by Celeste Hardester

In August of 2012, the new Philadelphia Zoning Code came into effect. Page one states the code’s purpose, which, among other points, is to promote sound planning principles by “Protecting the desirable characteristics of the City’s neighborhoods.”

To help accomplish this, the code encourages the creation of “RCO’s” – Registered Community Organizations. Across the city, civic and community associations, including the Chestnut Hill Community Association (CHCA), became an RCO.

I’ve talked to many of these associations, and one thing is clear. Chestnut Hill has a reputation for taking care of its community. It is considered to have the highest standards, to be almost a standard bearer. There are many Chestnut Hill organizations and individuals who have made this so, and chief among them has been the CHCA.

Community/civic associations play a necessary function within a community by providing a forum for addressing concerns, including development issues. Many people, understandably, choose to give this kind of discussion a wide berth, attending only when it involves something important to them. Thankfully, there are individuals who let their care outweigh the difficulty and are active in the community association so they can help address problems that can only be solved by people talking together.

In my 18 months as CHCA Community Manager, I’ve witnessed dozens of zoning review projects come through our process. I appreciate the skill employed in conducting the discussion, and admire the willingness of so many individuals who volunteer to listen to someone else’s problem and try to find solutions. I don’t always agree with the outcome, but I respect the process. These discussions take place within the development review committees and at the CHCA board.

The CHCA board is about to enter into its election season, with eight seats up for election. Some current members whose terms are expiring intend to run again. Others will be stepping down. A few additional seats are open due to vacancies. This is an opportunity for other community members to step forward, to take their turn.

Some of you may have been through our development review process and hold positive or negative opinions about your experience. I hope those with good opinions will want to help continue the good work, and that those with negative opinions will want to help make good change. There’s room, indeed need, for all perspectives.

Chestnut Hill is fortunate to have a community association that is highly evolved and very strong. In addition to the development work, it serves in many other ways. Over the years, in conjunction with the Chestnut Hill Community Fund (CHCF), it has raised over $2,000,000 in its annual fund drive, proceeds of which have gone back out to support community organizations.

For 64 years it has held the Pastorius Park Concerts, free to all who come. It holds much-loved community events. It conducts discussion panels to inform the community. It publishes the Chestnut Hill Local, providing information for and about the community, and a forum for diverse opinions.

The CHCA offices are in Town Hall, a building owned, along with an endowment, by the CHCF. The Board of the CHCA approves the trustees of the CHCF. And who elects the CHCA Board? CHCA members.

Who are these members? People near and far who care about this community, and, hopefully, you. Please join the CHCA, join our committees, and if so moved, please consider running for the CHCA board. Nomination forms are due in the CHCA office by Friday, March 22, 2013.

Celeste Hardester is the CHCA Community Manager

  • L. Lucas

    Great call to action Celeste! Looking forward to seeing some new faces run for the open Board positions.