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Chestnut Hill land use disputes hampered by zoning pressures

A subcommittee for the Chestnut Hill Community Association is worried that a two-acre piece of commercial real estate will be rezoned before neighborhood land use concerns are addressed. A developer wants to put condominiums and a grocery store on the property of a former car dealership on Germantown Avenue.

The nine-member neighborhood committee is not opposed to the mixed-use land project, but dislikes the design. The biggest point of contention is the size of the planned structure and the effect on homes nearby.

The projected development is for a five-story building that would include street-level retail shops with more than one dozen condominiums above them, a separate grocery store and nine town homes. The subcommittee thinks the building would be too high and too close to adjacent homes and the road. Subcommittee members report they have been able to iron out smaller details with the developer about the property, but cannot get an agreement about the height of the building. The Chestnut Hill group wants the structure limited to four stories.

The structure's height is among 20 conditions the subcommittee hopes to resolve before it makes any recommendations to Chestnut Hill Community Association's committee for land use, planning and zoning. One possible conflict is that the president of the project development company is a member of the CHCA land use committee.

One disagreement is over the town homes' design. Plans to put all nine of them in a single structure along Shawnee Street are disputed. The neighborhood subcommittee wants the homes separated into two structures that are pushed back from the street, a design that would allow for landscaping and street tree preservation. Some neighbors in the area are considering legal action if negotiations with the developer continue to stall.

The developer is planning to ask Philadelphia City Council for a rezoning of the disputed site from a C7 to a C3 designation. Subcommittee members believe if the developer's rezoning wish comes true that the conditions they seek will become a moot point. It will be interesting to see what comes of this real estate dispute.

Source: newsworks.org, "A Chestnut Hill advisory committee opposes current plan for 8200 Germantown Ave.," Aaron Moselle, Oct. 10, 2011

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