Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Small Town News - Walgreens Wrap Up

Previously on Small Town News

Land Swap Petition


In 2004, our town voted to give the selectmen the power to swap the parcel of land owned by the town for the parcel that was adjacent to the town hall. This was accomplished in conjunction with the then owners of that parcel. So, looking at the town map, the town owns the piece that the Walgreens would be built on, and would then swap it for the piece that would become the parking for Walgreens. Walgreens would then have an easement on the property. In addition, the town would receive $100,000.

Possible Contentions

Pro Land Swap:

  1. It has already been approved.
  2. The value of the completed parking lot is $484,000 compared to the current property value of $280,000. Most of the parking can be used as municipal parking.
  3. Assures the town gets a pharmacy.
  4. Town hall will not be harmed.
  5. The town gets $100,000.

Anti Land Swap:

  1. Why is the rewording of the land swap contract not available to the public prior to the vote?
  2. Is it true that Turnpike Properties has threatened to sue the town if the land swap is voted down?
  3. Has the town ever dealt with Walgreens directly or come to know their requirements?
  4. Walgreens would have to maintain the parking lot for their operation anyhow, so it is not an outright financial benefit for the town. Also, the number of parking spaces is required for their business, and cannot be deemed municipal parking.
  5. The land swap is a major subsidy for this business to come into town.
  6. The town wants more control over the land swap.

Land Swap Town Meeting

A town meeting was called by the selectmen to discuss the land swap. It was run by Joe, our first selectman, and he was assisted by our town lawyer. About 90 citizens attended. They reviewed the basics of the swap (see bullet points above) and explained that no contract was available because it took so long to get feedback from the concerned parties and they didn’t want opinions on drafts circulating (read: gossip). The town lawyer said that she did not think that Turnpike Properties would sue the town.

The meeting quickly devolved into a “what is wrong with our town” discussion.

One of the citizens’ group’s members stood and said that her Elm Street house’s value had dropped by 20% just since the approval of the Cumberland Farms and Walgreens Pharmacy projects. Joe looked her in the eye sympathetically, and said, “Tell me what you want me to do.”

She replied, “I want you to promise me that you will accept a more historically sensitive design from a team of objective architects.” (In other words, not these trouble maker ones we have in town.)

Joe looked tired and beaten, but he agreed in public to go along.

He fell right into our plan. But, the vote was scheduled in just two weeks time. We had to work quickly to make it all happen.

Walgreens Redesign

As part of three meetings, a small group of three out of town architects, working pro bono and led by the citizens’ group retiree, came up with the following suggestions and a drawing based on another pharmacy in our state:

  1. The Corner/Entry Element could be inspired by the Southbury Model, and, especially, the corner element at the Elementary School.
  2. Incorporating some brick helps to gravitate away from a residential appearance. We recommend the Entry Elements + Arcades be brick. (The brick should be standard size, preferably molded and a color different from the Town Hall.) The main body of the building could be painted brick (like the back of Liberty Bank) or Handiplank.
  3. The Entry Element should be an open pavilion for its full height. (Its position should be as shown on the plan, NOT at 45 deg angle as the Southbury Model)
  4. A simple but significant cornice might be used to finish the top of the wall.
  5. We recommend that brick paving (to match the brick at Adam’s Shopping Center sitting area) extend under the Arcade and out to meet the sidewalk.
  6. Lowering the slope of the roofed element over the Arcade to 3 or 4:12 and lowering the bottom of the eave to 10’ will aid the proportions and scale.
  7. We suggest a bulletin board in a niche centered on the southernmost arcade termination Pavilion.
  8. Recommend deleting the sloped roof on the canopy at the Drive Through. We assume that the canopy cantilever will be reduced with only (1) drive through.
  9. On the North Façade, locate the terminating Pavilion centered on the doors. Delete the Arcade beyond the Pavilion.
  10. The color scheme should contrast with that of the Adams complex.
  11. We suggest that signage be mounted on wood panels.
Southbury Model

Old design (top) / New design (bottom), click to enlarge

This redesign was forwarded to the Turnpike properties architect and Joe prior to the land swap vote. Word was that Turnpike Properties indicated that the plan was doable and they would present the changes to the Planning & Zoning in the fall.

The Land Swap Vote

It rained the day of the land swap vote. I decided to vote against the swap because I am just so tired of all of the bullshit in our town. The planned ugly new development, unsafe new gas stations, our stupid P&Z, our first selectman who jerks us around and after 17 years just needs to go. I have just had enough. Plus, I think the town would do much better to just sell the land and take the cash. So, I voted against the swap. The remainder of our citizens’ group was to take the stance that since Turnpike Properties had accepted our design; we were going to vote for the swap. “A win-win for the town.” Yippee!

