by Brendan Sample 

With the annual Harry Potter Festival set to start in just two weeks, the Chestnut Hill Business District presented its plans for the event’s structure to the board of the Chestnut Hill Community Association during its monthly meeting on Sept. 28.

Martha Sharkey, executive director of the Chestnut Hill Business District, was on hand to make the presentation, along with Lt. William Schmidt, of the 14th Police District.

After last year’s festival drew a crowd nearly twice the size of the predicted numbers, there has been some concern over how the crowds will be handled this year. Both Sharkey and Schmidt assured the board that measures were in place to handle the massive groups of people coming into Chestnut Hill.

While the festival is not expected to draw quite as many people as last year, which saw nearly 50,000 attendees total, there will still be a significantly large crowd that will likely come close to matching those numbers.

Some of the ways in which the large crowds will be handled include more parking spots, an increased police presence, shuttle drop-offs and more bathrooms. In addition to the shuttles, Sharkey also confirmed that the Business District is talking with Lyft to coordinate a designated drop-off location that would allow for another way into the festivities.

Beginning at 6 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21, Germantown Avenue will be closed off from Chestnut Hill Avenue to Cresheim Avenue for the duration of the festival. Traffic into Chestnut Hill will be restricted to residents, workers and anyone else who needs to get into the neighborhood for reasons other than the festival, such as housekeepers and pet sitters.

Schmidt emphasized that the police officers would be doing everything they could to minimize the impact of the festival on residents. Much of their planning for this year’s festival has been a result of complaints raised by residents last year, such as visitors parking in spots that were too close to the corner or prevented them from turning in certain areas.

While a number of board members expressed concerns over specific elements of the festival, the group appeared to be in favor of the updates made to handle the large crowds. Board member Richard Snowden, in particular, praised the work of Sharkey and the Business District while also acknowledging the need to keep Chestnut Hill from getting completely overrun.

“There is not enough Harry Potter in the world to make me want to see Chestnut Hill get crushed again,” Snowden said.

The board also discussed the implementation of a new confidentiality clause that would be added to the CHCA bylaws. While most of the board was in favor of the clause, which is the pre-approved standard of the National Council for Nonprofits, some members took issue with the specific wording. Specific issues included what they felt to be a lack of clarification in what exactly constitutes confidential information and an overreaching of restrictions on how the information could and could not be discussed. Wanting to avoid a long debate, the board agreed to have those members come up with potential changes to the clause to be voted on at a later time.

The next CHCA Board of Directors meeting is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at Blossom Philadelphia, 102 E. Mermaid Lane.

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