Richard, zoning and quasi-governments in 300 words

The editor was likely correct that he’d be better off to avoid the topic of Richard Snowden and so might I, but it is so … vintage.

There is more here than a “bad guy” image, but contrary to last week’s editorial, Richard Snowden has used his money and influence to get what he want isn’t that what money and influence are for? And isn’t that actually the problem here, that Chestnut Hill is one of the most affluent areas of Philadelphia?

Many residents; by their wealth, social connections and/or occupations are accustomed to influencing their surroundings. And they get upset when somebody comes along with more wealth and influence and trumps their cards.

Here in Chestnut Hill we have our own “quasi-government” because 50 years ago the wealthy and otherwise influential residents didn’t believe City Hall could adequately represent them. So they made their own government, their own newspaper and even bought a local “Town Hall.” And all was well for many years. Indeed 20 years ago I was told on matters of permits and zoning, “they do their own thing up there.”

And the battles over these last 20 years, involving the CHCA and variances, have been legendary. This period has been characterized by the growth of Snowden’s commercial real estate portfolio and coincidentally the general decline of commercial real estate on the Avenue. And now some residents believe we need a new quasi-government to fight undue wealth and influence.

The reality is that City Hall is taking the control back from the quasi-governments and the Hill no longer has the clout or will to withstand it. Those who have agreed to out-of-scale development have merely recognized that while they might be able to influence paint and fabric colors…real decisions are influenced by wealth and made elsewhere.

Ed Budnick
Chestnut Hill

Dine to help Black Horse Inn

As you may know, the Friends of Historic Bethlehem Pike in conjunction with Springfield Township’s Black Horse Inn Advisory Committee and the Springfield Township Historic Society held the Black Horse Inn Fall Feast last September.  That event succeeded in raising more than $9,000 for restoration of the Black Horse Inn and, just as importantly, raised awareness of the building with residents and businesses alike.   We now have several businesses interested in moving into the Black Horse as soon as it is ready.

So while we have come a long way and the building looks great on the outside, much work remains on the interior.  In order to help speed along the necessary renovations, the Friends of Historic Bethlehem Pike will be sponsoring another fundraiser on Tuesday, February 7, from 5-8 p.m. at the O’Towne Tavern,100 Plymouth Rd. in Oreland.  So come on out and enjoy a good dinner with good friends and the O’Towne Tavern will donate 10 percent of all food sales to the Black Horse Inn Fund.  If you have any questions, you can contact the Friends of Bethlehem Pike at

We hope to see you at the O’Towne!

Rob Ryan




  • mikeg

    Progress and change are inevitable. Here’s what I see now on the Avenue. Lots of change, and lots of exciting things that were not there a president-and-a-half ago. Chestnut 7. Thai Kuu. The Little Treehouse. Host Home. Heirloom. Elfant-Wissahickon. Mica. Hob Nob. Yoga. Indigo Schuy. Oxford Circus Toys. Iron Hill Brewery. Killians (just kidding).

    I wonder if the “decline of business on the Avenue” isn’t being abused (or at least overly misused) by a few people wishing to convince us of the strength or value of their particular view of things in Chestnut Hill. For some, the decline can be connected to one owner’s acquisition of lots of properties. For others, up(-and over)-zoning and super-sized development are the cure for the decline.

    I remember the (most recent) decline when it started – when the nation’s economy tanked an entire election cycle ago. McGarrity’s closed, small shops shut their doors, and Borders left. Things were bad – here, and all over. Perhaps because Chestnut Hill is a unique place, with an invaluable intact historic commercial corridor, it presents itself as a uniquely cool opportunity for businesses. Maybe that’s why so many of these new businesses have set up shop for us to enjoy. Let’s make sure we recognize that one owner’s acquisition of many properties has NOT killed the Avenue. And likewise, the overly-dense development of the neighborhood’s centerpiece property at 8200 is not the cure.

    • mikeg

      Sorry – meant Hipster Home!! (Host’s rocks too though!)