by Wesley Ratko

Cynthia Brey, co-chair of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee, reported on a meeting with Bowman Properties regarding the design of the proposed building at 8200 Germantown Ave., the former Magarity Ford site, at the LUPZ’s Feb. 7 meeting.

She said Bowman had presented so-called “value engineering” about the overall approach to construction with a focus on the material to be used for the facade. One option proposed was to use stucco on two-thirds of the Hartwell Lane side of the building and on the entire rear wall facing Shawnee Street.

“There was much discussion about whether that was the best use of bringing the project in on budget,” Brey said.

“They said they were going to go back and look at all of their other alternatives,” said Joyce Lenhardt, vice president of CHCA’s Physical Division, who was present at the meeting. “We weren’t comfortable with some of the things they’d shown, but they’re planning to meet with us again and, in general, some of the things they did to simplify were in a good direction.”

“On balance, it seemed like an improvement,” said committee member Andrew Moroz, who was also present at the Bowman meeting. “For the first time we saw fully-rendered three-dimensional drawings,” he said. Moroz said the new drawings were a help in understanding the issue of setbacks, something he felt had never been evident in the other drawings.

Bowman plans to apply for a demolition permit, though it was unclear when this would occur. Lenhardt suggested April, although she wasn’t sure.

There will be another meeting in a month or so.

RCO issue

When Philadelphia’s new zoning code went into effect last Aug. 22, it included a provision requiring developers to hold a single meeting with a designated, registered community organization or RCO.

At the time, members of the CHCA Physical Division feared the provision would override the established procedure for development review in Chestnut Hill.

Now, six months later, members of the LUPZ have asked whether the RCO provision has made an impact in the way projects are submitted to CHCA for review.

“It’s intangible to date,” said community manager Celeste Hardester. “I can hardly tell any difference.”

Hardester told the committee that it has barely been acknowledged.

“It feels as though when applicants receive a refusal [from L&I] they aren’t really aware that there are a group of RCOs within this context,” she said.

LUPZ member Larry McEwen said that back when LUPZ committee members were speaking with Eva Gladstein, executive director of the Zoning Code Commission, about the one meeting requirement, they told her that they “intend to continue with our process for any project in 19118, and we intend to make it clear to the applicant that their chances of being supported at ZBA would be greatly enhanced by coming through our process,” a process that involves more than one meeting.

The committee made no indication that anything would change regarding the current process for development review, but reiterated the importance of “adding value” to projects that do come before the committee.

TTP Committee

The Traffic Transportation and Parking Committee is currently inactive and without a chair, following the resignation of Tom Hemphill. The committee now has two standing members – Debra Ferraro, a civil engineer, and Bob Previdi. Brey mentioned but did not suggest the TTP be rolled in to the LUPZ. She also mentioned reaching out to CHCA board member Tom Cullen as a possible member of the TTP committee, but no formal action was taken.

Green City

Brey spoke about an information session held by the Philadelphia Water Department on an initiative it is undertaking called Green City, Clean Waters, a 25-year plan to manage water quality in the city of Philadelphia by controlling how rain water is collected and managed from the many so-called impervious surfaces throughout the city. She drew attention to the several parking lots in Chestnut Hill and told committee members grants are available from the Water Department to renovate parking lots with storm water management techniques, including pervious pavement (which allows rain water to be absorbed rather than run off), underground storage of collected rain water, and landscaping around lots to filter runoff.

LUPZ Committee member Steve Gendler recommended not pursuing pervious pavement, given the expense and inconvenience that come with that, but that both the Horticultural Society and the Water Department would be supportive of plantings around lots.

The committee informally decided the next step would be to discuss the prospect of pursuing grants with the CHCA board. It will also look at partnering with neighbor organizations like the Parking Foundation to implement some of these ideas.

Brey also suggested creating a rain garden at the bottom of the hill, where Germantown Avenue crosses Cresheim Valley Drive.

W. Willow Grove Ave. bridge

Replacement of the bridge that carries West Willow Grove Avenue over SEPTA’s Chestnut Hill West rail line will be discussed by the bridge unit of the Philadelphia Streets Department at the March 19 meeting of the Development Review Committee. The Streets Department is planning two meetings – one specifically for near neighbors and other stakeholders and the other for the public. While there is currently no money to build the replacement structure, the design process is still underway.

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