by Brendan Sample

Two guest presentations and discussions concerning several ongoing zoning issues were the main topics of conversation at the latest Chestnut Hill Community Association board meeting on May 23.

Representing the Friends of Children’s Park, Haviva Goldman and Eden Kainer provided an outline of repairs that the park needed. With immediate fixes needed for the swings, climbing net and fencing, among other elements, they determined that it would take approximately $1,755 and 39.5 labor hours to make the necessary changes.

Additionally, they estimated that the park would ultimately need between $21,275 and $22,775 to be covered for regular maintenance for the next five to seven years. Considering that the park only receives about $2,000 a year, the lack of funds has become a major issue.

Goldman, who is also the president of the Friends of J.S. Jenks, also presented the group’s long-term idea for a redesign of the park. Rather than make any specific funding requests of the CHCA for any of these initiatives, she said their main goal at the meeting was to bring these ideas to the board’s attention in the hopes of beginning an ongoing discussion for how best to move forward.

Though they acknowledged that fixing the park will require plenty of work regardless of what is done – specifically, they both feel that the impact the park has on the neighborhood is important enough that it needs to be maintained.

“We’re very protective of the community aspect of this playground,” Kainer said. “We want to make sure that it is repaired, even though we do get behind in the repairs, but we also want to make sure it’s open to the community as it is now … The original intent was that the community would have as much access to it as possible.”

Vicki Riley, public information officer with the Philadelphia Department of Revenue, was also on hand to provide the board with updated information on the city’s revenue collection programs, speaking mainly about real estate taxes and water bills. Riley answered questions about various real estate tax relief programs, including homestead exemptions, tax freezes for low-income senior citizens and installment plans.

Further assistance is available for Philadelphia residents struggling to pay their water bills each month through the city’s Tiered Assistance Program and Standard Payment Agreement. Riley also discussed fixes for if residents’ water bills skyrocket in a given month, which could be the result of the Water Department not being able to read a home’s water meter and billing based on an “estimated cost.” Residents can contact the Department of Revenue at 215-686-6442 with any further questions.

Several ongoing zoning issues were also brought up for discussion, including the proposed circular driveway on 121 W. Chestnut Hill Ave. Though the Land Use, Planning and Zoning Committee and Development Review Committee had concerns about the proposed driveway becoming a parking lot at some point in the future, the applicants ultimately agreed to a written agreement that it would not be used for such a purpose. With the zoning committees giving their approval to the property, the CHCA board passed a motion to also give its support the project.

On the matter of 8100 Germantown Ave., developer BuildED is still looking to construct a multi-unit housing development on the property, but several board members have taken issue with the proposed building. Richard Snowden specifically called the actual design “aggressively awful,” and, though he is in favor of the overall plan, he expressed his further desire that something with an aesthetic that better matches the neighborhood is needed for that space.

While the Goldenberg Group is still determining what to do with the property that was formerly Blossom Philadelphia, near neighbors are growing concerned about the lack of communication from the developer. Board member Keith Kunz described a recent meeting of local residents to address the fact that they had not only not heard anything from Goldenberg since the purchase, but also had heard of several rumored plans, though Kunz acknowledged that everyone knows that nothing is confirmed for the site. Though this remains an ongoing issue, Snowden brought up the fact that Seth Shaprio, chief operating officer of Goldenberg, is a Chestnut Hill resident, and he felt confident that Shaprio would be conscious of wanting to enact positive development for whatever Goldenberg decides to do with the property.

The CHCA’s Annual Meeting will be held on Thursday, June 27 at the Venetian Club. Brendan Sample can be reached at brendan@chestnuthilllocal.com or 215-248-8819.

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