The Market on the Fareway’s new brewery (right), and beer garden (left) have raised neighbor concerns over increases in traffic and noise.

by Brendan Sample

The board of the Chestnut Hill Community Association has committed to acting as a mediator between near neighbors and the owners of the Chestnut Hill Hotel after neighbors presented their concerns to the CHCA about a new beer garden added to the hotel’s property in early May.

At the board’s May 25 meeting, neighbors expressed concerns about high levels of noise at late hours, a lack of additional parking and the breaking of a covenant signed in 1981 with the original property owners.

That agreement set up restrictions in the property deed that limited what kind of additions could be made in the future in exchange for the neighbors’ support of the owners obtaining any variances they would need for the property. One of the original signers of the covenant, Jay Overcash, is among the neighbors opposed to the beer garden.

After the neighbors made their presentation to the CHCA, the board considered a number of options for how it could be involved this time around. As the CHCA was not directly involved with the negotiations of the original covenant, and thus did not sign off on the finished agreement, the board decided that it would be best to once again leave any specific negotiations to the neighbors and the hotel ownership.

Even with that in mind, however, board president Laura Lucas said she saw an opportunity to assist in other ways, and thus agreed to put together a mediation group so that the two parties could meet and discuss a solution. This decision proved to be more in line with the CHCA’s involvement with the covenant in 1981, when it helped the neighbors get in touch with city officials that were able to start the negotiation process.

Although this decision represents a step toward finding a solution that will benefit both parties, it will not be one that is realized quickly. Lucas acknowledged that it will take about two to three weeks to put together a mediation group, after which there would still be the actual negotiations, which could also end up in legal action if a new agreement is not made.

Most of those involved with this issue are hoping to avoid a long legal battle, however, and so reaching a mutually beneficial agreement appears to now be the main goal.

This kind of solution was also recommended as the best-case scenario by one of Philadelphia’s top zoning and land-use lawyers, Carl Primavera. In an interview with the Chestnut Hill Local, Primavera applied his expertise to this particular situation, acknowledging that both sides had legitimate grounds on which to support their argument. He also felt, however, that there would be better alternatives to having a drawn-out legal battle that could go on for months.

“I don’t see this as being insolvable in either the short term or long term,” Primavera said. “Every time there’s fighting like this, it chips away at the cement holding the community together … I certainly hope there’s some sort of mediation for this.”

The board also:

  • approved the nomination of Terry Mutchler, of Chestnut Hill, to the Local’s own board of directors. Mutchler is an attorney and former journalist who also served as the first executive director of the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records. She is perhaps best known for her memoir “Under This Beautiful Dome.”
  • laid out further plans for upcoming events, including the kickoff for the Pastorius Park concerts and the annual membership meeting on June 14 and 25, respectively. The kickoff will begin a string of concerts every Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. though the end of July, while the membership meeting will serve as an update of the CHCA, Annual Appeal and the Local for CHCA members.

The next meeting of the CHCA board of directors is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, June 29, at Blossom Philadelphia (formerly United Cerebral Palsy), 102 E. Mermaid Lane.

Brendan Sample can be reached at brendan@chestnuthilllocal.com

  • James Goodwin

    Mediation only works when both sides agree to agree. If they fight with each other, mediation is useless. Neighbors should not paint those who make use of the outdoor bar as loud drunkards as not everyone who drinks is such. Parking is a shared problem among neighbors and customers who patronize the stores at Chestnut Hill. as to each where they choose to park is their choice.

  • ArdleighCitiZen

    Thank you for this article and for your continuing coverage of CHCA meetings. It’s unfortunate the meeting minutes are not readily available to the community, but your coverage is very helpful, and important. In the case of Neighbors vs. Mr Pete et al, the situation is rather complicated due to the complex history of the property and its development, and therefore needs to be seen in that context, as opposed to just another example of Chestnut Hill’s NIMBY attitude. Perhaps there is an opportunity for another angle on the story, such as the history of restrictive covenants in shaping Chestnut Hill, or the questionable nature of the process for awarding liquor licenses in Philadelphia.

    • CHer

      It’s not Chestnut Hill that has a NIMBY attitude. It’s a few folks some of whom unfortunately for the owners of the Fareway live behind it and have a history of what they may consider civic engagement and righteous discontent but others would describe otherwise. The Local’s archives are heavy with complaints about a host of mostly minimal to non issues, meddling and accusations instigated and stirred by the same handful of people who seem to think their mission is to represent our community’s best interests. Neighbor police.
      Who also seem to frequently be put-upon, victims of their institutional, residential, commercial neighbors near and far who are just going about their own business, living their lives, trying to be good neighbors, doing no harm.
      Who have caused unwarranted aggravation, time, expense, public demeaning to those they’ve targeted. Who have victimized.
      Who do not listen to anyone but themselves and their often “alternative facts”. NIMBYS. It’s legitimate and healthy to air concerns, but how does mediation work with such people?
      So you have a 1981 covenant. We’ve read from you that the Petes didn’t post their liquor license application prominently. They did. I saw it many times on one of the front doors when at the market, saw it for months. You actually accused them in print of illegally and intentionally hiding their intent. A big orange sign said otherwise.
      From what my eyes tell me, the market wasn’t expanded. Its new fence is within the pre-existing garden bed surrounding the market’s outdoor space where we previously enjoyed dining at tables and chairs on nice days.
      Nor was the market building expanded. What’s changed is that the vendor stalls are finally filled. Congratulations to the Petes who at great expense cleaned up your “back yard”, and to the market vendors who work hard to earn their living. We love what they’ve accomplished. Very cool! We appreciate that their passionate effort at the Fareway these years has been a needed shot in the arm for our community. Their hearts have been in the right place. They’ve earned their success and are a model for others. It’s awful that they have to endure this, including assaults upon their integrity.
      Who knows why some people behave as they do, what gratification or thrill of adventure or exercise of might can be the goal. Its not about underhanded, illegal doings or a threat to property values, or that nobody cares about you and your “working class neighborhood” as youve asserted. It’s not about being champions, saviors for CH. or about a decades old document that arguably should be revisited and likely has not even been breached. Legitimate concerns respectfully voiced should be met respectfully. We must all stand against over-development, scrutiny is not a bad thing. It’s very difficult to give sympathy and listening ear to a NIMBY. I don’t know why this makes me so upset. I guess because I love Chestnut Hill, want it to thrive, maintain its tradition and unique character, move forward responsibly, become even more its best self. And most of all for its citizens to be good to each other, stay out of each others’ business, refrain from demonizing and playing the victim, let live. Champion the noble causes, with respect. There are many. Concerned Near Neighbors, lighten up, bring the kids, enjoy great food and drink at your wonderfully rehabbed neighborhood spot, join the rest of us! Excuse this long reply. I’ve been bursting to speak my mind. Please people, enough of this.

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