by Wesley Ratko

Final designs for new signs at the entrance to Chestnut Hill College, 9601 Germantown Ave., were approved unanimously at the Jan. 24 board meeting of the Chestnut Hill Community Association.

The plans, presented by Lauri Strimkovsky, vice president for financial affairs at Chestnut Hill College, show that the proposed signs will be close to the edge of the property line where the current sign is now located. The college is seeking support for a variance from the zoning code, which requires that the signs be placed 18 feet back from the property line.

“Our current sign is unaesthetic and backlit,” Strimkovsky told the board.

Board member Richard Snowden described the design as “very attractive.”

“They’re typical of what Chestnut Hill College does – in very good taste,” he said.

Actual Value Initiative

On Feb. 12, the community association will host its second panel discussion about the proposed Actual Value Initiative (or AVI) real estate tax assessment plan.

The first discussion, held Nov. 14, featured Philadelphia City Council members Cindy Bass, David Oh, and Bill Green, among others. Attendees at that discussion expressed a desire to learn more details about the proposed implementation of the AVI tax plan from city hall.

To that end, three panelists will take part in the February discussion: Richie McKeithen, chief assessor from the Office of Property Assessment; Marisa Waxman, deputy administrator for Assessment Programs and Policy, and a third, as-yet-unnamed, representative from the mayor’s office. The discussion will take place at 7 p.m. in the Commons Building of Norwood-Fontbonne Academy at 8900 Norwood Ave.

Board president Brien Tilley said the two-hour program would allow 30 minutes for all three panelists to speak, followed by 90 minutes of Q & A.

Physical Division report

Joyce Lenhardt, vice president of the CHCA’s Physical Division, reviewing committee activities, said that in February the CHCA Development Review Committee will hear again from Herbiary, the herbal medicine store at 7721 Germantown Ave. that has come into conflict with neighbors on the 100 block of East Mermaid Lane. Herbiary has been renting a portion of the property at 133 E. Mermaid Lane in order to hold classes.

Near neighbors have raised objections to the number of people congregating in the rear of the property for classes and have opposed Herbiary’s request for a use variance to continue holding classes. When the matter was last considered in December, the DRC took no formal action but recommended that the parties involved research the zoning on the property and meet with near-neighbors to work on finding a compromise. Their efforts will be reviewed again this month.

Last November, the Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee considered the Philadelphia Fire Department’s request for feedback from the community association about the status of its fire station at the intersection of West Highland Avenue and Shawnee Street. Newer model fire trucks are getting wider, and the next class of new vehicles will likely be too wide to use the existing historic station without widening the doors, something the Historic District Advisory Committee vehemently opposes.

Lenhardt reported that the fire department’s schedule was “not as urgent as first believed.”

“Formulation of their five-year budget won’t occur until next year,” she said.

Lenhardt also added that there will be a meeting with Bowman Properties to discuss the status of its development on the site of the old Magarity Ford dealership at 8200 Germantown Ave. No date for that meeting was provided.

In other actions

• Board president Brien Tilley introduced new board member Dr. John Cacciamani, CEO of Chestnut Hill Hospital and a member of the Chestnut Hill Business Association.

A physician by training, Cacciamani, who said said he’s moved over time from clinical medicine to administration, told the board he’s had a long medical career in the Philadelphia area, having practiced at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Temple Hospital and the VA.

“I’ve been very familiar with Chestnut Hill since I went to medical school here at Penn back in 1991,” he said.

• The board took time to recognize longtime CHCA board member Ann Spaeth who died Jan. 11.

“She was very dedicated to this board and this community,” Tilley said.

Snowden requested that the minutes for January’s board meeting reflect the board’s condolences to her family.

• The board approved a motion to add any organization to the list that received grant money from the community association within the last five years.

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