For the record: The Greylock easement

Speaking for the Chestnut Hill Historical Society and, more specifically, the joint CHHS/FOW Easement Committee, I would like to clarify a misunderstanding in Linda Baldwin’s Feb. 8 opinion column about the decision regarding the easement we hold on the Greylock property, in which she is distressed by the community’s perceived reluctance to embrace change.

The carefully-considered decision by this committee to deny the requested modifications to this easement, which would have been necessary to permit the extensive construction proposed for the Green Woods Charter School, did not hinge on the merits of whether the school was good for the larger community or near neighbors, but rather, whether or not its plans would conform with an existing conservation and preservation easement in effect on Greylock.

After considering the easement restrictions, the school ultimately decided that their needs exceeded what was allowed under the protective covenants of the easement. This was not a case of whether a majority of the CHHS board favored or rejected the vision of the school.

Once an easement is in place, there is contractual commitment to protect in perpetuity the conservation and preservation values that are stipulated in the easement agreement. It is our duty to defend these agreements. Changes are very difficult. At stake are interests of the IRS and the Attorney General, accreditation of CHHS by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, legal precedence, and the society’s credibility. We must and do take this responsibility seriously.

J. Randolph Williams,
Co-Chair, CHHS/FOW Easement Committee

The Many, the Few, and the One

I’m not judging the twelve individuals that are appealing to the court to stop the Bowman/Magarity development, or any other group that has lawyered-up to fight city hall here or downtown. It demonstrates that some believe the system of government has failed to protect their interests. Yet they still have some faith that yet another arm of government can redress the wrong – until that too typically fails.

Governments say they are for the public good and routinely make decisions that may impact the rights of individuals. “Gemeinnutz geht vor Eigennutz,” translates as “the welfare of the nation takes precedence over the selfishness of the individuals.” Or as said by modern day philosophers such as Spock: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” Or Kirk: “or the one.”

All very logical and quite comfortable, as long as you like the decisions. And we are told if we don’t like it we can change the government. In Chestnut Hill, there are those that want to change the CHCA into the CHRA.

The CHRA says every person’s needs are worthy of support, but also that they are against every variance. The CHCA wants to be even more representative of Chestnut Hill by accepting every dollar in dues, from Maine to Florida and likely to Dubai. All dues-paying members can have an equal say (in an organization that has traditionally been in favor of every variance, unless it is found to be against the financial interests of a board member).

I believe a Fresh Market store will be a great addition to Chestnut Hill. The needs of the “many” prevailed. I don’t know why we have to have five floors of condos, except to meet the needs of the “one” person that will financially benefit. That is if he ever does build it.

Ed Budnick
Chestnut Hill

Put that dog on a leash

Chestnut Hill has almost as many dogs as people. Most owners are responsible, considerate and law abiding. Then there are the others. They let Fido run wild, poop where he pleases and attack their neighbors’ pets.

Recently, I stopped a yellow Lab from killing a helpless kitten. The “good dog” had the terrified kitty in its mouth and wasn’t letting go, in spite of its owner’s commands. There ought to be a law that prevents dog owners in Chestnut Hill from letting their large, aggressive dogs run wild. Oh wait, there is. But it is not enforced. Or followed.

Stacia Friedman
Chestnut Hill

Deed restrictions should count

Rita’s is looking to have special favors but doesn’t make the case for it.  That site has deeded restrictions against fast food.  Deed restriction on the CH Plaza is recorded and clearly prohibits “the sale of food or beverages by a “fast food” chain.” Where I studied real estate, that is an establishment where customers take food, walk out the door and eat outside the store, not at home.

The prospective owner wants trial by public opinion. I’m against waiving the restriction.

Ken Beiser
Mt Airy

Rita’s doesn’t belong

Anyone from this area taking a trip down Germantown Avenue feels worried, noticing empty storefronts. Having a seasonal, chain store, such as Rita’s Water Ice, occupying the site of the former TLA video is not going to make us feel any more secure about the health of businesses in the Chestnut Hill/Mt Airy area.

Rita’s in that site will only take away foot and car traffic from the Trolley Car ice cream operation and Bredenbeck’s Bakery, and stand to weaken businesses that have been favorite gathering places for the Chestnut Hill and Mt Airy communities. These are businesses that give back to the community nonprofits, and strengthen the spirit of community. Rita’s will add little except for empty calories and empty promises. The Chestnut Hill Community Association needs to do better for the community and pay attention to matters like deed restrictions.

Rachel Falkove
60+-year Germantown Ave. shopper
Mt. Airy

Rita’s Water Ice would increase trash

I am not in favor of a Rita’s Water Ice coming into the mall at Germantown Avenue and Mermaid Lane.

Every year Dr. Arlene Bennett organizes a clean-up of Cresheim Drive between Germantown Avenue and Stenton Avenue. She is assisted by neighbors, the Wissahickon East Project ( and the organization Ready Willing and Able.

You’d be amazed at the amount of trash – dozens of trash bags full!  With a Rita’s opening the trash will increase exponentially.

