Harry Potter fan has some suggestions

Thanks to the Business Association and congratulations on the spectacular Harry Potter weekend.

I am possibly the most devoted Harry Potter fan that I know. I have read the books over and over and now Harry Potter is my good friend. I applaud Chestnut Hill as a community for honoring, with an entire weekend, one of the greatest works of children’s literature in history.

I enjoyed myself immensely, and I hope this tradition continues. Should it become an annual event, I would like to register two suggestions for making the experience even more magical.

First, the Harry Potter movies were complimented with moving and memorable scores by the gifted composer John Williams. I feel that hearing the familiar music would take you back to the scenes seen in the movies and imagined in the books where you are standing alongside Harry on all of his adventures in the wizarding world.

If speakers were strategically placed in the trees along Germantown Avenue, this music would follow you as you visit each of the stops on the Marauder’s Map.

Second, everyone knows that Harry Potter did not begin as a billion dollar movie and merchandise franchise, but an astounding work of literature. The Harry Potter books were a turning point for children’s reading habits; these books spiked a great interest in the privilege of reading.

J.K. Rowling inspired millions of children to read, and her works could continue to inspire many more to become readers if we made a point of recognizing the books themselves in our celebration.

What I am getting at is that there should be readings from the books all along the Avenue so that those who have never before read Harry Potter can learn what they are missing and those who, like me, love hearing the stories again and again, can sit and listen.

These are my suggestions; however, the essential point of this letter is to praise a job well done and to thank the organizers for a chance to celebrate the bespectacled boy we all know and love.

Isobel Grogan
(OMC School, 7th Grade)


Bowman plan for Magarity is too dense

We have lived on Southampton Ave. since 1983 and have seen many changes to the commercial blocks of Germantown Avenue.  We are not opposed to development – to the contrary, we appreciate and enjoy the commercial vitality of the Avenue and encourage further growth in keeping with the distinct character of the neighborhood.

We also understand the 8200 Germantown Avenue property is a large lot fit for a different kind of store than the boutiques that the Avenue is known for. Indeed, Magarity Ford operated at the site when we bought our home.

The zoning changes that Donna Reed Miller will introduce in city council represent a significant departure from what Magarity was and from anything we’ve seen in our neighborhood.  It would allow Bowman to build well beyond the five stories projected in his building plans for the Germantown Avenue part of his site.

On the Shawnee side of the lot, the new zoning would raise the height limit to 50 ft. from 35“, allow for building to cover 100 percent of the land.  This change would mean no yards, no setbacks and more densely packed residences. There would also be a wall that supports the structure 12” high at the corner of Shawnee and Hartwell.

There would be additional noise, light, traffic complications for Highland, Shawnee, Willow Grove – an area already prone to congestion, once West Hartwell Lane access is eliminated. The intense use and paving of the site would clearly mean loss of old trees and green space.

We do not oppose Bowman’s right to develop its land in accordance with the rules in place when it purchased the property.  We do oppose Bowman Properties attempts to radically alter the zoning rules in a way that will forever change the character of the historic neighborhood.

We object to Bowman reaping an economic windfall – increasing their land value and diminishing that of residents in the area – not through shrewd development, but by simply changing the rules.

We, and Bowman, understood the accepted uses of our respective properties when we purchased them – it is unconscionable to allow them to radically upset that balance simply because they have greater resources and influence in the political system.

If the new zoning goes through, it will not only represent a strike against fairness, it will set a precedent for future changes.  In a few years, densely developed commercial complexes may replace what we now have along Germantown Ave.

Gayle Brown
Chestnut Hill


All for nothing

Three hundred on-line votes for a co-op bookstore at the former Borders and the likely same 300 voices concerning overdevelopment of the Magarity site are meaningless. Grocery stores and bookstores are typically built by developers rather than retailers.

