20 Aug 2014
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CVS Denied Variances to Build Store in Somers

The proposal had garnered considerable public backlash from residents concerned about traffic problems at the corner of routes 190 and 83.

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A proposal to bring a CVS to a busy Somers intersection was defeated Tuesday.

The Somers Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to reject a series of property variances requested by G.B. New England 2, LLC, the applicant behind a potential CVS pharmacy at the corner of routes 190 and 83.

The move effectively denies the applicant an opportunity to seek a land use permit for the proposal it brought forward in December.

The decision garnered applause and cheers from several gathered in the Town Hall Auditorium, which, at one point, was packed with as many as 250 Somers residents in what turned out to be a standing-room-only two-hour meeting.

The vast majority of them were vehemently opposed to CVS with roughly two-dozen people coming up to the podium to speak out in opposition during the one-hour public comment portion of the meeting. Many were against a corporate entity coming to town, however most were concerned that the location would cause considerable traffic problems at an intersection that already sees back-ups and delays during certain hours of the day.

Attorney Dory Famiglietti, the lawyer representing CVS in this case, said following the ZBA meeting it was a “tough presentation” and that there were some positives with the plan. However she acknowledged the ZBA had the final decision.

When asked whether what CVS would do next given the ZBA denials she told Ellington-Somers Patch she still has to speak to her clients about it.

ZBA Chairman Robert Minch said it is conceivable CVS could return with another application in the future, one that conforms greater with Somers’ zoning regulations, but that remains to be scene.

The Issue of Variances

The proposal, and the reason the variances were requested, was as follows:

CVS wanted to construct a 13,225 square-foot store, complete with 67 parking spaces and two access points, one on Route 83 and the other on Route 190.

The plan was to demolish a gold-colored home located at the immediate corner of the intersection as well as a plaza that currently contains a series of businesses.

But before any of this could even be brought forward to Somers planning and zoning commissions, CVS had to obtain a series of seven variances as the design of its proposed store didn’t meet a number of Somers’ zoning regulations, explained Town Attorney Carl Landolina.

The variances, listed here, had to do with issues such as parking, distance between the property and the road and corner lot requirements. It was up to the ZBA to decide whether Somers’ zoning regulations presented a “hardship” for CVS.

The Hardship Presentation and the Public Reaction

Famiglietti argued the hardship had to do with the relationship this particular parcel had within this particular section of Somers.

“We have a lot that is being treated more restricted than most lots in town,” she said. “The location of the property can be deemed a hardship: it is surrounded on two sides by roads and on the other side by developed property. No land that can be added for additional variances.”

Famiglietti also noted that the current structures at the proposed location are already nonconforming with Somers zoning laws, although she later acknowledged that they were likely there well before Somers even had these laws on the books.

Still, the attorney said “this site will be significantly more conforming with the intent of the regulations than the existing nonconformities on the site.”

The public remained mostly civil during CVS’ presentation, although there was some heckling and outbursts at times. Most of the time the crowd, however, just reacted with applause and cheers each time a member of the community came to the podium to speak in opposition.

Apart from the ordinary citizen, a few of the speakers included a former zoning enforcement officer and David Reed, the chairman of the Somers Economic Development Commission.

“In relation to the public interest the Somers EDC supports our town’s existing business, specifically the Somers Pharmacy,” Reed said. “We would support and would be pleased to work with any business that comes to Somers with a proposal that is in conformance with and meets the town’s expectations as it exists in our town’s existing zoning regulations.”

Another speaker, resident Ralph Williams, argued that CVS was largely creating its own parking hardship by the size of their own building.

"It would strike me they are going to add to the traffic there (at the intersection) without doing anything at all to ameliorate the condition,” Williams said.

First Selectman Lisa Pellegrini, who attended the meeting, said she was proud of how the ZBA conducted itself and with how the public reacted, saying everyone was “professional” and that the meeting didn’t get out of hand.

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