Letters: CHCA ignores its constituency in Highland Ave. vote

Posted 4/28/21

The April 22 issue of the Local published a very, very extensive letter advocating for the approval of the 30 W. Highland Ave. project.

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Letters: CHCA ignores its constituency in Highland Ave. vote

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The April 22 issue of the Local published a very, very extensive letter advocating for the approval of the 30 W. Highland Ave. project. [“Why we support 30 W. Highland development”] It represents a generous use of the time and energy of its two authors. It is evidence of the sort of behavior a community can hope to receive from its serious volunteers, whether you agree with it, or not. However, to my knowledge, the Local has yet to publish an equally excellent, but dissenting letter, written by Messrs. Pilling and Lucey on April 12 to Mr. O'Keefe. It is, of course, available for those who go looking for it on your website, but it deserves equal time in the broad daylight of your pages. I recommend it to all and I hope you will publish it in your April 29 issue. I think it is important that you do so not only for the 30 W. Highland project, but also as a guide for all the projects that are coming down our road. 

The key issue that I read in that letter and have consistently heard in two meetings is the "scale" of the project. It is undoubtedly the issue that alarmed so many when they first encountered the rendering of it in the Local. That was certainly my immediate reaction to it. It is still the key issue as far as I can tell: "Too big for the location; and too institutional-looking". 

Two hundred neighbors, and perhaps more now, have voluntarily registered their disagreement with the scale and design of this project. They have been closely outvoted 3-2 by experts on the DRC, and then overwhelmingly, 13-4. by the CHCA Board. Who better represents the citizens of Chestnut Hill . . . the 200 plus residents or the13?  Some of the 13 may be experts in the field. All may be experts in some field. But they don't seem get the point of the 200. In spite of one expert speaker asking for further discussion, saying essentially, "All we have is a sketch. We don't know what we are voting for,” the Board said, "We've heard enough." They could not hear that concern or the 200. They were done.

One last observation: the Landis/Lenhardt letter mentions an idea or principle called "good urbanism.” But I don't hear residents describe Chestnut Hill as "urban,” though it surely is according to experts. I hear it described, and very positively so, as "a village,” though it probably is not one according to the experts. Just by the folks who live here and value it for that feeling. Chestnut Hill seems to have quite a few urban planners who like living in a village atmosphere and community. Why not try again to get more of that from 30 W. Highland? Experts should certainly be used for their expertise, but they should not rule. They too must persuade, not rule. So far, they have not persuaded at least 200 of their fellow residents, and probably many more.

Harry Gwyn
Chestnut Hill

Editor’s note: The second letter by Pilling and Lucey was never submitted to the Local for publication, while the defense of 30 W. Highland by John Landis and Joyce Lenhardt was written specifically for the Local and submitted as such.

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