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Chestnut Hill Community Association 2024 annual review

Chestnut Hill Community Association 2024 annual review

An excerpt from our annual membership meeting. Help us grow our membership by sharing this message with your neighbors and asking them to become active members.

Hello friends and neighbors! Last year, we celebrated our 75th anniversary. From development reviews to social programs to building bridges with community partners, we have enriched the lives of those who call this community home, workplace, place of worship, education and more. As I returned as president after serving four years ago, I reflected on the legacy of my predecessors and what more we can accomplish together. We have made progress on our five strategic goals to move the Community Association forward:

Celebrating our 75th anniversary and rich history

You may have noticed some wonderful gems throughout our archives throughout the year. Examining our history is a good reminder of our purpose and the legacy we carry forward. Common threads include advocating against transportation disruptions, improving our community through green space efforts and prudent development review, supporting our local business community, and ensuring that residents feel connected to programming and local news coverage of the issues that shape our community and neighborhood conversations.

We are growing our member base significantly

We are lucky to live in a place that connects us to Chestnut Hill. Whether you are a CHCA member, a newspaper subscriber, or not yet a member but living or working in the area, you have enjoyed the charm of Chestnut Hill. Today, our combined CHCA and Chestnut Hill Local count is over 2,000. We have set an ambitious goal of adding 1,000 new member households and are working with major apartment complexes and homeowners associations to promote everything we do. We also launched our first summer membership campaign and referral program. New members receive one month of free membership for up to three referrals. Chestnut Hill is a place of mind for those who are close to our area.

Improving our community development review process

CHCA is one of four registered community organizations in Chestnut Hill. We have the privilege of being the “coordinating” RCO that brings together other RCOs and reflects the voice of the community. We have spent several years examining and discussing how we can improve our integrated processes with our community partners at Chestnut Hill Conservancy and the Chestnut Hill Business District. This has included surveys, focus groups, small group discussions, and a facilitated session. Our work has progressed further, but it is still ongoing. We have made changes to our communication, integrated reviews, and looking to our volunteers who generously give their time to our review boards to support further changes.

Our community is faced with a growing number of large development projects that take up a lot of our volunteer and calendar time: Greylock, 10 Bethlehem Pike at the former Sunoco location, and 208-210 Rex Ave., among others. The project at 10 Bethlehem Pike is still in litigation. We are also working on guidelines to provide information to those who want to set up short-term rentals (think Airbnbs) in a non-owner-occupied home. The city now requires these applications to go through a zoning review process, which will provide a forum to hear neighbors’ opinions.

Improving the quality of residential life

The Community Association uses its power to engage and pressure our city and state officials to make Chestnut Hill a better place. Some of these efforts include advocating for less glaring residential street lighting and improving our green spaces—especially at Mermaid Park, the Chestnut Hill West and Highland train stations, and supporting our friends at Water Tower with Light Up the Tower improvements. We work with our Business District partners to identify mutual challenges on a weekly basis, which we address together before they become problems. We have launched a crosswalk task force that will continue to work with city officials on improvements. More broadly, we are a lead coalition partner in the Save Our Trains advocacy effort to fight for sustainable public transit in Northwest Philadelphia. Our ongoing partnerships with the Business District, the Conservancy, our schools, colleges, institutions like Woodmere and the library, and major employers like Temple Health help us collectively care for this community and everyone who lives, works, learns, shops, and visits.

We are updating our Germantown Avenue NCA

Another collective group accomplishment is the work to update zoning requirements on Germantown Avenue. We thank the executive directors, my fellow past and present board chairmen, and our Vice President of Physical Matt Rutt for bringing together volunteers from the Community Association, Conservation, and Business District to review, write, and develop these standards, ensuring that the voices of all three groups are heard. The next step is to work with the Philadelphia Planning Commission and City Council to get this enacted and passed.

All in all, it has been a year of intense and focused growth for the Community Association. On behalf of the CHCA Board of Directors, we look forward to doing even more great things for the community together.

Laura Lucas

President of the Chestnut Hill Community Association