And, I believe the deed restriction should be enforced.

Hertis Smithey
Mt. Airy

Bring your money, not your opinions

I am not a lawyer and I have not seen the details of the deed restriction on the proposed site of a Rita’s Water Ice franchise, so I will leave that discussion to those who are better informed. However, I am a resident of Mt. Airy and am offended by the arrogance and shortsightedness expressed by Mr. Thain. When speaking of the covenant, he states, “It’s not for the benefit of a commercial enterprise, certainly not one from Mt. Airy.”

This is the second such remark by a Chestnut Hill businessman that has appeared in the Local in the last few months. I would suggest that businesspeople in Chestnut Hill start keeping a record of where their customers live. Perhaps the “we welcome your money, but not your opinions” attitude should be reconsidered. While Kilian’s and Zipf’s will always be a “destination stop,” that attitude and the loss of other small businesses and unique shops has given me fewer reasons to shop in Chestnut Hill.

Marilyn Lambert
Mt. Airy

Rita’s Water Ice: Building community?

We were surprised to read the stories about John Thain, the franchise owner of Rita’s Water Ice. We can’t speak to the issues of fast food vs. frozen dessert. But we can speak to building community, wanting harmonious and good business practices and building businesses that benefit the community.

Ken Weinstein has been, and continues to be, a pioneer in this community, throughout the Northwest, Mt. Airy, Germantown, and Chestnut Hill.  His vision is one of bringing more visitors and business to our communities while making the Northwest a better place to live. Did he have a right to be invited to the community meeting around Rita’s? We think so. Did he have a right to privacy while continuing a binding arbitration meeting with Mr. Thain – you bet! When new businesses open in the Northwest, you are living off the community successes that people like Ken Weinstein (and may we add, Weavers Way) have created.

Mr. Thain, to us, creators of a community center for the arts for the entire Northwest, it doesn’t matter where you live. It’s about doing the right thing.

Linda Slodki and Arleen Olshan,
Cofounders, Mt. Airy Art Garage

Dangerous Fences

It recently came to my attention that a deer died after trying to jump over an iron fence with spikes on a residential property in Chestnut Hill. It is time for all of us to look again at the fences around our homes and businesses to evaluate if they are indeed safe. Iron, mesh, or wooden spiked fences lead to injured, maimed or dead deer and other animals as well. Deer are dying or being severely injured or maimed from being caught on fences near homes and especially on the Morris Arboretum’s fences.

There are options available. First, consider not buying a fence – try planting shrubs or trees for boundaries. Second, if you do buy a fence, purchase one that is 8 or 9 feet high so that deer can’t jump over it. Do not buy a fence that has spikes or wires on top of the fence or has places where deer can wedge themselves between posts or under the fence. Following are solutions to help with an existing fence that is unsafe. You can attach rubber garden hose over the top of the spikes on the tops of fence; put a hold in small rubber balls that can be attached to the top of spikes; cover the bottom of fences that have open spaces with a strong material such as a wooden board to prevent the deer from entering a small space; contact fencing companies for help with the materials needed to make your fence safe.

Please consider the above suggestions. The way the deer die on fences is cruel and inhumane, especially when there are options available. Let’s keep our neighborhood safe for the deer and other animals that roam from the Wissahickon Woods.

Mary Ann Baron
Co-Founder Philadelphia Advocates for the Deer
Chestnut Hill Resident


  • mikeg

    Since so many people really were rooting for the school to come to Greylock, can the CHHS explain what terms in the easements ultimately were not workable? There was so much animosity expressed by a few of the Greylock near neighbors to school bus traffic and the noise (combined with their threats to sue the CHHS out of existence), that the facts and position of the CHHS was in kind of drowned out. Now that things have simmered down, I would be interested in hearing the details of what transpired from the CHHS point of view.

  • Tracy

    I wish the Rita’s debate would stick to the facts and the issues. Ken Beiser here shares the working definition we are to adopt of fast food: “Where I studied real estate, that is an establishment where customers take food, walk out the door and eat outside the store, not at home.” What?

    OK, so when one goes to McDonalds, sits down inside at the many tables and has a Big Mac they are – by this working definition – not in a fast food restaurant as that person did not walk out to eat the food outside, and not at home…. How ridiculous is that? It is clear Mr. Beiser is trying to make Rita’s fit into that paradigm offered but what Real Estate study leads one to share that one has to” walk outside and consume the food but not at home” as the driving understanding of the term. Especially if it makes McDonald’s outside the scope of fast food with the offered definition and only Rita’s as a model in the scope?

    Rachel Falkove shares that Rita’s “can only hurt” two local businesses we all love. Why is that zero sum game the only math in town some use? My kids can not make the walk to the Trolley Car, but they can to Rita’s – we can not get awesome root beer floats at a Rita’s but we can at the Trolley Car. This gives us more choices, why does one want fewer when the accompanying result is also an empty store to boot? Foot traffic helps everyone, empty stores to protect certain chosen businesses have the deliberate and opposite effect for the community and many arguing for keeping Rita’s out know this and don’t seem to care.

