This trash can is the type purchased by the community several years ago. GRinCH members and others supporting the placement of BigBelly solar compactors are that the old-style cans are often full and messy. This particular can is at the corner of Germantown and Evergreen avenues. (Photo by Anderson Good)

by Wesley Ratko

Despite a lengthy discussion at its May 17 meeting, the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Development Review Committee failed to reach a decision on installing 15 BigBelly solar-powered trash compactors in Chestnut Hill.

Amy Edelman, co-founder of Green in Chestnut Hill (GRinCH), which has been working to get the cans placed in Chestnut Hill, appeared again before the DRC to provide clarification on some of the outstanding issues surrounding placement of the compactors along Germantown Avenue.

DRC co-chair Larry McEwen said he would like to resolve these issues but believes the controversy over whether or not to accept the BigBellies in Chestnut Hill would require consideration by the board of directors.

“There’s a lot of consternation about this,” McEwen said.

That consideration isn’t likely to happen before June, since the board meeting scheduled for May 26 will focus on the inauguration of a new board president. This delays further a process that has been underway for more than a year now.

Edelman said that when GRinCH first began investigating the availability of BigBelly trash cans, the group met with members of the Business Improvement District, the community association and the Chestnut Hill Business Association. One BigBelly was placed in front of the Night Kitchen Bakery at 7725 Germantown Avenue on a trial basis. A front-page story in the Chestnut Hill Local touted the presence of the BigBelly and explained that more were anticipated.

“There was a year in which there was ample opportunity to voice concerns,” Edelman told the Committee.

CHCA doesn’t have to take a vote. GRinCH is upset about the need to take a second vote, though it does provide them with ample opportunity to collect more signatures of support from business owners in the 19118 ZIP code.

Noreen Spota, administrative coordinator for the community association, said the motion put before the board of directors at its meeting on Feb. 3 was presented by Rob Rossman, of the business association, and asked that the LUPZ work out the best places to put the BigBellies.

McEwen asked if this replacement of traditional trash receptacles with BigBelly cans was a citywide initiative. Edelman said the city was moving in that direction and that the cans are in several business districts now.

Chestnut Hill, she said, is one of the last areas not to have them and the reason there isn’t a wider distribution is a lack of funding. The 15 slated for Chestnut Hill are what is left from a federal Department of Energy grant given to the city as part of last year’s stimulus program.

Jean McCoubrey asked Edelman about a cost/benefit study and whether she could get some information about the savings the cans would provide.

“How does that translate into labor, cost, fuel, vehicle maintenance, etc.?” she asked. “I think that if you can get some of that information it would certainly support your argument.”

Edelman said GRinCH members had photographed the existing cans up and down the Avenue and found them to be in terrible shape. Edelman reported that GRinCH members said several of the cans were rusted, broken, and overflowing.

“Our pictures show that the cans have exceeded their life expectancy and need to be replaced,” she said. She did not have these photos to present to the DRC.

Patricia Cove, representing the Historic District Advisory Committee, spoke in favor of the Chestnut Hill Historical Society’s position that the BigBellies undermine the historic character of Germantown Avenue.

Cove added that concerns about the cleanliness of the cans – specifically, the fact that they need to be touched in order to be opened – was a significant issue that needs to be addressed.

Cove also said she’d received an email from a “very large property and business owner” who said that he does not want them in front of any of his businesses, noting that “he owns quite a few of them.”

“I feel that might be a concern, especially since they have to be located consecutively,” Cove added, referring to the city’s need to place the cans at regular intervals along the Avenue.

Cove said she understood that the cans were designed to be graffiti and sticker proof, but expressed concern that the BigBellies were still vulnerable to defacement by scratching. Edelman answered this concern by pointing out that the cans will be on corners and less likely to be hit and scratched by car doors.

Harriet Brumberg suggested involving the Woodmere Art Museum in designing decorative wraps for the cans.

Edelman described two scenarios for placement – from Mermaid up to the Chestnut Hill Hotel or from Bethlehem Pike down to the Chestnut Hill Hotel. Edelman expressed support for the former.

“How would you address the property owners who have adamantly said they do not want these in front of their shops?” Cove asked. Edelman said that there are lots of people who do want the cans and that GRinCH would be happy to see them placed where they’re wanted.

“We’re not trying to make any enemies,” Edelman said.

Committee member Tom Hemphill said he hoped to see the BigBellies on Germantown Avenue, repeating his earlier statements of support for the cans and listing several historic areas in Philadelphia as well as in Boston where the cans have been placed, seemingly without significant impact to the historic character of those places.

“I understand everybody’s concerns,” he said, but feels the benefits they would provide would far outweigh people’s concerns.

“I’m respectful of the historical society and their concerns,” he added.
The DRC will send the question of whether to accept the BigBellies to the CHCA board of directors meeting on June 23.

Train station repairs

A member of the audience asked about the status of the repairs to the Chestnut Hill East train station and whether the stone face being installed was in keeping with what SEPTA officials said would be used.

“When the SEPTA guys were here they assured us that it would resemble stone,” he said. “Not only that, but they brought a sample along.”

He noted, however, that the color of what has been installed was inconsistent with the sample offered by SEPTA.

Jean McCoubrey said two LUPZ members, Cynthia Brey and Toby Horton, were working with SEPTA on a planting scheme that would provide for vines draping down the new wall, as well as a rain garden idea in the area along West Evergreen Avenue. No details were provided about these planting concepts.

“I’m not sure if SEPTA is trying to finish their main construction first,” McCoubrey said.

“The sooner the vines, the better,” McEwen said