March 18, 2010

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Hemphill sees CHCA as a way to help neighbors

Tom Hemphill thinks that working as a member of the Chestnut Hill Community Association is an important thing to do.

“Rather than sit around and complain,” he said, “you’ve got to get in the game.”

He’s been in the game for a while now. A retired ad man with an agency background in creative content (mostly for banks and financial institutions), he joined the CHCA almost immediately after moving to the neighborhood. He’s been a Chestnut Hill resident for more than 15 years, having moved from the Fairmount section of the city with his wife when they decided they needed more space.

In their search for a new place to call home, he and his wife looked all over the area, but Chestnut Hill was everything they wanted in a neighborhood – close to shopping, restaurants, and the train. As a resident in Fairmount, he had been a member of the community association. That involvement continues in Chestnut Hill, simply because he believes it’s important to get involved in one’s community.

“I’ve discovered real neighbors in the truest sense of the word,” he said of his fellow Chestnut Hill residents. “There is a community spirit here that is hard to deny.”

His responsibilities to the CHCA have increased in the last year and a half with his membership on both the Traffic, Transportation, and Parking Comm- ittee, and the Development Review Committee.

He said he didn’t even know the Traffic, Transportation, and Parking Committee existed before then. He was asked to participate and said “yes.” It was the one group, he said, that didn’t require much expertise.

“It’s always a plus if someone brings some expertise, but we know we can always reach out to members of the community and ask for their opinion,” he said.

He doesn’t limit this to members of the community association, but extends it to Chestnut Hill residents in general.

“Our neighbors can be a great resource,” he added.

According to Hemphill, the Traffic, Transportation, and Parking Committee has a simple mission statement: to serve the needs of the community.

“If someone needs a stop sign, or the resolution of a traffic situation, they come to us,” he said.

Sometimes the needs can demand a bit more than a simple request to the city. Last year, a SEPTA-owned bridge over the R8 Chestnut Hill West line at Hartwell Lane that had been attracting what Hemphill described as “some bad elements – teenagers hanging out and annoying the neighbors” was brought to the attention of the Traffic, Transportation, and Parking Committee.

He said the bridge itself was in disrepair. The committee took a role in resolving the issue. It’s been an ongoing project these past eight months.

In that time, the committee has worked with SEPTA and the city to prevent access to the bridge by removing the steps. As a result of talks with SEPTA, the bridge itself is scheduled for removal.

Hemphill said he was pleased that he could help his neighbors by responding to their concerns in a way that makes a difference, but says most of what the committee accomplishes is small and minor. Some things, he says, never reach fruition at all. But no matter what they accomplish, Hemphill speaks highly of his fellow committee members.

“I may not always agree with everything, but this is a great place where everyone can openly express their views,” he said. “That’s what makes it so special.”



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