Sadly, I was in the minority. Of the 700 or so people voting, it was about 3 to 1 in favor of the swap. The elderly turned out in droves to support getting a pharmacy in town. So, I guess we are getting a new pharmacy. It remains to be seen what it will look like. Will it be brick and look like the redesign? Or will it look like the crappy Adams across the street?

The Press

Meanwhile, our citizens’ group has suffered in the press, especially in editorials. To wit:

Concern Growing in Town

To the Editor:

Sean Fairview and the citizens’ group is leading the townspeople down a long slippery slope. The petition to hold another vote on the approved land swap filed by this small group of 20 people indicates that they believe their vision of our town is preferable to those of us who voted and passed the land swap by a margin of 2-1 over a year and a half ago…

It then continues in that venomous attacking tone about how we are spending their tax dollars, causing Turnpike Properties to sue, and all that jazz. Moreover, the attack is personal. By the way, it was written by the husband of the P&Z zoning enforcement officer. We do live in a small town. After that editorial came out, a response was written reiterating how the group’s goals are the same as the town’s, signed by myself and others, and Sean was retired from the forefront for a while so others from our group could take the heat.


Ryan said...

is walgreens coming 2 town a good thing or bad? just wondering what u thought?

Sue said...

The town has not had a pharmacy since the old one closed a few years back. So, we do need one. We do not however, need a huge, ugly big box store that carries everything but the kitchen sink and will put other local shops out of business, such as the hardware store, gift shops, card shops, etc. So it is both good and bad. I am hoping that at least it will not be too ugly. Thanks for commenting Ryan! :)

em said...

well, i'll tell ya, that southview model is a palace compared with the eyesore that cvs plopped into the town next to us! i hope you at least get something pretty!

Sue said...

Yup, you get what your town will bargain for em!

Anonymous said...

tried to follow the sequence of redesign events in the chronology you provide, not totally sure i understand the alternatives properly but assume the photo illustrates the first proposed design, then proceeding to the hardline/drafted drawing put forth as a second alternative and lastly, after all the imput from the community members to the 'loose' freehand drawing?
of course these alternatives cannot be properly evaluated in a vacuum, one would need to see the full context, including photos of buildings all around, a site plan etc. looking at the three alternatives, admittedly in an unsatisfying vacuum still produces some reaction, and for what it's worth these are some thoughts: the first (the photo) appears 'generic' (an 'anywhere' strip bldg.) enough. this is true. however it still appears superior to the two other alternatives. it's corner pavillion does evoke traditional 'market' imagery, with its brick arcading and cupola surmounted hipped roof. the second alternative (the hardline drawing) appears fussy beyond words as well as falsely and inappropriately 'residential' in its moves, materials, ornamentation. the last (the 'loose' drawing) appears the least appealing. ironically, it -- more than the original (photo) projects an aura of 'chilling anonymity', this combined with questionable proportions and dissatisfying proportion of openings. in the final analysis, however, the most important thing about this proposed building is not really its 'cosmetic' appearance (important as that indeed is!) but its disposition toward urban (village center) space. that is to say how it relates to pedestrian space surrounding and how it accommodates the automobile. if set back and surrounded by 'parking areas' or lots any effort at 'decorative' or contextualizing moves would seem somewhat ridiculous rather like launching into a delicate aria smack in the middle of a busy highway interchange. the most important thing of communitarian interest that can be insisted on here (one assumes) is a pedestrian oriented siting. that would mean that all parking would be screened from public rights of way, and that the building be disposed in a manner consonant with traditional urban/village center development patterns. that would generally put the structure right on the street, withou any meaningless 'suburban house' setback, where it would welcome and engage the pedestrian, as well as the automobile, and this not just through the deployment of ameliorating decorative moves but though inherent typological character. achieving this then one might move to informed criticism of the refinements of expression and materials. good luck with your process. your real concern for your community is a great thing.

Sue said...

I'm sorry, you've misunderstood. The photo is the model we have proposed for the redesign. That is what we want. The upper drawing is what is currently approved by our local P&Z, and the hand drawn bottom one is our redesign. If you go back to this post (The Application to the P&Z) will all become clear:


We have just heard that the company has presented a new design based on what we want to the P&Z. So, we may yet get what we want!!! Thanks for your comment, Anon.

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