By Pete Mazzaccaro
The Chestnut Hill Community Association’s Land Use planning and Zoning Committee lent its conditional support to Top of the Hill Orthodontics, which is moving from its Top of the Hill Plaza location at 8705 Germantown Ave, to 10 W. Gravers Lane, the old Chestnut Hill Post Office building that was most recently the location of Nest Chestnut Hill.
Dr. Jacob Orozco, who owns the practice with his wife, Dr. Abbey Orozco, appeared before the LUPZ committee with his attorney, Mike Gumbel, to ask the committee for its support for a special exception referral for use. While the property is zoned for commercial use, the exemption is required to use it as a medical practice.
The move, Orozco said, was put in motion by a failure to come to terms with his current landlord at Top of the Hill Plaza. He said he was dedicated to keeping the practice in Chestnut Hill and had secured the purchase of 10 W. Gravers Lane, on which he closed at the end of December.
While the new building is significantly larger than the practice’s current location, Orozco said he had no plans to expand the hours or number of appointments. The practice is currently open Mondays 11 to 7 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday, from 8:30 to 5 p.m.
Members of the LUPZ all said they were in support of the use, but they questioned Orozco over parking, the potential for expanding his practice hours, planned signage and consideration of an accessibility ramp. When they finally voted to support the use, they added four conditions:
· Orozco would limit his practice hours.
· He would provide finished, detailed drawings of any planned signs, which would be reviewed by the CHCA’s Streetscape Committee.
· He would provide a detailed plan for an access ramp.
· He would rent parking spaces from the Parking Foundation, which owns a lot adjacent to the location.
Orozco said he was concerned about limiting his practice hours in part because he does have to see patients for emergencies after normal working hours or on weekends, and questioned why he needed to rent parking spaces to reserve parking for the practice when it was not clear yet, before he opened, that parking would be an issue.
“Whenever I’ve been at the new location, the [Chestnut Hill Parking Foundation’s Orange Lot] has been mostly empty,” he said. “Most of our patients walk to the practice after school. They’re coming from Norwood or Jenks.”
LUPZ members said they would make the provisions to make sure both the building was taken care of and that the practice operations didn’t impede traffic on the residential block of Gravers Lane.
“The main issues between commercial activity and the proximity of residential activity are hours of operation and parking,” said LUPZ member Larry McEwen. “We’re supporting the use and we’re also noting the parking plan to show we’ve considered the option and tried to come up with a viable solution.”
McEwen noted that the suggestion of renting spaces had been made by Orozco’s own plan.
The next steps for Orozco will be to appear before the CHCA’s Development Review Committee on Feb 18 and the CHCA board on Feb. 28. CHCA executive director Anne McNiff said she would try to call a special meeting of the Streetscape Committee so that Orozco could complete his community zoning review process before his hearing with the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment on March 17.
The community zoning process determines support or opposition to local zoning ordinances, but the city’s ZBA ultimately decides all variance matters. The CHCA process is strictly advisory.
9509 Wheel Pump Lane:
The LUPZ voted to support a variance request to allow homeowner Ralph Hirshorn to build a detached two-car garage on his property at 9509 Wheel Pump Lane.
The city had refused to grant Hirshorn an approval for the garage because of its location on what is known as a steep slope, a grade greater than 25 percent.
After asking Hirshorn about use of the garage and determining it would only be used to house two cars, the committee voted unanimously to support his variance request. That request will again go before the DRC on Feb. 18 for final ratification before the CHCA board on Feb. 28.
Pete Mazzaccaro can be reached at 215-248-8802 or firstname.lastname@example.org