by Brendan Sample
Ella Vanilla, a Chestnut Hill cake decorating supply store on Germantown Avenue, wants to expand its business on the Avenue into a direct collaboration with the Night Kitchen Bakery. Currently located on 7922 Germantown Ave., Noelle DeSantis, owner and founder of Ella Vanilla, currently has a deal in place to purchase a property on 7709 Germantown Ave., which is on the same block as the bakery. DeSantis will need a special exception from the city, and thus brought her proposal to the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use Planning and Zoning Committee at its Dec. 6 meeting.
With DeSantis receiving cakes and icing from Night Kitchen, she plans to offer cake decorating classes at her new location alongside selling decorating supplies. It will likely be close to a year before the new shop is operational, however, as the current tenant is set up there until June. After the space is clear, work will be done over the summer, with DeSantis planning to open sometime in the fall.
DeSantis was on hand at the LUPZ meeting to present her plans, as she had already received a referral from the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections. Instead of requiring a variance, however, she needs a special exception in the CMX-1 district, which will require a hearing before the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment on Dec. 19.
In explaining her plan to the committee, DeSantis explained how she had already collaborated with Night Kitchen on the project, nothing in the zoning code even identifies her specific line of work and how she is prepared to work with a professional architect on the project.
DeSantis also expressed her passion for her business, explaining how she sees cake decorating as art, even if it is a bit unconventional.
“It really is an art form, but we’re just working with sugar, icing and cake instead of paints and a canvas,” DeSantis said.
After hearing the details of the plan and asking several questions for clarification, the LUPZ voted unanimously to support the project without any additional conditions. Because the ZBA hearing is scheduled before the next CHCA Board of Directors meeting, the Development Review Committee will be able to make a formal recommendation to the ZBA on behalf of the board. The DRC will vote on this issue at its Dec. 18 meeting.
A prospective new LUPZ member, Christopher Lynn, was also in attendance as he was looking to “try out” for the committee. A city planner with the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, Lynn was invited to the LUPZ by co-chair Bradley Flamm, his neighbor both previously in Mt. Airy and currently in Chestnut Hill. The committee voted to recommend Lynn to the CHCA as a new member, and the board will take a vote on the matter at its next meeting.
The committee also continued its discussions on potential changes to its bylaws. The most prominent of these proposed changes include requiring members to attend at least 75 percent of all meetings in a calendar year to remain active and increasing the quorum to 50 percent of active members in attendance at any given meeting. Discussions on the bylaws remain open, as the committee members decided to make further edits over the next month, finalize which changes they want to see at the next meeting and then recommend those changes to the CHCA board for potential approval.
Brendan Sample can be reached at email@example.com