by Wesley Ratko

A recurrent flooding problem for homes along the 8100 block of Ardleigh Street has prompted one Chestnut Hill resident to take action.

Ardleigh Street resident Robin Spilner appeared before the April meeting of the Land Use Planning and Zoning committee on Thursday, April 4 to discuss his concerns about storm water runoff from the Water Tower Recreation Center.

The recreation center, a grand piano-shaped parcel at the intersection of Ardleigh Street and E. Hartwell Lane, is a small park bordered by Ardleigh Street, E. Hartwell Lane, and Winston Road. It features tennis courts, a green space, and a nondescript paved lot, used by neighborhood teens as a skateboard park, as well as by area dog walkers.

It is the runoff from this paved portion of the lot that poses the problem to Ardleigh Street residents, as it has for some time.

Spilner, until recently a city employee himself, said he recognized that the Philadelphia ater Department grants could provide the necessary funding to construct an appropriate mitigative measure against the flood waters.

“It does appear that even a small intervention could at least slow down the water flow and give Ardleigh residents some relief,” Spilner said.

The water department grants are available to projects that are supportive of its signature watershed control plan, the Green Cities, Clean Water initiative – a nationally recognized effort to guard against runoff contamination of Philadelphia’s groundwater.

Given the directional flow of the water on the site, Spilner speculated that the lot would serve the site better as a retaining pond. However, instead of being held on site for proper absorption back into the ground, the water runs off of the paved surface and is channeled toward the Ardleigh street homes, where a retaining wall acts like a gutter.

All of that water has made an impact on the integrity of the wall and the soil beneath it.

“The retaining wall is in bad shape,” said Spilner, adding that water has flowed over in places where the top of the wall has crumbled.

Board member John Haak suggested that the water department may not be as interested in funding the project if the only ill-effects are to property owners. Because Chestnut Hill is not part of the city’s combined sewer system, the committee agreed it might not be a priority for them and suggested instead that the recreation department, would be the better city agency to talk to about this.

Several committee members agreed, however no one present Thursday night knew for sure.

“Site planning for that complex is a mess,” said committee member Jean McCourbrey. “There is no long-range plan for the site.”

McCoubrey spoke briefly about an organization called the Water Tower Advisory Board, but didn’t know anyone on that board. The committee asked community manager Celeste Hardester to find out more about them and to report back.

CHCA Board member Tom Cullen, in attendance as a member of the audience, said that because the runoff makes its way down into the Wissahickon creek, it is an issue for them.

Spilner said he was wary that efforts to modify the lot could be contentious, and be seen by area teens as an attempt to uproot their skate park. He told committee members that he has observed it being used as a skate board park by local teens, as well as a space for dog walkers.

“We have a whole host of issues,” Spilner said, “this is just one of them.” He said that this was a project that could go somewhere and make “a dynamic change” to the site.

Spilner said the next step would be to put together an initial grant proposal with a map of the issues and a collection of local partners. According the several committee members, formal applications are not due to the water department until next February, 2014.