Racist stickers and Chestnut Hill’s proposed zoning overlay

Posted 9/14/23

The story about a zoning overlay to "protect" Chestnut Hill ran on the same day the Avenue was vandalized with white supremacy stickers. 

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Racist stickers and Chestnut Hill’s proposed zoning overlay


The timing of the Local publishing a story about attempts to create a zoning overlay to "protect" Chestnut Hill the exact same day Germantown Avenue was vandalized with white supremacy stickers couldn't have been more apt. 

Protect it from what is the obvious question, and you'll hear a list of the common complaints like parking, crowds, noise, etc., used across the country to oppose development. We also got the one that says a lot in one word – character. 

"Protecting the character of our neighborhood" sounds nice until you realize that means the resulting policies maintain one of the whitest neighborhoods in a majority non-white city. Exclusionary zoning was created in this country specifically for this purpose, and the same coded language about protecting character has been used the entire time. 

You can see how clear this is when the Germantown Avenue shops are cited as one of those key, character-defining features that need protecting. You know, the ones with high vacancy rates and many in disrepair. The same people who actively oppose new businesses before they arrive (The Market at the Fareway, Chill on the Hill, etc.) then cite them as things to protect by limiting development after those businesses are successful.

Ten Bethlehem Pike, mentioned in the story, is a perfect example. Replacing an empty gas station lot with a nice mixed-used brick building, and adding some great commercial space for more shops with apartments above to bring more potential customers for all the shops seems like a no-brainer. Yet the Chestnut Hill Community Association chose to spend association dollars to take it to court and try to block it. If the goal is to maintain a thriving business district, that makes no sense.

If you found yourself reading this story about overlay zoning and agreeing with it and at the same time outraged by the vandalism, maybe you should think about that a bit; they're both about advancing white supremacy. Black Lives Matter is more than a slogan to put on a sign in your yard.

Tyler Britten

Chestnut Hill