By John Burton
RED BANK – Area residents, concerned about a proposed Walgreens pharmacy in their neighborhood, are compiling information and searching for ways to mitigate the possible impact.
This week, Red Bank and Little Silver residents were gearing up for the Monday, Sept. 16, Red Bank Planning Board meeting, the first time the application will be formally discussed.
During the Monday, Sept. 9, Little Silver Borough Council workshop session, some residents asked Mayor Robert Neff Jr. and the council to consider making Rumson Place a dead end. They said that closing off its access to Broad Street/Highway 35, would be a means of curtailing an influx of traffic they fear will make its way through their neighborhood from the pharmacy.
The following night, Marc Steinberg, a principal with Mark Development, Inc., the development firm looking to construct the 14, 200-square-foot pharmacy at the former Rassas Buick site, hosted an open house at the former dealership. Steinberg presented computer renderings and site plans and had the architect and others working on the project on hand to answer questions.
Mark Development will appear before the Red Bank Planning Board on Sept. 16, seeking approval to construct the pharmacy with a drive-thru window at 375 Broad St., which is located on the Red Bank-Little Silver border.
Since the proposal first became known, homeowners in the exclusively residential neighborhood behind the Broad Street site have been expressing concern and objections to the plan. They contend that a busy retail operation at that spot – an already busy, congested intersection with a railroad crossing – would cause drivers to make their way through their quiet neighborhood, looking for an alternative route in and out of the pharmacy. They have argued the store would have a negative impact on their quality of life and, possibly, on their property values.
Residents suggested to the Little Silver council that it could turn Rumson Place into a dead end, closing off the ingress and egress to Broad Street.
Located just south of the Broad Street property, Rumson Place runs east-west and is a residential road.
Rumson Place resident Mark Csernica told the council he and some of his neighbors conducted a survey of about 130 homes in the area “with most of them,” about two out of every three, supporting the idea.
“From the neighborhood point of view, we see the dead end as a simple solution,” Csernica told the council. Constructing the dead end could be easily accomplished by installing movable barriers and some signage, he said.
Neff said borough professionals would have to evaluate the proposal before it comes before the council for consideration.
Residents stressed they would like to see this whether the Walgreens becomes a reality or not, as the location, zoned commercially, will eventually be developed.
About two-dozen people attended the open house Tuesday. It was intended as a good-faith effort to explain what is being planned, Steinberg and property owner Aaron Rassas said.
“I think it’s great that people came out,” Rassas said. “Hopefully, their decision will be based on fact.”
Many in attendance continued to express their objections. Rumson Place resident Christine Gavin looked at the rendering sitting on an easel and just shook her head. “It’s big. It looks really, really massive,” she said.
“I can’t believe they’re going to put up another drugstore,” said Josephine Menna of Garfield Place, especially with another, non-chain pharmacy already approved by the Red Bank Planning Board for a storefront on Broad Street.
“Where are all those cars going to go?” she asked and then answered her own question by saying they’ll travel through her neighborhood.
“We have a quiet neighborhood,” said Barbara Crowton, another Garfield Place resident. “What I want to know is what about deliveries? Where are those trucks going to go?”
Not all were opposed to the plan, however.
“I like the project,” said Bill Muller of Pinckney Road, acknowledging he’s not on top of the location and understands the worries.
“They have to take into account the neighbors,” he said.
“We’re 100 percent in favor,” said Tower Hill Drive resident Charlotte Leigh. “It’s an ugly, ugly spot right now … Red Bank deserves a big, nice store – and God bless Walgreens for spending this kind of money here.”
Later, Steinberg said, “We’re getting a lot of positive responses to the building,” stressing that he’s looking to “build a quality project.
“Most of the negatives are about the traffic and not our use,” he said, pointing out that he can’t fix the issues already associated with the busy intersection.