By Wesley Ratko

Land Use Planning and Zoning co-chair Larry McEwen appeared before the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Board at its April meeting Thursday night to discuss the next steps in the association’s ongoing efforts to address the impact that a new zoning code will have on the project review process now performed by the Development Review Committee.

Included in the new zoning code is a requirement for developers to meet with the registered community organization (RCO) in the impacted neighborhood. The requirement for developers, however, is that they attend only a single meeting with residents. Under the current process, a project is presented before the Development Review Committee, passed along to its member committees – of which the LUPZ is one – for review, returned to DRC for final recommendation and on to the Board where support is approved or rejected.

The new process would not require any of that.

The city’s new procedures would also open up the designation of registered community organization to any group in Chestnut Hill that meets certain criteria. The Chestnut Hill Historical Society and the Parking Foundation are two groups that meet those criteria. Friends of the Wissahickon could register as an “issues-based” RCO.

A formal review of the administrative procedures for the new zoning code is now being conducted by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. During this time, individuals and groups can request a hearing with the planning commission, something McEwen recommended that the board consider. Before making that request, however, McEwen said that he wants to explore other avenues at the planning commission.

“Other neighborhoods in the city have expressed intention to request a hearing,” he said.

McEwen told the board that the goal of the new zoning code was to encourage quality development and reduce the load on the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which issues variances to projects that don’t conform to zoning. The new code, which goes into effect on August 22, includes provisions for a civic design review process for large projects. That process would require developers to meet with members of the community

The Board passed a motion granting discretionary power to Board President Jane Piotrowski to request a hearing with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission if it’s decided that that is the best way to proceed.

Chestnut Hill Community Fund Grants

Mark Keintz presented the board with a list of grant requests for funds from the Chestnut Hill Community Fund and the recommendations from his group, a working subcommittee of the Budget and Finance Committee. The total amount requested is $141,000, down from $156,000 last year. Keitz said they were able to award $94,000 to 20 applicants, although most applicants did not receive the full amount requested.

There was a significant increase in the request from Friends of the Wissahickon, who asked for $10,000, up from $2,000. While Keintz said FOW would only receive $8,000, the decision to grant the increase had a lot to do with that group’s activities around the Valley Green Inn parking area adjacent to Forbidden Drive.

The board voted to approve his group’s recommendations.

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