by Pete Mazzaccaro

Today we carry a story about how the Chestnut Hill Community Association intervened to delay a bill that would make it much easier for Philadelphians to pave their front yards to make way for a driveway.

This doesn’t sound like a big deal in some respects. If people want an off-street place to park, why not let them? Many of this city’s neighborhood streets are choked with cars making street parking nearly impossible. Have you tried to park in Manayunk lately? And I don’t mean near Main Street.

For Chestnut Hill, though, the potential for big problems is pretty apparent. Look at any photo taken of nearly any Chestnut Hill street and you will notice a solid canopy of trees arched over the pavement. Those trees are not only on the street, they’re in front yards.

Also in most front yards are the shrubs, flowers and other plantings that have helped Chestnut Hill earn the title of “Philadelphia’s Garden District.”

Imagine if some of those pockets of plantings began to give way to paved surfaces. It’s not terribly difficult to see the negative impact those gaps would begin to have on the look and feel of the entire neighborhood.

Of course these considerations are likely more specific to Chestnut Hill. In other parts of the city, having off street parking is probably a really good idea. If that is the case, it would make a great deal of sense to make sure any legislation that makes it easier to pave your front yard is neighborhood specific.

Snow and the Mid Atlantic

Perhaps these snow storms that sweep through the Mid-Atlantic lately are a new thing. But in the 15 years or so that I’ve lived here, they’ve happened pretty regularly. I remember dozens of times that we’ve had quick 3- to 6-inch snow falls that swept south of New England, through New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

But no matter how many times I’ve seen these little storms blow through, I continue to be amazed at how unprepared the region is.

Take Tuesday’s snow storm. Weather forecasts were essentially spot-on for approximately 48 hours before a single flake fell. You’d think local governments would then take the necessary steps to prepare for the snowfall’s inevitability. Check the salt supplies, gas up the plow trucks and get ready to roll well before the snow begins.

Instead, despite all the information available, we continue to be taken by surprise. Roads fill with snow and remain unplowed or salted well into the afternoon. And not just in Philadelphia, which is famous for leaving streets frozen and impassable. In Cheltenham, where I live, we did not see a plow until after the snow was over at 3 p.m.

I suppose by now I should get used to it. It’s just tough for a former New Englander to get used to a region being crippled by a few inches of snow. At least I don’t own a business, which I’m sure get hurt ever time it snows. Just because we can’t figure out a way to get a little bit of sand and salt on the roads beforehand.

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