April 2, 2009


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The Chestnut Hill Local
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Phila. PA 19118
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Business association forms slate of candidates for CHCA board election

The Chestnut Hill Business Association wants change, and to get it will run a slate of candidates for the Chestnut Hill Community Association board of directors.

The goal, in the words of Chestnut Hill Business Association president Greg Welsh, is to “infuse the board with fresh energy and new ideas.”

Business association director Mike Hickey, who also occupies a seat on the community association board, announced the slate — called “The Positively Chestnut Hill Team” — at the last Chestnut Hill Community Association Board meeting on March 26.

“As people who live in Chestnut Hill, own and operate businesses here, send children to school here and so enjoy the quality of life here, we have become increasingly concerned about the future of Chestnut Hill and the association’s ability to be a positive force for meaningful change,” Hickey said, reading from a prepared statement.

“While we have great respect for many board members,” he said, “we believe the time has come to hear from new, informed and constructive voices from within our community — in short, new leadership.”

Hickey did not list any names on the slate but indicated that the business association would reach out to all the candidates running to join the “Positively Chestnut Hill Team.”

Fran O’Donnell, the business association’s main street manager and also a sitting association board member, said he believed there were 10 or 11 members on the slate among 26 candidates running for 18 seats on the community association’s board.

The team, Hickey said in his written statement (edited for clarity), stood for the following:

• Making sure that every association member receives maximum value for his or her membership dues and the satisfaction that the organization is being well managed.

• Ensuring that the association’s community newspaper is performing as intended by the organization’s charter while maintaining editorial integrity and helping to further the objectives of the association and the community it serves.

• Enhanced transparency and open lines of communications within and outside of the association to promote trust and confidence in the association and its programs.

The Chestnut Hill Business Association historically has not been involved much in the operations or politics of the Chestnut Hill Community Association. In fact, the two organizations did not always see eye to eye. Differences often arose over the community association’s tough zoning review process, which some developers found onerous and off-putting to potential business.

In the last two years, however, the business association has been invited and has participated in some of the zoning review committees, particularly the CHCA’s Aesthetics Committee and its Development Review Committee.

After Hickey’s announcement, some candidates running for the community association’s board expressed concern about business interests becoming too strong a voice on the community association.

Business association president Greg Welsh said in an interview that the concern about the business association “taking over” was unfounded.

“We’re all neighbors,” Welsh said. “This is not just about making money for the businesses. We’re looking for a positive outcome for the whole community.

Welsh said the people recruited to be part of Positively Chestnut Hill believed they could make a difference by introducing a “moderate tone” and helping the community association develop more progressive ideas to grow membership.

“We basically see things as dragging on, and they’ve been doing so for the last five years,” Welsh said. “You can’t continue to keep doing what you’re doing and expect a different outcome.

Although Welsh and Hickey spoke out against what they believed was a persistently negative tone in the Local at a board meeting last fall, Welsh said the business association slate was not interested in changing the paper.

“We have no intention of trying to take over the paper,” he said. “It’s a vital part and voice of the community.”

The Positively Chestnut Hill Team has a Web site reserved — — but the site was not yet active by press time.