by Wes Ratko

The Chestnut Hill Community Association board has unanimously adopted the community development agreement for the former Magarity Ford site at 8200 Germantown Ave. that was created after negotiations between Bowman Properties, the developer, and a “negotiating subcommittee” led by Joyce Lenhardt, vice president of the CHCA’s physical division. That agreement, formally titled the “Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions,” is a carefully crafted, binding legal document that took months to produce. The board approved and ratified the CHCA’s entry into the agreement with Bowman Properties at its May 24 meeting. A complete copy of the agreement was made available to board members but not the public.

The new agreement includes a number of negotiated concessions, including an enhanced setback from Hartwell Lane, an increased setback of upper residential stories from the Avenue and others regarding parking, hours of operation and design elements of a row of homes on Shawnee Street. It also includes language that will allow nearby residents to form an organization to enforce the agreement in the event that the CHCA does not. A number of nearby residents promised to challenge Bowman and the City of Philadelphia over special zoning legislation the developer received for the parcel. Those neighbors agreed not to file suit under the new agreement.

One question was posed by new board member Tom Cullen, who asked Snowden about a reference to the “Adjacent Neighbors Association,” which is referred to under the Enforcement of Rights section of the covenant. “Does this association exist?” he asked.

“It’s sort of like Brigadoon, it only exists for this project,” Snowden said, referring to the titular mythical town from the Lerner and Loewe musical.

Snowden identified the group of neighbors as the same group that retained counsel last fall during the initial project approval process. He said Bowman has come to an agreement with the Adjacent Neighbors Association and that the members of that group have signed on to the agreement. Snowden said the adjacent neighbors had concerns that transcended the original conversations with the CHCA board, and that all concerns have now been ironed out and the compromises incorporated into the covenant. Cullen expressed his concern that the language of the covenant excluded future organizations from having a say about the project because of a clause in the agreement that seemed to require neighbor associations to “register in writing with the association identifying its members within 90 days after the effective date of the agreement.” “Doesn’t this limit to a 90-day window the ability of the neighbors to have a say in the project?” Cullen asked.

“I think it refers to the neighbors association that we settled with,” Snowden said. “You can’t stop people from forming organizations.”

Pat Pregmon, counsel for the CHCA, was asked by board member Mark Keintz what the CHCA’s responsibilities were. Pregmon told him that it was up to the CHCA to act with “reasonable prudence” in reviewing the two submissions that Bowman properties will submit.

One is the land development plan now under review by the Land Use Planning and Zoning committee and another submission will follow later this year. After the vote, Snowden thanked the board for the consideration that it has given the project.

New CHCA president Jane Piotrowski, president of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, ended her one-year term Thursday night with a tearful farewell address in which she thanked board members and community association staff for their continued service.

Incoming president Brien Tilley thanked Piotrowski for “all that she’s done and all that she’ll continue to do,” as well as the board for their vote of confidence in him. Tilley said that rather than talk about change, he hopes that his tenure as community association president will see issues addressed with the same “dignity and grace” that has become the standard operating procedure of the board. He added that he would like more residents of Chestnut Hill to know about the community association and all of its good work.

“I’d like to make it a point to focus our efforts to create a real brand awareness,” he said. “[The people of Chestnut Hill] need to know the good work that gets done.”

Tilley also promised to preside over “efficient, respectful meetings” and proposed moving the start time of board meetings to 7:30 p.m. instead of 7.

Board member Mike Chomentowski responded with some skepticism, saying the Library would not remain available for meetings past the current closing time of 9 p.m. He questioned whether the board could dispense with all necessary business in 90 minutes. Tilley responded that less time would motivate the board to complete business more efficiently. To that end, the board approved a provisional change in start time to 7:30 p.m. Other actions

• Piotrowski welcomed new board members Tom Cullen, Michelle Lordi, Laura Lucas, and Tony Reilly.

• A hearing has been scheduled before the Philadelphia City Planning Commission on June 12 regarding the issue of “registered community organizations” (or RCOs) and how the inclusion of language in the new zoning code will impact the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Physical Division committees and their review process for new projects. Joyce Lenhardt, John Landis, and Larry McEwen will represent the CHCA at this meeting, which is scheduled for 1 p.m. on the 18th floor Conference Room of the One Parkway Building at 1515 Arch St. The hearing is open to the public.

• Community Manager Celeste Hardester reported that membership in the community association is up and now stands at 1,655 members. She also said renovations to the first floor of Town Hall are nearly complete.

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