by Wesley Ratko

The Chestnut Hill Community Association board heard a presentation from community manager Celeste Hardester at its Sept. 26 meeting about the steps necessary to acquire 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status for the association.

The board began exploring official nonprofit status in earnest earlier this year.

Two options were suggested to the board, although no formal action was taken at Thursday’s meeting. Instead, the board decided to have a committee explore those possibilities and suggest a course of action.

There are two basic choices. The main difference between the two would be how the CHCA would handle the Chestnut Hill Local, which it owns.

The first option would Be to make the CHCA, now a Delaware not-for-profit corporation, a Pennsylvania, 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and the Local would continue to be run as a non-profit it would continue to own.

The second option would also involve the CHCA becoming a 501(c)(3) corporation, but the Local would be set up as a limited liability corporation (LLC). If the CHCA chose to spin the Local into an LLC, it would also have the option to continue to manage the paper or to set up a managing entity that would do so on it’s behalf. This arrangement could be similar to the way the Chestnut Hill Community Fund is managed by its own board, which serves at the pleaseure of the CHCA.

Board member Richard Snowden summarized the issue by saying it was a matter of weighing the benefits of how to pay fewer taxes versus how to maintain control of the Local once it’s broken off. Snowden felt the board should focus on keeping the structure as close to its present shape as possible while still qualifying for 501(c)(3) status.

Snowden was also concerned that if the Local operated as a nonprofit entity, there could be limits on what it might be able to say.

“I don’t think anyone around the table wants to put a muzzle on the Local,” he said.

“The Local is the central issue here,” said board member Art Howe.

Howe described the newspaper as “a declining asset that we’re barely managing,” adding that there are plenty of examples of publications that became nonprofit entities.

He offered his expertise in managing media properties to the board in helping to make that transition.

The board approved a motion to set up a formal committee to further explore the options presented.

“It’s probably a good idea to let the public see this process,” said board member Bob Rossman.

Top of the Hill dental practice

The board voted unanimously to support a special exception needed from the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustment by Drs. Jacob Orozco and Abbey Sullivan-Orozco, an orthodontist and pediatric dentist respectively, who are planning to open a dental practice at 8705 Germantown Ave.

Zoning for the Top of the Hill plaza requires a special exception for medical practices comprised of two or more practitioners.

After a brief introduction from the Orozco’s lawyer, Michael Gumbel, Joyce Lenhardt, vice president of the CHCA’s Physical Division, reviewed the review process for the board, explaining that Orozco and Sullivan-Orozco attended meetings with the Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee, the Streetscape Committee and the Development Review Committee. She also explained that in the course of those meetings, a question as to the ownership and usage rights of the parking lot behind the Top of the Hill plaza has, in the past, come into question and that there remains some concern.

That discussion continued after a unanimous vote by the board to write a letter of support to ZBA in favor of granting the special exception to the dental practice.

Lenhardt said she had spoken with the attorney for Spa Elysium at 55 Bethlehem Pike, saying it might be open to joining the Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation. Spa Elysium has laid claim to 80 percent of the parking spaces in the lot.

A representative for the Chestnut Hill branch of the Free Library said that it “desperately needed” a handicapped parking space, and discussions with the lot owners have made no progress for a year.

Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting

The board welcomed new institutional member Nell Kahil from the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting and voted unanimously to congratulate her on the new meetinghouse at 100 E. Mermaid Lane.

“We’re thrilled to death,” Kahil said. “After 40 years we’ve finally come to fruition.”

The new meetinghouse, which features an open roof called a Skyspace designed by internationally renowned artist James Turrell, has been the focus of attention for some time. Lenhardt asked whether non-members of the Friends Meeting could see the Skyspace.

“There will be two mornings at dawn and two evenings at dusk,” Kahil said. “We’re ready to have people come and visit.”

Chestnut Hill fire station

Physical Division vice president Joyce Lenhardt gave a brief update on the status of the Chestnut Hill Fire Station at 101 W. Highland Ave. While she stressed that no formal decisions have been made, she told the board that the city is now leaning toward replacing the trucks kept at Station 37 with smaller trucks the existing station can accommodate.

More than a year ago, the Philadelphia Fire Department approached the community association seeking its input and support for a plan to deal with the problem of increasingly wide fire trucks and the inability of the current station house to accommodate them.

Community members did not want the city to widen the existing doors on the historic fire station building to accommodate wider fire trucks. The Philadelphia Fire Department investigated the possibility of relocating its trucks to another, newer station elsewhere in Chestnut Hill.

It appears the city is now moving toward remaining in the current station and finding smaller trucks that can be accommodated by the existing doors. Additional updates will follow.

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