After much comment from the public over the past several months, the Zoning Commission, by a 6-1 vote, approved a plan to allow access to Lawton Road from a proposed development on the corner of Route 44.
The regulation and master plan amendment is designed to pave the way for CVS and other development for the site. The access and changing building areas from two to three were the major changes Konover Development sought to the Albany Turnpike Gateway-2 Zone that governs the property.
A site plan will come later in the process.
Commissioner Kathy Hooker said that it is sad how Lawton Road has become such a busy road. And while the development will increase traffic, the latest proposal will impact the neighborhood less than any other so far, she said.
“Approving or not approving this application isn’t going to bring the road back to what it was,” Hooker said.
Commissioner Mark Podesla said there is value to the neighborhood’s perception that the access would degrade the area.
“We should make a stand and not have that access at Lawton,” Podesla said.
Zoning chairman Jay Weintraub said it’s naive to think it would be easy for Konover to find another developer if the access was denied and CVS walked away.
“As good as the location is there are limitations,” Weintraub said.
Although it has development approvals that have not been built, the company now wants to construct three development areas –a 16,000-square-foot CVS in the front, a 2,500 to 7,000 square foot building at the corner and the newly reduced building area of 32,300 square feet at the rear.
Public comment at third installment of the hearing was limited but residents still reiterated some of the basic arguments, the most contentious being the proposed access to Lawton Road.
Barry Dickstein pointed out that the developer’s and town’s traffic engineers both said the access would not result in more traffic on Lawton than access only on Route 44.
“Both of those reports opine that there will be no worsening of traffic on Lawton Road,” Dickstein said.
He also spoke to the developer’s assertion that CVS will only come with two access points.
“The neighbors think they know better what they will and won’t do,” Dickstein said.
Dickstein said Canton needs the tax dollars from this project.
“In my view this is clearly our best hope for commercial development in the near future,” he said.
Although Dickstein said he lives nearby on Queens Peak, Lawton Road resident Jean Bouchard took exception to some of the comments.
“He doesn’t live in our neighborhood,” Bouchard said. “It is not necessary to have that outlet or access on to Lawton Road.”
She reiterated that the Shoppes only have one main access point.
“They were considerate,” she said.
Theresa Sullivan Barger urged the commission to consider the negative impacts to the neighborhood, which is a provision in the town’s Plan of Conservation and Development.
“If we erode this residential neighborhood, which one is next?” she asked.
Konover and its representatives also spoke to the project, specifically to new issues raised. For example, they cited a recent rumor that access to Lawton Road was a precursor to a road to neighboring developments to the east. While there is an easement with a business owner a few parcels away, nothing exists between the two to connect to Konover’s parcel, said Robin Messier Pearson of Shipman, Sosensky and Marks LLC of Farmington.
“It’s a non-issue,” she said.
She also reiterated the developer’s assertion that the changes are an improvement over the currently approved plan.
The currently approved plan allotted for 5,444 daily trips to the site, she said. Under a worst-case scenario, the new proposal will result in 4,969 trips a day, she said.
Konover contends that only 5 percent of the traffic would be generated from the north and that would not change whether the cars go to and from Lawton from Route 44 or directly to the street.
“I think we’ve made it quite clear that the changes with the proposal are positive for Lawton Road,” she said.
After Konover’s final presentation, the hearing was closed, much to dismay of some residents.
“I don’t see why the public is not allowed to rebut their points but they can rebut our points,” Barger said.
Zoning Commission chairman Jay Weintraub said the pubic had many opportunities to speak and someone had to have the last word or it could go on ‘ad infinitum.”
Upon further protest from the crowd, he said, “I have not recognized anyone from the public” and the commission closed the hearing.
Voting in favor were David Bondanza, Peter Clarke, Kathy Hooker, Philip Pane, Sandra Trionfini and Jay Weintraub.
Voting against was Mark Podesla.