Chestnut Hill

Chestnut Hill's historic Engine 37 at W. Highland Avenue and Shawnee Street does not have doors wide enough to accommodate modern firetrucks.

by Wesley Ratko 

Modern fire trucks are wider than their century-old forebears. But as the size of the trucks has increased, the fire station doors have not. Because of this ever widening problem, the historic station house for Engine 37 at 101 West Highland Ave. may no longer be able to serve its intended purpose.

Joyce Lenhardt, vice-president of the Chestnut hill Community Association’s Physical Division, told the CHCA board Thursday night that the Philadelphia Fire Department contacted the CHCA to discuss how to work with the community association and the Chestnut Hill Historical Society to formulate a solution to this problem.

Lenhardt said that she and LUPZ co-chair Larry McEwen met with representatives of the Philadelphia Fire Department to gather information and better understand the issue.

“They’re proactively trying to come up with a solution to this problem,” Lenhardt said.

She added that while it is not an immediate problem, it may at some point reach a crisis situation.

The 1991 truck now operating out of Engine 37 leaves five inches of clearance on either side; they are about to replace it with a 1995 truck that will leave 2.5 inches on either side.

Lenhardt and McEwen discussed five options with the fire department and the Historical Society, including modifying the station to widen the doors, building a bigger garage next door, purchasing custom trucks that do fit in the existing station, eliminating the Chestnut Hill station altogether and constructing a modern fire station and repurpose the existing historic structure. The fire department wanted comments and input from the local community before proceeding.

The Historical Society is opposed to any modification of the station building as it is considered historically significant.

At Tuesday night’s Development Review Committee meeting, Larry McEwen took a straw poll and determined that the best course of action would be for the CHCA and the Historical Society, in conjunction with the fire department, to co-author a letter to city council member Cindy Bass stating a desire to protect the existing structure while maintaining the service provided by the fire department.

Lenhardt proposed a motion seeking board approval to do just that. It passed unanimously.

Additional items

  • Lenhardt also reviewed the activities of those committees. There was a last minute appearance for “Chill on the Hill,” the proposed self-serve frozen yogurt store who learned, at the last minute, that they would need a zoning variance in order to provide take-out food items. Applicants Leslie Newbold and Alison Shoemaker will present their plans before the Land Use Planning and Zoning committee at its next meeting and appear before the board in September seeking support for the variance.
  • Lenhardt announced that the Chestnut Hill Community Association is now a “recognized community organization,” or RCO, under the new city zoning code, which went into effect this week on August 22.
  • At last month’s CHCA board meeting, the board voted to grant approval power to the Executive Committee, in order to enable them to review community agreements and renderings, and make a determination to support a variance on their own. Springside Chestnut Hill Academy and its near neighbors reached an agreement and the Executive Committee voted to support the three variances sought by the school.“They stated their appreciation of our process,” Lenherdt said..
  • The schematic design review for the Bowman Properties project at 8200 Germantown Avenue is now complete. On Monday, Aug. 13 the technical review committee met with the Bowman team and made a few dimensional adjustments to the design. These changes were minor and did not require board approval, but will be memorialized in a document.
  • By a unanimous vote, the Aesthetics Committee of the Physical Division, which reviews matters affecting the appearance of the community and makes recommendations for board action, will now be known as the Streetscape Committee, to better reflect what the committee actually does. The new name will remain informal until the CHCA bylaws can be amended to incorporate the change and any additional duties.