College Invites Community to Master Plan Presentation
Wednesday, June 1, 7 p.m.
Sorgenti Arena, Martino Hall
Dear Fellow Resident:
For the last 18 months, Chestnut Hill College has been involved in negotiations with its neighbors and the Chestnut Hill Community Association to reach agreement on the College’s planned expansion of residential and academic buildings at our main campus and at nearby SugarLoaf Hill.
Our goal always has been to develop community consensus on a plan that would allow the College to grow while preserving the exceptional character and beauty of our neighborhood. The College developed an innovative Master Plan to guide this process, one that strictly limits campus construction, aggressively protects the treasured Wissahickon Creek and watershed, and provides a reasonable way for Chestnut Hill College and our neighbors to live in harmony.
We would like to share with you and other neighbors our Master Plan and the steps that we are taking to achieve it, at a Community Meeting to be held on Wednesday, June 1, 2011, at 7 p.m. at Sorgenti Arena, located inside Martino Hall on the College’s main campus. We cordially invite you to attend this meeting. Valet parking will be provided for attendees.
We will provide the facts about the plan and explain exactly what the College intends under the Master Plan and the proposed Institutional Development District (IDD) that would serve as the roadmap for all current and future zoning and development issues on our campus.
We recognize that the proposed expansion has generated considerable attention in the local press, and we are concerned about the inordinate level of misinformation and rumor that has been generated about it.
We think it’s important to separate fact from fiction, and that’s the reason for holding a community meeting. While critics complain that the IDD and Master Plan set a “precedent” that allows “urban-scale density anywhere in our community,” the facts make it clear that no such danger exists.
The College has agreed to place as much as 95 percent of the land at SugarLoaf outside the proposed Master Plan “footprint” under a “conservation easement” that will prevent future development of any kind. This is a voluntary concession by the College because we recognize and support the goal of preserving the character of the neighborhood we share;
Similarly, the College is prepared to voluntarily restrict new construction at SugarLoaf and on the main campus to a level that represents approximately 10 percent of the construction that it could complete in a traditional IDD. Indeed, these levels have been negotiated with the enthusiastic support of most members of the Negotiating Group;
To reach consensus, the College also has agreed: to move the major development “footprint” for SugarLoaf a minimum of 280 to 350 feet away from Germantown Avenue; to move a proposed performing arts center from SugarLoaf to the main campus; to reconfigure its structured parking from three to two stories, largely underground, (including moving 150 proposed spaces from SugarLoaf to the main campus); and to undertake an extensive native planting program to reforest SugarLoaf and improve the natural viewshed from Germantown Avenue;
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the College Master Plan includes an aggressive initiative to improve storm water management of the Wissahickon Creek – one that includes state-of-the-art green roof technology and a comprehensive series of underground storm water collection cisterns. The Master Plan envisions significant additional greening of the main campus, as well as the much-needed restoration of Wissahickon Creek where it borders the campus property. Together, these changes themselves represent a major environmental improvement to the current conditions. To be clear, under our storm water management plan, the Wissahickon will be better protected than it is today.
Critics contend that the Chestnut Hill College IDD proposal sets a precedent for Chestnut Hill, and on this point at least we can agree. The plan sets a great precedent, one that provides for rational and limited development by an institution that wants to continue its long history of being an active partner and a good neighbor in Chestnut Hill.
As recently as May 17th, when the Planning Commission unanimously approved the amended IDD tailored for the Chestnut Hill neighborhood, Commissioner Joseph Syrnick described it as “very sensitive to the land” and the surrounding community, and called it a “very, very good plan.”
We urge you to learn more about Chestnut Hill College’s Master Plan, and on behalf of the College, I look forward to having you join us on June 1st.
Carol Jean Vale, SSJ, Ph.D.