by Walter SullivanPresident,
President, Chestnut Hill
The following is a letter by Walter Sullivan, president of the Chestnut hill Community Association to Eva Gladstein, executive director of the Philadelphia Zoning Commission. Sullivan’s letter is in response to community concern that city zoning code reform could jeopardize the CHCA’s zoning review process. Sulivan asked the Local to publish the letter. The first paragraph was edited slightly for general readers. The rest is presented here “as is” —Ed.
On behalf of the Community of Chestnut Hill, a unique and largely historical community, which for decades has had a carefully crafted review process, I respectfully request, indeed implore, that the proposal under consideration be explicitly treated as the minimum requirement for a community, and that this community remain free to apply its longstanding review process, which I shall explain in detail hereinafter.
That process is incorporated into our bylaws from which we may not properly be required to vary and which we may not fairly alter. To apply the “once size fits all communities” proposal of a single “neighborhood meeting” to this community would both violate our bylaws and even more importantly work potential grave harm to this Chestnut Hill community.
We have established the following committees, which are charged with considering all development and zoning issues (including those coming on before the ZBA):
1. The Development Review Committee, consisting of two members of the Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee who are design professionals, of one member of the Aesthetics Committee, of one member of the Traffic, Transportation and Parking Committee, and of the designated representatives of the Chestnut Hill Business Association, the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, and the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation. This Committee meets on the third Tuesday of each month.
2. The Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee, 10 of whose 12 members must be design professionals with the remaining two attorneys or other professionals with expertise in the field. This Committee meets thereafter on the first Thursday of each month.
3. The Aesthetics Committee, which only rarely reviews these matters especially with respect to matters of signage. This committee meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month.
(4) The Traffic, Transportation and Parking Committee, which only occasionally reviews these matters when those issues are involved. This committee meets on the first Monday of each month.
Most of these individuals have considerable experience and expertise. Many if not most have served for periods of some years, many for more than a decade, considering and weighing these issues.
All meetings are published at least 10 days in advance in the Chestnut Hill Local and are attended by members of the community – very often when there is an issue of some potential controversy by dozens of them.
We have made every effort to assure that this process moves forward without undue delay. This process proceeds as follows:
The applicant presents to the Development Review Committee on the third Tuesday of the month the pertinent documentation and drawings usually including a schematic drawing of the project. On occasion, the DRC will be able to determine the matter without further referral to any other committee. If not, the DRC will refer the matter to the pertinent committee(s). It is rare that they have need to refer it to more than one.
The timeline for our completion of this process is as follows. If the DRC is able to determine the matter without further referral, then it will eight days later come before the Board of Directors of the Chestnut Hill Community Association for approval. If the DRC finds it necessary to refer the matter to other committee(s), then it will come before the Board of Directors of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, which meets on the third Thursday of each month approximately 38 days after it was first presented to the DRC. This is a timeline which works no hardship upon any applicant.
The occasional exception to that timeline is when the applicant has first appeared before the DRC unprepared or when unusually complex issues arise in which we seek to resolve them and to resolve any controversies including matters in which some members of the community may be in opposition.
The Commission will well understand that these issues of development and zoning are central to every vital community organization notwithstanding the fact that it may do so many other useful things, and that they are sometimes the most contentious.
There are therefore occasions when the community may need to request the ZBA to postpone its hearing date which requests they have invariably granted.
For the reasons set forth above, the community of Chestnut Hill implores that the proposal under consideration more flexibly permit the process hereinafter described to continue. To do otherwise would work potential grave harm upon the Chestnut Hill Community.