Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
Residents voiced their feelings and concerns about the design plans for a new CVS Pharmacy being built on the Northwest corner of Main and Center Streets at last Tuesday, at the July 26 planning commission meeting.
Cassidy Coles, a Shawnee street resident, said she was worried about the displacement of the current residents on her street.
“I believe it’s the first development proposed in Gardner that moves residents,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve ever bulldozed anything before. There are older residents who live in an eight-plex who have loved and worked in Gardner their whole lives,” she said.
“Anxiety is weighing heavy on them, so please keep those folks in mind,” she said. “Eleven residences are there that have real people living there.”
Coles said she has enjoyed raising her family on Shawnee Street and that she didn’t think it was fair that families and older people had to be displaced.
“There is no other place all the residents have to removed because of one eyesore,” she said. “Please consider each person that has a scary image of a bulldozer coming towards their house.”
Resident Holly Hale also voiced her concerns. She said her house is directly next door to the planned CVS Pharmacy.
“Originally there was no entrance or exit off of Shawnee,” It concerns me greatly that this was changed, and the exit and entrance will be right next to my home of five years. The driveway will be right next to my house,” she said.
Hale said that primarily families resided in the surrounding homes, and she had concerns there will be more noise and traffic, especially when the school year starts.
“I don’t see the necessity, and I’m sure I’m not the only one,” she said. “Lots of people there are busy with their kids. I like how we were told ‘Oh no we’re not doing that but now we are!’”
“We don’t have any power or say so in this, and it’s frustrating,” Hale said.
The current land use at this time is a vacant gas station, two residential four-plexes, and three single-family residences.
Matt Fogarty, project manager with Premiere Civil Engineering for Velmier Companies, addressed the commissioners with similar concerns as the residents on Shawnee street.
“We have lost substantial frontage,” he said. “We gave up 40 feet on Center and 50 feet off Main.”
Fogarty said they have continually readjusted, but this changes the entire lot and effects properties further to the west.
“This has been a big hurdle overall, because it affects multiple people not just us,” he said. “We’ve had items in rightaway and setback issues, the layout tweaked and pushed west by 3 feet while trying to maintain substantial greenery to buffer the southwest corner.”
Chadwick Bahr, Planner 1 for Gardner, in his presentation said the final revised plan was made in April, which eliminates five properties.
Bahr said the final plat will be recorded for the property before a building permit would be given; along with meeting all the standards and permits with KDOT.
Final design plans include discussion over the color palette, design standards with blank building areas on the north, south and west sides to eliminate the presence of those white blank areas, high and ground level windows, concrete masonry units, transparency rates on the north, east and west facades, change of materials not at interior corners, a sanitary sewer design by KDHE, eliminating electronic signing on the east side, a final stormwater management plan and a 15 feet parking setback on Main and Center streets.
Gary Carson, a nearby resident to Shawnee street, asked if any traffic studies had been done on the kids playing in the neighborhood.
“Shawnee Street is the outlet for kids,” he said. “They all walk in the street because there’s no sidewalks.”
He asked the commissioners to go down to the northeast corner at 5:30 p.m.. “The cars don’t stop,” he said. “Wait for traffic to build up. I think it’s a terrible plan. There’s a lot of kids in that neighborhood, and you’re going to put them in more danger.”
Larry Powell, Gardner business and economic development director, said he had been approached by a concerned citizen earlier, but they were no longer in attendance. Speaking for them, Powell said they were concerned about the types of materials the store would be built out of, and thinks it should be original brick and mortar to fit with the historic nature of downtown Gardner. They were also concerned that the new plan was scrunched up, and KDOT’s traffic study with the left turn into entrance.
During the commission discussion after the public hearing was closed, Heath Freeman, planning commissioner, inquired about signage and a speed bump to deter traffic exiting.
Bahr, said a proposed median strip for traffic calming was in the design, and a sign would be placed alerting people that  West Shawnee is not a through street.
“The main difference is the store has been moved over a little to the west, so things are a little tighter,” he said.
Freeman said these things are not taken lightly. “We’ve looked at traffic from a street perspective and the site itself,” he said. “We’ve talked about the exit to the north side each time and the building essentials of facades. We will continue with plan already approved.”
Powell asked if the traffic study of West Shawnee looked at pedestrian traffic from sidewalk to building accessible entry.
Fogarty, project manager with Premier Civil Engineering, said when they initially came to Gardner the plan was to never put an entrance on Shawnee Street, and that this was decided by KDOT.
“The standpoint of traffic and pedestrians were not accounted for because the intention was to never use Shawnee,” he said. “Things were compromised such as the drive through on the west side is now on the east side, and the six foot fence is now a masonry wall of three feet.”
Fogarty said that CVS had set the bar pretty high with this site, and it has evolved over the past year. “I stood there and said `no, no entrance on Shawnee Street.` Staff decided in a meeting to use Shawnee,” he said. “There was no intent to hurt anyone or the kids. I have three kids. I’d have the same concerns.”
But Fogarty said it is a small building compared to most CVS Pharmacies, and that peak traffic is very mild compared to other cities.
Freeman said there are concerns for residents and their displacement who reside in the properties owned by the individual who sold those properties.
Residents had more questions during the commission discussion and were allowed to again address commissioners.
Coles said they needed to look at the big picture of the CVS plan.
“It continually has deviations far from the comprehensive plan,” she said. “This is a special corner because it is across from the funeral home, and it should maintain the downtown corridor building look and have the character of Gardner. As a community that’s what we came to expect.”
Hale had concerns about the proposed median on Shawnee and asked if it was a concrete barrier or exit stip.
Bahr said it was raised concrete.
“That looks like it’s blocking my driveway to turn left,” Hale said. “People that live there can’t turn right.”
Commissioners looked at the drawing and told Hale it is at the edge of the property line and won’t block driveway exits.
Hale, also asked about the greenspace between the property lines and parking lot. Fogarty said because the plan had shifted three feet to the west that three feet of greenspace had been lost.
Residents were also concerned about Shawnee street not being very wide and that the median would block street parking.
Powell said they could adjust the size width and length of the median with city public works.
“People need to get in and out of driveways, “ he said. “The purpose is to get people to turn into the neighborhood but not impede residents.”
Adrianna Meder, chairman, said it was an emotional issue.
“I would feel the same if this was going into my backyard,” she said. “But CVS came to us a long time ago with revision after revision and hung in there determined to work in the space.”
The plan was approved with one dissent from Tim Brady, commissioner.
The 9,516 square feet retail commercial pharmacy building with some stipulations will be built at the Northwest Corner of West Main and North Center Streets. All plans can be found on the City of Gardner website.