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Small driveway causes large dispute in Chestnut Hill

Sometimes, even a small land use dispute can trigger a larger controversy. The desire of a Chestnut Hill couple to build a small driveway in front of their house may trigger a series of court cases by the local community association to prevent the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Appeals from approving projects that have been rejected by the association's board.

The couple in question, newly moved to Chestnut Hill, wanted a small driveway in front of their house. The total area of the driveway is no more than 100 square feet. Advised that they needed approval from several neighborhood communities and the city's Zoning Board of Appeals, the couple stopped construction and assembled the necessary paperwork, including supporting affidavits from several neighbors. The Land Use Planning and Zoning committee of the Chestnut Hill Community Association voted against the necessary variance because the driveway used the entire set back and resembled a "parking pad." Next, the Association's Development Review Committee voted unanimously to deny the variance.

Despite the two rejections by committees of the Community Association, the couple was able to persuade the City's Zoning Board of Appeals to grant the variance. The ZBA's action effectively overruled the Association committees and infuriated Board Members. The Association's Board has now voted unanimously to seek reversal of the ZBA's decision in court. Association Board members said the grant of the variance will have an adverse precedential impact on the historic neighborhood and that the decision adversely affects the working relationship between the City and the Community Association. Some board members have vowed to appeal any and all decisions of the ZBA that run counter to the Association's wishes.

The driveway itself is not the issue that concerns the Community Association. Board members appear to be more concerned about the future impact of such decisions on the historical character of the Chestnut Hill neighborhood. Anyone who is involved in a similar dispute, regardless of the nature of the conflict, may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in zoning and planning issues for an analysis of the facts, a review of the laws and regulations that may apply and an evaluation of likely outcomes.

Source: Chestnut Hill Local, "CHCA to appeal ZBA approval of resident's driveway," Kevin Dicciani, Sept. 1, 2015

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