College Postpones IDD Application Until June 2010

Monday, November 9, 2009

The College has been seriously considering the request of several neighbors, the Historical Society, and Friends of the Wissahickon to delay the Chestnut Hill College formal application to rezone the SugarLoaf property from its current R-1 designation to an Institutional Development District (IDD). Having consulted over the past week with the appropriate members of the College Community, our zoning attorney, and consultants, we have agreed to honor this request and to defer any formal application for an IDD until June 2010.

We decided upon this course of action so that the interested parties can engage with the College in a mutually informative and enriching discussion of the issues surrounding the College’s Master Plan. We have also made this choice because our relationship with our neighbors and the Chestnut Hill community is vitally important to us. Working together with the community to clarify the Master Plan has the potential to deepen our understanding of one another and to create an atmosphere of lasting respect and trust, which was one important outcome of the collaboration associated with the Germantown Avenue Bridge project.

Tuesday evening, November 3, the College had a productive meeting with a number of the near neighbors of SugarLoaf. The discussions raised issues of concern about the Master Plan and the IDD. Further, the neighbors were able to speak directly with the College’s acoustical engineer about noise issues. In response to these discussions, the College began the initial organization of a working committee to address the issues and concerns. Committee members will include representatives from interested organizations, the College, College consultants, community institutions, and the near neighbors. The Committee will work with the College toward a resolution of the various issues and questions surrounding the College’s Master Plan and zoning requirements. This committee will begin to meet in January 2010. In addition, the College looks forward to our continued work with the CHCA committees as together we examine and discuss the Master Plan and zoning requirements.

Finally, it is encouraging to see that various community members recognize the College’s need to expand and understand why the College is exploring an IDD. Frank Niepold, president of the CHHC Board wrote in an October 23, 2009 letter to the College, “We understand that the College seeks an expansion of the student body as a strategic necessity, and that you seek approval of the Institutional Development District (IDD) in order to protect the College’s initial investment from the vagaries of the normal zoning process as it plays out over the decades.” This said, the College is open to viable alternatives to an IDD. We are in possession of a copy of the agreement between Chestnut Hill Hospital and the community, which we will consider as a template for a similar plan that may be negotiated between the College and the community. Other possibilities will also be considered as we strive to design a mutually agreeable outcome for the on-going decisions associated with the implementation of the Master Plan.

Because of our current space needs and the necessity of expansion to ensure our long term success, the College must move forward with planning. Therefore, we desire to work with our friends and neighbors in an efficient and expeditious manner. It is our expectation that all will strive to respect and meet the June 2010 deadline for the study and discussion of the Master Plan and the exploration of possible alternatives to an IDD.

On November 17, 2009, the College will meet informally with members of the City Planning Commission to present the Master Plan. The purpose of this meeting is to share with the appropriate City personnel the same information we have already provided to the Chestnut Hill community. We have been asked by our zoning attorney to keep this informational meeting on the calendar even though we are tabling a possible formal application for an IDD until June 2010.

I believe that the process in which we are about to engage can be of tremendous benefit to the entire community and I look forward to working with you, not only for the good of the College, but for the good of all in this wonderful place we call Chestnut Hill.

Sincerely,
 

Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D.
President