Mr. and Mrs. McNamara Credits: Jennifer Murphy
View of the site from Washington Avenue Credits: Jennifer Murphy
View of site from Auche Drive, house to left will be leveled Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Signs on Auche Drive Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Group Swearing-in, residents who spoke Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Kenneth Mihalik, Mrs. Durina (foreground), Deborah Nicholson, attorney, several principals of Eden Franklin, LLC Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Group swearing-in Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Board Attorney Dave Brady and Acting Chairman Liz Bonis Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Zoning Board members Joseph Martinez, Rich Gardell, John Kopcso, and Board Attorney Dave Brady Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Ken Nelson, Board Planner, with zoning map of Franklin, areas in red are zoned Highway Commercial (HC) Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Artists rendering of proposed Walgreen's Credits: Jennifer Murphy
John McDermott, attorney for Mr. and Mrs. Durina Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Zoning board members Kevin Lermond and Mark Correal Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Architect Kenneth Mihalik explaining details of proposed building Credits: Jennifer Murphy
Walgreens Application Heard By Franklin Zoning Board
Saturday, February 9, 2013 • 4:59pm
FRANKLIN, NJ – On Wednesday, Feb. 6, the Franklin Borough Zoning Board considered the application from Eden Franklin LLC, to build a 24 hour, Drive-thru Walgreens on the west side of Route 23, directly across from Dunkin' Donuts and McDonald’s.
Three members of the Zoning Board stepped down from the application, Chairman Richard Kell, Vice-Chairman Louise Murphy, and Ethel Alexander, as Kell and Murphy are also School Board members and Alexander is a long time school employee. The school property is within the notification area. Liz Bonis will be the Acting Chairman, and Planning Board Member Kevin Lermond will sit on the application.
Ken Nelson, Planning Consultant to the board spoke first, “The Planning Board and Borough Council are aware that any development on the western side could impact residential areas. Zoning ordinance has buffer requirements to lessen the impact, but it’s unavoidable in some instances where residential properties and commercial properties are in close proximity. It is clear that this property is slated to be developed, with the appropriate buffers and other safeguards. The question is not whether this area is suitable for development, it is. The question is how the impact can be minimized.”
Nelson then explained that an important concept in the Master Plan is to develop “connectivity,” or to connect properties along Route 23 to eliminate some of the cars on that road.
He said, “If there is a connection between the site and Auche Drive, then the area of influence becomes much bigger.”
This issue of connectivity was of great concern to the residents. At least a dozen people testified about living in the neighborhood before Auche Drive and Washington Avenue were closed to Route 23.
“I’m completely against it,” said Steve Simm. “When I first moved in [to Auche Drive] there were cars whizzing by. I built a wall and put trees in.”
“The neighborhood is made up of young families with many children out on their scooters and bikes, plus seniors who walk their dogs. I am vehemently opposed to opening up Auche Drive,” said Dawn Fantasia Cauneely.
Zoning Board Vice-President Louis Murphy approached the microphone to speak, but was advised by Board Attorney Dave Brady that her testimony could affect the integrity of the board's decision, if she speaks. Murphy sat back down.After a number of residents testified, Brady realized he had stopped swearing people in. He issued the oath for all those who had already spoken. Subsequent speakers were issued the oath as usual.
This repeated testimony from residents spurred Bonis to emphasize, “We are not considering opening a road, but a driveway to a road.”
Deborah Nicholson, attorney for the applicant, noted that her client is not the one asking for connectivity, it is the board.
With input from board attorney Dave Brady, the board then moved to carve out the connectivity issue and vote on it separately. By a unanimous vote, the board approved a motion that there will be no driveway connection to the neighborhood behind it. This decision met with applause from the public.
Other issues that concern the residents include an increased presence of strangers, both walking and driving behind the building, so close to the school, increased opportunity for abductions, whether employees will be “hanging out” behind the store smoking, in full view of the school, emissions and noise from idling trucks, noise, and the size of the lot.
One Taylor Road resident, Floyd Estes, spoke in favor of the application, saying, “From a parent’s perspective, a grandparent’s perspective, and a police perspective, I think it’s great.”
Nicholson, responding to a request from the board made at the previous meeting, said that Maplewood Mayor Victor DeLuca was willing to speak to the board about the positive benefits a Walgreens had in a residential neighborhood there. Brady indicated that any input he made would have to be in person, any other would be hearsay.
Kenneth Mihalik, architect, then presented an artist’s rendering, although not to scale, of the proposed store. Residents questioned him extensively about the visual impact, the noise level of the rooftop equipment, the lighting, the signs and fencing.
Mihalik testified that the lights aim toward the ground, and there should be no glare past the property line.The drive-thru window is in the back of the building, but is face to face, with no sound system. There will be HVAC equipment on the roof, which will not be visible from the ground, but could be from the elevated property behind it. There will be a six foot fence at the edge of the property with landscaping, which when matured could be as high as 12’ to provide a visual screen.There will be two trash compactors in the rear, completely enclosed in brick, with a roof, to look like part of the building. Nicholson indicated that two toned brick could be included as a condition of the resolution, since the plain colored brick walls are discouraged by ordinance.
Board members Rich Gardell and Bonis questioned the signs, which exceed the ordinance in both square footage and number of signs. In addition to a lighted sign, there is an LED lighted sign to provide additional advertising. On the diagram, it read “Flu Shots Available.” Brady questioned how often it changes.
Gardell was concerned about the LED sign so close to the traffic light and said, “I would like to see the signs meet the ordinance. I think we have a generous ordinance.”
Former mayor Dick Durina and his wife were represented by attorney John McDermott. McDermott questioned the architect extensively about the size of the store, the lighting and the signs.
Franklin resident Dan Dougherty, who owns a second house on Auche Drive asked, “Why are you presenting evidence that is not to scale? These are pretty small drawings on a very large board.”
Dougherty maintains that the site is too small for the proposed building. His wife, Lisa told The Alternative Press, “I have a sheet here with sixteen requests for waivers.”
She continued, “I think the development is great, but where it belongs, outside of a residential area.”
Nicholson requested that this application be carried over to the next meeting with no further notice.
The house to be leveled is owned by Ann Elekes, who was not present at the meeting. The Alternative Press spoke with her, she said, “I think it’s great, it will be good for the community. We don’t have any new buildings going up on Route 23, and the 24 hour pharmacy will be a great benefit.”
Elekes indicated that she is being offered a fair price for her home, and that she is not averse to selling it.
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