The CHCA Board was given a tour of the new McCausland Lower School at SCH Academy before its meeting last week. (Photo by Brendan Sample)

by Brendan Sample

After several months of debate and arguments from neighbors, the Chestnut Hill Community Association officially voted to support the variance request for a new proposed house on 250 E. Evergreen Ave. The CHCA board outlined a number of conditions for the property at its Sept. 26 meeting before passing a motion of support.

The outlined conditions included the accommodation of additional parking spots behind the property, that the construction would not damage the large Norway maple tree on 246 E. Evergreen and that any further significant changes to the current plans would need to be reviewed by the CHCA.

The motion included a number of additional requests to change certain elements of the design or to provide further information regarding other aspects. The CHCA requested that the applicants provide neighbors with a construction schedule and require construction vehicles to not interfere with residential parking. The applicants agreed to all of the outlined conditions.

Despite some of the neighbors’ concerns being directly addressed, there were still some lingering issues with the subcommittee that was formed to attempt to finalize the review process over the last month. Some residents still felt that there was ultimately not enough time to review all the important details, claiming that a short window of time favored the process moving forward. Others felt that the neighbors who were on the subcommittee were really only there to relay others’ opinions instead of actively being a part of the review process.

“There’s a bad feeling on the street because people feel like it’s being rammed down their throats,” said one neighbor in attendance at the meeting. “We’re faced with the bottom line of ‘This is a done deal. It’s going to happen.’ Yes, there might be provisos, there might be agreements, but what’s to say those agreements can’t be reversed?”

While the board acknowledged these issues, some members also argued in favor of the process that had been in place. Joyce Lenhardt, vice president of the CHCA’s Physical Division, pointed out that this application had initially been brought before the organization’s zoning boards several months ago. While this should have given neighbors plenty of time to participate in the review process, she felt that many residents only became aware of the process as it was about to close. She also pointed out that there are a number of buildings that go up in Chestnut Hill that they do not agree with, but are able to be constructed byright and are thus able to bypass the review process.

“In Chestnut Hill, we have a fairly rigorous and lengthy review process and we assumed that people initially not coming to meetings meant that it wasn’t an issue,” Lenhardt said. “It might have been because they’re not reading their Local or not getting it. Maybe the communication could have been better so that people would have been informed sooner because there really was a lot of time.”

Despite their issues with the review process, the neighbors did acknowledge the right of the property owners, Janet and Matt Stern, to recognize any potential profit they could gain from the space. They also acknowledged the couple’s efforts to further mediate any problems when they held an open meeting for residents at their East Evergreen house last month.

In other news, the Chestnut Hill Community Fund updated the progress of the Local’s efforts to obtain a $150,000 credit line, as it is currently halfway through the process. With the first $75,000 approved, the Community Fund will move forward with working to get the second half approved as well.

The board meeting was once again held at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, but moved this time to the newly opened McCausland Lower School building. Lower School dean Adam Sherland gave board members a tour of the building, showcasing its new classrooms, project areas and technology, along with much of the artwork that students have already made in the new school year.

The next CHCA meeting is set for Thursday, Oct. 24. at 7 p.m. Brendan Sample can be reached at brendan@chestnuthilllocal.com or 215-248-8819.

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