By John Burton
LITTLE SILVER — Residents who live in the quiet, tree-lined neighborhood bordering Little Silver and Red Bank, behind the former Rassas Buick Dealership, are very worried about the prospect of a Walgreens pharmacy for the dealership site.
“We don’t want the traffic, the lights, the noise,” Lisa Mastroianni, Salem Lane, said Saturday morning, explaining her and her neighbor’s fears for the proposed project.
Mastroianni and about 25 who live in the area gathered Saturday at the Salem Lane home of Melissa Grieves to voice their concerns, brainstorm and to get input from Mayor Robert Neff Jr. on how best respond to the plan and get their message out.
Mark Development LLC has applied to the Red Bank Planning and Zoning Department to construct a 14,200 –square-foot pharmacy, with a drive-through window, at 375 Broad St., Red Bank, which had housed the recently closed auto dealership for approximately 70 years.
Grieves said she has been contacting area residents and has started an online petition a few days ago on change.org, opposing the plan, with the petition getting about 30 signatures so far.
“The scale of it is so bad,” she said, explaining she objects to the size, scope and potential impact on the area.
Residents expressed fear about truck deliveries and traffic, as customers search out shortcuts to the pharmacy, looking to avoid the heavy congestion of The Broad Street/Highway 35 area. “Preservation of our neighborhood is a priority,” Grieves said.
Neff doesn’t know what role the Little Silver governing body can play when the Red Bank Planning Board eventually hears the application. But he did tell the gathering, “The planning board will consider what it needs to consider,” especially given, “the planning board are all members of the community as you are and have the same concern.”
But “There is strength in numbers,” he added, advising them to make their voices heard, recommending writing letters to local publications, and showing up for the board hearing.
The Walgreens, currently operating at 531 Prospect Ave., had previously applied to the Little Silver Planning Board to expand its operation with a 24-hour drive-through window. The board had reservations about that plan and asked for modifications but the pharmacy hasn’t resubmitted anything at this point, Neff said.
No date has yet been given for a public hearing on the Red Bank application.