by Wesley Ratko

The Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee supported a variance for a home on McCallum Street and discussed what committee members felt was an out-of-date lighting system for parking lots owned by the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation at its June 18 meeting.

Parking Foundation representative and CHCA Board member Mark Keintz attended the meeting to discuss the state of the foundation’s outdoor lighting for parking lots managed by the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation.

Committee member Larry McEwen described the light fixtures over the lots as “wildly non-compliant” with the zoning code. Improper shielding and direction of the lights, which are suspended on standard utility poles, allow light to fall past the limits of the lots themselves and onto neighboring residences.

“People can read by the light of it,” McEwen said. “The lighting on these lots is state-of-the-art, circa 1970. It needs updating.”

According to McEwen, world-renowned lighting designer Raymond Grenald has agreed to consult on the lighting design of the parking lots for a one hour fee of $250. Once complete, his report would be issued to the Parking Foundation and could serve as the basis for an upgrade. Grenald’s local projects includes the Liberty Bell Pavilion, Locust Walk on the University of Pennsylvania campus and Boathouse Row.

“It’s money well spent,” said committee member John Landis.

McEwen, however, expressed some skepticism about the intended audience for a consultant’s report on the matter.

“Would they read it?” McEwen asked Keintz, referring to Parking Foundation members. Keintz assured him that that they would.

“Many communities are relamping,” McEwen said, referring to new energy-saving technologies, “and are discovering huge savings on their electric bills.” He suggested that these savings could easily offset the cost of the consultant and any changes Grenald might suggest.

One of the major obstacles in implementing a solution is that the Parking Foundation, a nonprofit organization responsible only for the management of the lots, does not own any of them. Chestnut Hill’s parking lots are instead aggregations of individual parcel fragments owned by adjacent property owners that exist to provide parking for the commercial businesses along the Avenue, which is of great benefit to the community.

McEwen said this ownership issue complicates matters in determining how to solve the problem of deficient overhead lighting.

“It’s not clear who has responsibility for mitigation of the light bleed,” said Landis.

Keintz reported that the Parking Foundation disputes the claim that the lighting of its lots does not comply with the zoning. He also said that the Parking Foundation is now operating in the black, though he didn’t say whether this had anything to do with the recent installation of Philadelphia Parking Foundation kiosks.

The committee took no formal action on this but did end by agreeing to find the money to pay for the consultant review.

7516 McCallum St.

The DRC approved unanimously a motion to support a zoning variance to allow for the construction of an addition to a personal home at 7516 McCallum St. Representatives of the property owners, James and Anne-Marie Corner, returned to the DRC for final review before taking their application before the CHCA board. The variance to build the addition is necessary to allow for construction on land that the city zoning code has determined to be too steep to build on.

The DRC heard comments from both the Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee and the Historic District Advisory Committee, which formally requested that several provisos be included on the motion to support the variance. These include the use of natural materials in the building facade, the preservation of an overlook easement (which protects against the construction of obstructions to a view of the Wissahickon Valley), the use of “sympathetic but not identical materials” on the side of the new building, and a reconfiguration of the driveway (not yet designed) with the goal of preventing a net increase in the amount of impervious or paved surface on the site.

The applicants will appear before the CHCA board for final determination at its June 28 meeting.

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