the forethought and concern to draft this covenant for our neighborhood. They took the time and spent their money to protect our neighborhood. We seek to honor the covenant so their efforts were not in vain.

In Chestnut Hill, owners and developers typically engage the neighbors in discussion prior to implementing projects that affect a neighborhood. Ron Pete has not met with neighbors. We hope he will.

Residents of the 8200 block of Ardleigh Street and the east unit block of Hartwell Lane:

Ann Hartzell, Marcus Pollack, Jan LeSuer, Martha Hill, Mary Dempsey Lau, Daniel Lau, Jay Overcash, Roe Overcash, Victoria O’Donnell and Kristina M. Victoree

 

Thankful for Ron and Abby Pete

Chestnut Hill is incredibly fortunate to have Ron and Abby Pete as residents and as property and business owners.  The investment they have made in the Chestnut Hill Hotel and its ancillary buildings benefits the entire neighborhood.

They have improved the hotel such that it is now a viable alternative to the hotels in Center City and on City Avenue, increasing the number of out-of-town visitors to our main street.  They have made wonderful improvements to both the exterior and the interior of the Market on the Fareway. They have shown a very perceptive sense of what our corridor needs to remain vibrant, adding great new restaurants like Paris Bistro and Green Soul, while keeping established favorites like the Chestnut Grill.

Their addition of the Chestnut Hill Brewing Company should be cheered, rather than criticized.  Anyone questioning this new addition has not taken the time to visit and understand the environment that they have created.  The Market at the Fareway and all of its vendors, including the Brewing Company create precisely the type of family destination that Chestnut Hill needs to keep our residents in the neighborhood and on the Avenue spending money, rather than driving to Center City or King Prussia.

Please add ours to the list of voices thanking the Petes for all they do for our neighborhood, and giving full support for the new Chestnut Hill Brewing Company.

Seth, Courtney, Ryan & Emily Shapiro
Chestnut Hill

 

Out of touch critics of Pastorius

I am responding to the misconceptions and hyperbole from Meredith Markham and Travis Gold in their recent letter to the Local about the dog crackdown in Pastorius Park. (“Dog crackdown will empty Pastorius,” May 11)

Team Markham/Gold complains about being “banned” from Pastorius Park, and that the park will be “emptied” by the powers that be that “hate happiness” and that “dogs only have Pastorius.” Wow. My first question to them is this: Whose happiness are we talking about? From their letter, the Team Markham/Gold happiness seems to be all that matters to them.

Why is their need to let their dog run free in a city park (because they have a small yard) outweigh the legality and happiness of non- dog people and neighbors of the park who also like to enjoy sitting on a blanket, or picnic or throw a Frisbee and not be jumped on, peed on and knocked over by dogs running free? They clearly don’t seem to know that it is a violation of the law.

The park is for use by everyone and there are clearly marked city regulations on lovely new signs about bringing dogs into the park. Pastorius Park never was, nor is, a designated dog park. There are a lot of neighbors and non-dog folks around the park who have been VERY unhappy about the barking, dog fights and entitled and rude dog owners, most of them, by the way, from Montgomery County.

The numbers have increased every year and finally reached a tipping point this spring after two vicious dog attacks. (And please stop blaming and stereotyping pit bulls for this. It isn’t just pit bulls that are the problem. It’s actually the owners that are problematic.) I daresay Team Markham/Gold would be mightly pissed off if I brought my dog over to their yard at 6:45 a.m. on a weekend and let it run, poop and bark freely.

Secondly, no one has “banned” dogs from Pastorius Park. What is required – and now enforced – is that the dogs be kept on a leash. So please do continue to use and enjoy the park and follow the quite legible rules at each entrance clearly stating, as they always have, that dogs must be leashed. I am sorry if you find this an inconvenience.

The third piece of misinformation and hyperbole is that the park will be “emptied” of regular people. As of this writing, I have counted three or four groups of families picnicking, two father-and-son teams throwing a ball, and three different people sitting on blankets near the newly cleaned and gorgeous pond. (Thank you Friends of Pastorius Park.) So, I am not sure about all of these “regular” people that you claim will stay away, but even the police are commenting about the return of small children and people enjoying the park again and sitting on blankets.

A random check of license plates by the police that were parked along the park and belonging to dog owners being ticketed showed that 90 percent of them were not from this area. Glenside, Worcester, Wyndmoor, Jenkintown and Blue Bell, to name a few. Many of these folks sit on benches, let their dogs run for hours, barking incessantly and completely ignore their animals even when they harrass other dogs or people. You really don’t have to care about offending people much when you don’t have to run into them again at the hardware store, or the Co-op or walking on Germantown Avenue and get into your car and drive back to your leash law community.

Even the police have commented on the entitlement and lack of civility when they have approached many of the dog owners. One neighbor who lives on the park recently had his three-year-old grandson knocked over by a dog and scared by it, and rather than the owner come over to apologize and restrain his dog, he screamed at my neighbor to “stop touching my dog.” This gives all of us dog owners and former dog owners a bad name. So, I will you ask again: Whose happiness are we talking about here?

So no, Team Markham/Gold, it isn’t “missing the point” to require “your kind” (your label) to abide by the law and be respectful and cognizant of the collective happiness of all park users and neighbors.

Jeanne Andrews
Chestnut Hill

 

Pastorius is for everyone, not just dogs

I must protest to some of the outrageous comments made in the letter from Markham/Gold. Dog owners are indeed welcome in Pastorius Park – we just happen think dog owners who do not obey the law are not welcome. As to “happiness,” I suggest that listening to non-stop barking dogs at 7:30 a.m in the morning or being attacked by free running dogs is not my idea of happiness. Whoever does must have a warped mind. And as for kids, if they want to play, bring them to Pastorius Park because it is a Park for everyone – not for dogs and dog owners.

Lastly, what I would say to Markham/Gold: If they want to have their dogs run loose and disobey the law – go somewhere else. What makes them think that Pastorius Park is their domain to do what they wish with total disregard to the rest of the community?

Jack Georgiou
Chestnut Hill

 

Pastorius is better off with enforcement

I must respond to the people who accuse “the powers in Chestnut Hill” (whoever they may be) of hating happiness in Pastorius Park because the dog leash law is being enforced there. As a longtime park neighbor, I see a great happiness there: dog owners walking leashed pets, families having picnics, children playing and people on park benches enjoying peace, beauty and perhaps a good book – all without the interference of unleashed and often unsupervised dogs.

Our park is one of the many reasons that people live in our area, as well as the convenience of great shops, restaurants, transportation and pleasant neighbors. But many dog owners simply ignore the Fairmount Park regulation that prohibits unleashed dogs throughout the park system. The regulation is in place for the safety and comfort of us all, including our dogs.

Harriet Palmer
Chestnut Hill

 

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