No decision for Greylock, ZBA hearing continued

by Tommy Tucker
Posted 7/4/24

The Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment held a June 25 hearing via Zoom on the plan to develop the Greylock Estate.

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

No decision for Greylock, ZBA hearing continued


The Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment held a June 25 hearing via Zoom on the plan to develop the Greylock Estate.

Many attended the hearing waiting to speak; however, the ZBA pushed back the public testimony portion to an undetermined date due to time constraints.

Most of the hearing consisted of the cross-examination of Lavi Shenkman and his attorney, Adam Laver, by S. David Fineman, an attorney representing a group of neighbors opposed to the project. Rhombus Properties, the development team led by Shenkman, acquired the property in late 2022.

Fineman questioned Shenkman several times on the number of proposed units and how they reached that decision.

"We try to balance what we think would fit in with the character of the site and respect to the historical buildings that are there," Shenkman said in response to Fineman's question. "If we wanted to maximize our profits, and that was the only consideration here, we would have been pursuing many more units on this site."

Shenkman discussed having drafted the plan according to zoning restrictions and adhering to the easements on the property.

Built in 1901, the property consists of an 18,000-square-foot, 22-room mansion at the top of the hill at 209 W. Chestnut Hill Ave. The property is currently zoned for single-family use, with the developers seeking permission to build multifamily housing.

The Sisters of St. Mary Immaculate, which operated a nursing home on the property, sold it at auction in 1999. It was about $1.6 million in debt in 2004, assessed at $3 million and repossessed by lenders.

Shenkman plans to convert the mansion into six condos and build three detached buildings consisting of townhomes on the mansion's west side, one being a triplex and the other two duplexes. In addition, the plan would convert the mansion's gatehouse into two additional dwellings, bringing the total to 15 units on the property.

"We take the position that we stated previously that the developer does not have appropriate standing, in that the developer does not have full ownership, quite frankly, of the project and that the conservation easements have not been decided," Fineman said during the hearing.

ZBA Chair William Bergman responded to Fineman and said that the board believes the applicant has standing.

After the cross-examination of Shenkman and Laver, Fineman read the testimony of some of those opposed to the development plan, having them appear on Zoom to confirm their testimonies.

The first testimony was that of George Zeleznik, the head of The Crefeld School, located next to the Greylock Estate.

Zeleznik's testimony stated that construction on the property would adversely impact light, noise, air and general quality of life for the school. Some of the construction, if approved, would take place less than 20 feet from classrooms, according to Zeleznik.

Sharing his screen with the Zoom call, Zeleznik pulled up an image on Google Maps to show the proximity between structures on the Greylock Estate and The Crefeld School.

"I just wanted to be very clear on the proximity that we're talking about," Zeleznik said during the hearing. "To be clear, the structures are about 20 feet apart."

Zeleznik's statement read that the appellant would use a decision by the ZBA to bolster his position to have the easements removed. He also claimed that 90% of all immediately impacted neighbors oppose this appeal.

With other statements and public testimony yet to be heard, the ZBA has not yet scheduled the continued hearing.