DEEP RIVER – A unanimous vote by seven members of the Planning and Zoning Commission on August 7 resulted in the approval of a 9,960 square-foot Walgreens pharmacy.
Twenty residents attended the meeting but several complained they could barely hear commission members talk, half of which, had their backs to the audience on the auditorium’s stage and were not speaking into the microphone.
Chairman Jonathan Kastner reminded residents that public comment was closed and those having trouble hearing should move to the first few rows.
Town residents heard the commission discuss more than twenty conditions for approval dealing with aesthetics and traffic flow.
The commission decided to make the proposed northern entrance and exit on Main Street an entrance only and force Main Street bound traffic around the building past the drive-through to exit onto the proposed southern one-way exit.
As a result, the commission strongly recommended the developer include design elements such as columns on the building’s south side.
Kastner said the change would allow the Walgreens Main Street entrance to be parallel to the Adam’s exit and the Walgreens exit in line with the Adam’s entrance.
Turnpike Properties owns the Deep River Shopping Center, anchored by Adam’s grocery store, across the street and has granted easements for parking for town hall use and Walgreens use in the 100-space parking lot.
The condition is contingent on approval from the State Department of Transportation required for all entrances and exits on Main Street which is part of State Route 154.
Traffic will be able to enter or exit the lot from Elm Street but the commission said parking proposed by Turnpike Properties on the town hall property near the present-day Veteran’s Way on early site plans was removed on plans submitted at the July 26 public hearing.
Zoning Enforcement Officer Kathy Jefferson said a memo from Attorney Bill Howard advised those parking spaces be removed to prevent “unreasonable damage or destruction” to the historic town hall.
Protecting the look of the front and sides of the building was important to the committee leading members to vote on a condition to eliminate one of the two proposed drive-through windows questioning space and the necessity of two windows when the Walgreens in Guilford, a town of 22,000 people, has one.
The installation of drive-thru signage along with road markings was also included as part of the condition.
Vice Chairwoman Nancy Fishbach said she went to a pharmacy with two windows staffed by one employee explaining having only one window would not increase waiting time for customers.
It is possible that there could be employee parking in the back of the store if there is just one window, Jefferson said.
The applicant predicts six to eight employees will be working on each shift at the store.
The prohibition of shopping carts, merchandise, and storage from store, signs in windows, and the installation of two wooden benches, in front of the store were other conditions levied by the commission.
Strongly suggesting having an unbroken façade, the commission required the entrance tower be no higher than 30 feet and recessed parking lot lights to eliminate glare on adjacent properties.
The commission required installation of handicap ramps next to the handicap spaces, having the sidewalk around the store match that on Elm and Main Streets, and creating a crosswalk across Main Street to Adam’s.
Truck deliveries for vehicles with more than two-axles will be allowed to occur between the hours of 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and limited garbage removal to occur between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Another condition prohibits delivery trucks from using the Route 80 entrance and exit and installing “No Tractor Trailer” signs.
Fishbach believed it was important for a traffic study to be conducted six months after the certificate of occupancy is issued to review safety of this area.
Kastner said there is no plan for the DOT to upgrade the traffic light at the junction of Routes 154 and 80 to include a green arrow but this could be requested by the town in the future.
However, Kastner said the DOT makes the decision based on available funds.
While some questioned the affect Walgreens could have on values of nearby properties, Fishbach said a judge ruled in a case in Enfield that a commission cannot deny an application for the simple reasons of “public health, safety, convenience, and property values,” and the applicant has not looked at possible land value changes.
“We addressed everything we legally can,” Fishbach said.
The approval is important in implementing the Main Street land swap approved by town voters in 2004 allowing the pharmacy to be built on the former Deep River Inn property while a shared parking lot with landscaped islands and lighting is planned for the former LaPlace property.