by Jennifer Katz

The Chestnut Hill Community Association board voted 17-2 to support Chestnut Hill College’s plans for future development and authorized its representatives on the negotiating group to sign a Community Development Agreement with the college.

The vote came 22 months after the college, the community association and representatives from Friends of the Wissahickon, the Chestnut Hill Business Association, the Houston family, Northwest Conservancy, North Chestnut Hill Neighbors and the Chestnut Hill Historical Society agreed to participate in a negotiating group charged with resolving community concerns over the proposed development.

In presenting the results of the negotiations, group chair Larry McEwen sought the board’s support for the effort and further asked the board to endorse the college’s plans.

“It’s been an extraordinary effort by nine talented voting members,” he said.

Just seven of the nine groups have approved the college’s plan to date, which is arguably one vote short of the eight votes needed to bring the proposal before the CHCA. The motion to create the negotiating group contained a proviso that only a vote of 8 out of 9 voting members would precipitate the CHCA board voting on the college’s plan. However, the seven members of the group in agreement and the college felt it was appropriate to move forward without the support of the two near neighbor organizations, the NWC and NCHNI.

McEwen said the CHCA’s original motion called for 8 out 9 votes for the plan to bring a “positive” result to the board.
“The way it reads in order for us to have a positive result we need 8 out of 9,” he said. “The technicality is that it is a negative result.”

In April, the two neighbor groups stopped attending the negotiating meetings after the college moved ahead with legislation to change the zoning of its campus to an Institutional Development District. The two groups have since filed four lawsuits against the city and the college.

In asking for the board’s support, both McEwen and Sister Carol Jean Vale, president of Chestnut Hill College, said it was time to bring the negotiations to a close.

“We are not closing the door on discussions with the neighbors,” Vale said. “But for the good of everyone, its time to move ahead.”

The presentation included updated information on the revised master plan, the final draft of a community development agreement and a plan to ease 19 of the 32 acres on the Sugarloaf Hill campus.

The group of seven will continue to finalize the CDA, which includes review from transactional attorneys.