Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Small Town News - Walgreens Pharmacy - Continued

Citizen Group Strategy Meeting

Our Citizens’ Group meets every now and then to direct the functioning of the group at large. Quite a lot of work goes into opposing applications to the P&Z and coordination is also required. The group has several ad hoc leaders: our member lawyer, Sean, the woman whose house we are at, and our retiree who has worked with historical preservation in Brooklyn Heights.

The Citizens’ Group held a quick strategy meeting about the Walgreens Pharmacy application at one of the member’s houses. The meeting was run by the member lawyer. He predicted that the P&Z would approve the Walgreens application (hardly a revelation) and then outlined our strategy going forward:

  1. Appeal grounds: a) Town development plan not updated since 1992 (required every 10 years) – assigned to Sean

b) Finding that special permit will not lower property taxes – assigned to woman

  1. Historic preservation angle

a) Contact the National Trust for Historical Preservation which works with pharmacies not to demolish historical buildings – assigned to retiree

b) State Environmental Protection Act now includes intervention to protect the public trust in historic structures. One of the members (Bobby) is doing this and has a pro bono lawyer. This person is automatically an appellant after approval.

c) Involve the State Attorney General (in an extreme case) – assigned to member lawyer

  1. Interfere with the Land Swap by getting 20 signatures on a petition to call a town meeting. Vote down swap. – assigned to Sean or member lawyer

A question came up at our meeting. Many of the 200 to 300 members of the citizens’ group are looking for things to do to help. How can we get the message out for them to vote down the land swap? Cross that bridge when we come to it.

P & Z Vote on Walgreens Pharmacy

A motion was made to approve the special permit at 7:10 pm, was seconded and the discussion was opened. The chair recused himself for health reasons and sat to watch while the acting Chair took the reins. Receipt of a petition to revisit the Land Swap deal at a town meeting was noted. Since the petition did not change the status of the swap, the meeting continued.

The Intervenor issues were addressed in a memo from the Zoning Enforcement Officer. (The intervenor himself, Bobby, was sitting in front of me, and I asked him if he had seen any memo and he said that he had not.) From the acting chair’s comments it was evident that she did not understand the point of the intervention and thought it was all a matter of taste rather than preserving something historic. She said, “How could we ever get anyone to agree to one design?”

Some of the public’s questions were answered but so superficially as to be insulting. Correspondence was mentioned, but many times it would be something like, “Oh and so and so wrote a letter but I don’t remember what it said.” Liability for accidents on the shared parking lot was a matter for the Selectmen and Turnpike Properties so not in the P&Z jurisdiction. The new town plan is 80% complete and only needs approval and the Greenways amendment is within 10 years so that is okay too. Many topics were just mentioned; not even answered. Oh, and by the way, 10,000 square feet is not a big box store, it has to be 60-70,000 square feet to be a big box store. The professor that came and spoke pro bono was not a resident and did not present a net impact.

The acting Chair’s tone was arrogant and dismissive. I was disgusted and left before the vote. I could see the way it was going to go.

The permit was approved unanimously with some small changes.

Our bright shiny new pharmacy!


The Land Swap meeting.


savante said...

Whoa. When did you start getting involved with new pharmacies?

Sue said...

New developments have been going on in our town for the last year or so. I am just participating as a citizen.