Many questions, concerns and objections to the proposed CVS at 218 North Avenue in New Rochelle were raised at the Zoning Board of Appeals meeting on March 2. But in the end, the Board gave the only needed final approval for an area variance for an onsite loading space. Under present zoning the one space in a DB zoned district will be replaced with two tow-away parking spaces for trucks to use for deliveries to the store which will be restricted to 7 a.m. to 9 a.m.. Richard Sosis, Zoning Board member, recounted CVS's "extended" meetings with the Development Department staff for one year. However, it was also noted that CVS had not consulted with the neighborhood during that year.
Since the CVS store is replacing two retail businesses, all other zoning requirements remain the same. But should this be the criteria? The questions raised by the Zoning Board members highlight many reasons why the present zoning may not be adequate.
Apparently CVS is counting on heavy foot traffic in the area because several people, including James O'Toole who lives nearby, explained that the city's parking lot in the rear of the building is very often full. When the possibility of having the loading done at night was explored, the answer was that there is an even greater use of this lot at night.
When Susan Kettner, Chairperson of this Board, asked how CVS loads in New York City, she was answered they load from the street. However, New York City has wider streets while this North Avenue site has one traffic lane and one parking lane in front of the store. Zoning Board member, Tom Lang, asked where the "panel trucks" will park for deliveries and was told they will be limited to the same 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. delivery hours. Obviously, any trucks arriving after the designated 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. delivery hour would tie up southbound traffic if they make a delivery from the street.
Questions about the garbage truck pick-ups highlighted that these trucks would have to back out from the site because there is not enough area in the lot to turn. One suggestion made by O'Toole was to move the sidewalk to the other side of the driveway to create a wider area for loading the garbage. The CVS representative, Anthony Gioffre, answered that since this is city property CVS has nothing to say about it.
The issue that seemed to draw the most discussion was the store's hours of operation. Apparently, CVS had told the neighbors they would make it a store which was open 24 hours a day. Board Member, Eileen O'Rourke, after the initial suggestion by another Board member that the store be open for 24 hours, asked if this could be agreed to. Gioffre would not commit to these hours or any others despite a number of alternate suggestions, such as opening from 7 a.m. to midnight. The Zoning Board of Appeals finally passed the resolution with no store hours mandated.
Presently the City's zoning laws permit a new store to open "as of right" if it replaces another retail store. In this instance, the CVS, a drug and variety store, will replace two stores, Casa Del Babe (a baby furniture store), and Pineland (a sneaker store). The number of potential daily customers for a CVS would appear to be far greater than the number of customers for these two stores. It would seem equitable to review the city's laws for new retail operations and to consider passing a new law which would mandate that a new retail establishment which creates more vehicle traffic than its predecessor would need a public hearing and approval by the City Council.
Reprinted from the March 8, 2010 issue of the Westchester Herald.