The Zoning Commission's decision on a rule change that could pave the way for Konover Development to build a CVS pharmacy will be delayed at least a month, and approval will require extra votes.
Local residents and consultants for Konover Development Corp. commented further Wednesday night before the Zoning Commission on a regulation and master plan amendment for the property at the corner of Route 44 and Lawton Road. After another lengthy session, the hearing was continued into May to give Konover time to respond to some additional documents submitted by residents.
Town planner Neil Pade also announced Wednesday that residents had generated enough signatures that a “supermajority” vote – or 5 out of 7 commissioners – is needed to approve the changes.
One hundred and thirty five residents signed petitions objecting to public access to the site from Lawton Road, but more notably 16 property owners within a 500-foot radius signed, representing the owners of more than 25 percent of land in the area. According to state law, signatures by more than 20 percent trigger a requirement that two-thirds of commission members approve of the change.
Konover is seeking changes to the Albany Turnpike Gateway District 2, which specifies guidelines for development at the corner. Most contentious has been the proposal for a full-access driveway to Lawton Road.
The idea has met with opposition from many residents on and off of Lawton and Washburn roads.
Those residents contend that the access will be used as a cut-through from Route 44 and cause even more traffic on already overburdened roads. Many have also argued that improvements and additional lanes on Lawton Road will only encourage more drivers to use the roads.
Cynthia Sondergeld contended that easement agreements would also potentially allow traffic from neighboring businesses and even the Shoppes at Farmington Valley to avoid Route 44 and cut over to the development and on to Lawton Road.
“People from the Shoppes and all those parcels could use Lawton as an exit,” she said.
The documents filed by Sondergeld and her husband, Eric, which also included questions about the State Traffic Commission, were the reason for the hearing's continuance, since Konover wanted time to respond.
Attorney Robin Messier Pearson of Shipman, Sosensky and Marks LLC of Farmington, did however briefly address the issue. While Konover’s main driveway on Route 44 would potentially be shared with one neighboring parcel to the east that is not yet developed, the company has no interest in connecting to others, she said.
Traffic consultants for the developer and town also addressed another concern of residents concerning traffic. Both said additional lanes from Lawton Road to Route 44 will not result in motorists being able to save even more time by using Washburn and Lawton as a cut-through from the north. With changes in traffic signals, the lanes will simply allow more efficient stacking, they said.
Konover’s proposed changes also call for three building areas instead of two, breaking up the parking areas and for more vegetation and off-site improvements.
The latest plan calls for a 16,000-square-foot pharmacy, publicly named as CVS for the first time Wednesday, to anchor the property. Another building of 2,500 to 7,000 square feet would be placed near the corner of Lawton Road and Route 44. A third building area near the rear of the property was listed as 46,000 square feet in the proposed zoning changes but Wednesday night Pearson said the company would commit to making that building no larger than 32,300 square feet.
She also addressed the contention that business uses in the parcel could change over time and perhaps generate much more traffic than the current plan.
Pearson said the company’s traffic consultant studied the issue and under a worst-case scenario determined that the parcel could generate 4,969 trips a day, which is fewer than the 5,444 estimated under the plan that is currently approved for the property. Developers also say that only a small percentage of traffic to the site will come from the north.
Several residents did speak in support of the proposal Wednesday.
Lou Daniels said he understands the neighbors' concerns but thinks, all in all, that it’s a good plan.
“I think the developers should be complimented this time around for what they’ve done,” he said.
Many residents remain unconvinced that the access is necessary or valid. Konover, however, insists CVS will not come to the property without it and says the parcel is not as easy to develop as people think. The company also says it will not generate more traffic than having an entrance on Route 44 only, but simply provide more convenience and better traffic flow.
More than 10 years ago, Konover proposed a Target for the location, which sparked heated debate in town. Since then it has given up options for some of the land and proposed smaller developments. Previous plans called for a Home Goods and a furniture store, but those proposals fells through.
Konover has existing approvals for the property but is seeking the changes. If the changes are granted, the company would still need to file a sit plan application.
The matter will be continued to May 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the community center.