By John Burton
RED BANK – Over the continuing objections of a number of area residents, the borough Planning Board Wednesday night approved the amended plan to build a Walgreens pharmacy with a drive-thru window at the site of the former Rassas auto dealership.
The board, in a 6-2 vote, approved a plan that calls for the pharmacy structure at 375 Broad St. to be pared down by about 1,000 square feet from the initially proposed 14,200 square feet ; that increases the setback for the Garfield Place property line; and provided additional landscaping to the property.
That is on top of already agreed upon stipulations that arose from concerns from area homeowners, including slightly rolling back business hours, limiting the hours the pharmacy could get truck deliveries, with none before 8 a.m. or later than 6 p.m.; and tightening up on what ingress and egress would be allowed from the location onto the adjacent residential streets.
Faced with the prospect of the board denying the application as the board seemed to be headed during its January meeting, the developer, Mark Development, Inc., hurriedly requested a month’s adjournment to reconfigure the plan in an attempt to appease both the board and neighbors who have been voicing fears about the size and scope of the project and what it would mean for their neighborhood.
There were still many neighbors at Wednesday’s meeting who were not won over by the changes.
For George Ward, who lives on Silverwhite Avenue, located behind the property, the modified plans “are still just token changes.
“It still doesn’t address the concerns we have,” he said.
But not all were opposed to having the Walgreens established where there had been an auto dealership for 83 years. Probably the biggest turnaround was Melissa Grieves, who lives on Little Silver’s Salem Lane, also behind the site, and had originated the opposition to the project last summer. She now embraces it, believing it is likely to be the best of bad options for the site. “I can’t image a deal this good coming again,” she said.
Board vice-chair Daniel Mancuso struck a similar cord believing “it could be much, much worse,“ given the range of businesses that would be permitted under zoning ordinances.
Afterwards, Marc Steinberg, a principal with Mark Development, said, out of the numerous Walgreens projects all along the east coast he’s worked with, “I can’t think of any other community I put this much effort into” to gain approval. “I will not let the community down,” he said, insisting the site will be an asset.
The construction should begin this summer, will likely take eight to nine months and cost about $7 million-$8 million, Steinberg said.