    Linda Slodki and Arleen Olshanask the question of Mr. Weinstein, Trolley Car owner: “Did he have a right to be invited to the community meeting around Rita’s? We think so.”

    This is how utterly weird and far off point this debate can get. It was a public meeting, and not the only one. It was advertised in the paper, online, on event calenders, attended by a great many people… Nobody needs an invitation to attend a public meeting — that is what a public meeting is…. This is as silly as wanting to be invited to Tuesday…

    Holding out stellar members of the community (whom no one questions as being great people) as important – to be protected – by blocking new enterprises for the community, on the premise that said stellar members built great enterprises themselves for the community is a cognitive dissonance that is bewildering… It is also like imagining The Trolley Car model is so great, all the empty buildings do not matter, no more can be done in this arena the community is now perfected, keep the doors closed save but here… And I do not hear the Trolley Car make that mantra, others do it on their “behalf” and I think do less help than harm….

  • Guest

    I’m baffled at Ms. Lambert’s confusion about Mr. Thain’s comment about the deed restriction: “It’s not for the benefit of a commercial enterprise, certainly not one from Mt. Airy” unless she is willfully misinterpreting the statement to imagine a slight that doesn’t exist. This wasn’t a criticism of Mount Airy residents at all. Rather, Mr. Thain is saying that the purpose of the deed restriction was to protect nearby residents, not a business competitor trying to abuse the restrictive covenant to prevent competition.

    The restrictive covenant is here:

    It was made to protect 5 nearby residential neighbors and clearly specifies concerns about “”grease, cooking and other odors.”

    As one commenter on the Philadelphia Speaks forum put it, after remarking that Ken doesn’t even live anywhere near the proposed Rita’s location:

    “Ken’s only standing in this matter is that he owns property within 750 feet. And what’s on that property? The Trolley Car Diner. The diner has a grille, just like a fast food restaurant. It has a deep fryer, just like a fast food restaurant. Its menu offers many of the very same items as the fast food restaurants listed in the restrictive covenant. Of course, it also sells water ice and ice cream, the very items he is trying to prevent Rita’s from selling. Oh, and, by the way, the Trolley Car, with two locations and seeking to open a third, is also a chain. So, the only thing that gives Ken any standing in this matter is the fact that he is engaged in the exact same activity he is trying to prevent. Perhaps, if Ken thinks having a fast food operation in the neighborhood is so harmful, he should close his, or, at least the freestanding part that only exists to sell water ice and ice cream.

    One difference between Thain and Weinstein….Thain isn’t in our pockets. All the while Ken is trying to prevent Rita’s from opening, his Trolley Car Cafe is a recipient of the city’s Gap Financing Program. The purpose? To encourage economic development. So some of your BPT and my BPT and Thain’s BPT is going to help Ken open up more businesses. Which he’s also trying to prevent. And, since the Trolley Car wants to open up in West Philly, I wonder how receptive the anti-gentrification forces will be of a carpet-bagging, wealthy, chain owning outsider coming into their neighborhood. Or Jannie, for that matter. Someone should really ask them how they feel about it. I’d like to be a fly on the wall for that shakedown. “

  • Abc

    The only thing more pathetic than Weinstein’s blatant manipulation of the CHCA covenant to protect his subpar diner is his rallying of his friends to write misleading drivel in his support. The rest of Chestnut Hill should join me in boycotting the Trolley Car. Weinstein is the definition of a bad neighbor.

  • Guest

    Mount Airy Art Garage founders said: “Ken Weinstein has been, and continues to be, a pioneer in this community, throughout the Northwest, Mt. Airy, Germantown, and Chestnut Hill. His vision is one of bringing more visitors and business to our communities while making the Northwest a better place to live.”

    Yes, Ken Weinstein’s “vision” for the NorthWest is ice cream parlors for Mount Airy and penal facilities for Germantown (despite neighbor opposition):

    Would Mount Airy Art Garage still call Mr. Weinstein a “pioneer” making the Northwest a better place to live if he tried to profit by foisting a penal colony to be built on West Mount Airy Avenue? I doubt it. More likely, you and other nearby neighbors would gather up torches.

    • bournonville

      Ms. Slodki should be more forthcoming as should others. She extoles how great Ken W. is but declines to share the extent of her working relationship – even if its only volunteer – him. Her Art Garage is a site for community particiation in the Mural being created in Germantown. I don’t know if this is a community contribution on their part or if use of the space is a line item in the mural budget. But Ken W. is the reason the murals are being brought to the northwest. Connect the dots. There are relatinships between many of the folks that are writing against John Thain and in support of Ken W. In all fairness those relationships should be declared in their letters. But even though they aren’t the letters still smell of complicity.

  • susan mandeville

    I’d like to comment on P. Louise Reeves story on page 7. 2/23/12 issue.

    What are you thinking P. Louise, when you leave your wallet, computer and designer hand bag in your car?! That no one will take it?? Haven’t you ever read the police reports in any local papers??