WOBURN - The City Council recently accepted a request from CVS officials to continue a public hearing regarding the pharmacy chain's planned takeover of the former Walgreen's building in the South End.
During their last meeting in City Hall, the aldermen voted unanimously and without debate to table scheduled deliberations over the CVS Pharmacy proposal for the three-acre lot at 175 Main St. until their next meeting on Oct. 15.
The special permit petition from TMC New England involves the 15,028 square foot storefront by Fowle Street that has long been occupied by CVS competitor Walgreen's Pharmacy, which is not renewing its lease for the space.
As part of the turnover, CVS hopes to add a drive-through lane to the building, which is situated in a shopping plaza that's shared with Busa Wine and Liquors and an AutoZone store.
With the Planning Board wrapping up its study of the CVS plans late last month, the council also referred the plans to its Special Permits Committee. Aldermen on the subgroup met last night to discuss the proposal.
"We have the letter from the Planning Board and they've weighed in on it, but we haven't had a chance for a committee meeting," City Council President Michael Anderson told interested South End abutters at the recent City Hall gathering.
Ironically, Walgreen's is abandoning its South End location to pursue a push into CVS' turf in the heart of Woburn Center, but CVS officials might instead avoid that head-to-head showdown by moving straight into its competitor's old South End digs.
So far, the South End pharmacy plans have been met with the resistance of area abutters and Ward 2 Alderman Richard Gately, all of whom are worried about how the addition of a drive-through lane might impact traffic and already troublesome vehicular circulation patterns around the plaza's parking lot.
During an introductory public hearing on the petition in August, Gately warned TMC New England representatives that he will not support the special permit unless the petitioner addresses a host of existing problems down at the South End plaza, which contains two separate buildings.
"The building is deplorable and hasn't been maintained over the years…I have no taste for this in the area," said Gately. "There's a whole bunch of issues down there. Putting in a drive-through lane will take a way a lane and make trucks bob and weave to get out of there. And they [can't even get out of there] now anyway."
Consultants for CVS have explained that the drive-through lane will be created by demolishing a small building spur off of the existing building. By removing that 500 square foot protrusion, which is oriented by the rear of the structure, the new tenant will be able to establish a clean and uninterrupted path to the proposed drive-through window by the AutoZone-facing side of the building.
As many as five customers would be able to stack-up in line to pick-up their prescriptions.
A series of internal parking lot walkways and traffic control signs are also planned for the existing parking lot in order to improve pedestrian access to the site, which will retain all four of its access driveways.
Neighborhood abutters have criticized a proposed site circulation change that would encourage trucking traffic to utilize the Fowle Street driveway as their primary exit. Those critics have suggested that by turning that roadway into a functional one-way exit, access to an abutting commercial building and nearby on-street parking spaces will likely be compromised.
Specifically, CVS Pharmacy wants to keep the Fowle Street driveway open to two-way traffic to accommodate the Gill building parking area, but will post 'Do Not Enter' signs by the narrowest point of the access way to discourage cut-through traffic.
According to traffic projections submitted by TMC New England, the project should not cause any significant spike in area traffic, as the pharmacy is expected to draw roughly 230 new vehicle trips to the South End shopping plaza each day.
About 1,000 cars currently pass by the location on Main Street during peak hours, based upon the applicant’s analysis.