These developers operate on the principle of “Highest and Best Use.” Google it and get, “the reasonably probable and legal use of property, that is physically possible, appropriately supported and financially feasible, and that results in the highest value.”

Successful developers often bend the “legal” limits, requesting zoning modifications to maximize the “highest” value. Indeed, I have often criticized the Bowman business model that somehow displays a vacant store as “highest and best use,” but this admittedly new approach that seems to defy Bowman’s reputation as “guardian” of Chestnut Hill suggests that this venture is so large that they have financial partners that may insist the project be built and occupied.

There will always be a group of community idealists who think that the future of Chestnut Hill is in their hands. Let’s collect $100 from each of the 10,000 men, women, children and golden retrievers that call Chestnut Hill home (or $1,000 from 1,000). Now we’d have a million dollars that we could use to buy … a condo. Bowman paid $4 million for the land alone.

So be it. But for the good of the community, I suggest Philadelphia enact a vacancy tax on every developer that does not lease or otherwise occupy a commercial property and that all zoning changes require a performance bond to guarantee the project will be built and occupied as presented.


Ed Budnick
Chestnut Hill


Thanks but more info would be nice

Thanks for Jennifer Katz’s article on efforts to make people more aware of safety in the Wissahickon area of Fairmount Park.  It was a good start.  However, it seemed incomplete.

The article said there was an attempted rape in the Wissahickon six months ago and that there is a sizable reward for information leading to an arrest.

The article at least noted that Friends of the Wissahickon is administering the fund  and that  people with information should call the Citizens Crime Commission Tipline at  215-546-8477.

The article noted that the “description of the attacker and the manner of the attack are strikingly similar” to previous violent attacks in Fairmount Park.

However, the article did not give any further information about the description of the attacker or  the manner of the attack.  So, the reader is left knowing there is a danger but not what to look for.  More information about this danger and generally how to be safe would be appreciated.

Cyane Gresham
Chestnut Hill


Drop droppings

When I got home the other night from dog sitting for friends in Merion Station, I found my empty trash can in its usual place by my front steps.  Before hauling it to the garden in back of my little farm house, I lifted the lid to find a nicely tied plastic bag of dog poop.  It had started to ferment.  I could only imagine the odor had I left it there until next Friday’s trash pick-up.   The next day I took the plastic bag and deposited it into a public trash can.

As I see it, there are two steps to disposing of dog poop:  (1)  place it in a bag and then (2) either take the bag home or place it in a public trash can.I ask dog walkers to please complete both steps in the process.  I am tired of taking charge of part 2.

Tranda S. Fischelis
Chestnut Hill


Thanks for writing advice

I’ve been remiss in not thanking you (Hugh Gilmore) sooner for so generously sharing your journey, including the recent info about being able to self-publish via Kindle. Very very encouraging for all of us wanna-be writers! While I am not yet Kindled, it is very helpful to know about this option. I’ve recently joined a wonderful writing group, and have shared links to your articles with the rest of the group.

Your honesty and humor are always a great mix and a great read. I never miss a column!

I am filled with admiration for your persistence and courage. When I get around to Kindling, I will have to buy your book!


Janet Mather Chestnut Hill Support those who oppose Chelten Plaza development

The battle for the future of Chelten Plaza has been racking the Germantown community for months. Developer Pulaski Partners plans to erect a Save-A-Lot and Dollar Tree combination in a lot that used to house a full-service grocery store.

Opponents who came out by the hundreds in two community meetings over the last few months have called the plan a disservice to Germantown, not just because it focuses on low-priced merchandise with a limited selection, but also because it plans to do so using $3 million in public funds for economic development.

Two organizations, Germantown Cares and West Central Germantown Neighbors, in partnership with other Germantown residents, have been picketing Chelten Plaza. We are saying “NO to Dollar Tree, NO to Sav-A-Lot = YES to Germantown.” We hope that our neighbors in other  Northwest Philadelphia communities will join us in support of the protest, either in print or in person.

Janet Lynch