Danedri Thompson
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There may be a new pharmacy in town soon.
The Gardner Planning Commission is recommending that city council members approve the rezoning and final plat and development of 1.5 acres on the northwest corner of Main and Center streets intersection for a proposed CVS Pharmacy.
The proposal would require eliminating a vacant business at 102 W. Main, two, four-plex apartment buildings, and three, single family homes – one at 113 W. Shawnee Street, and two homes on north Center Street.
Several citizens spoke against rezoning and approving platting and development plans to make way for a CVS Pharmacy.
Kipp Willnauer, Gardner, lives on the south side of Main Street, across from the proposed project.
“CVS wants to be in my front yard,” Willnauer said. “I’m all for progress, but not in my front yard.”
Willnauer recently gave up some of his yard’s frontage so the Main and Center streets intersection could be expanded and improved. The CVS project, street entrances on Main and Shawnee streets, will create traffic congestion again, a problem Willnauer said was recently relieved when the intersection was expanded.
“That’s something we spent a lot of time and money on,” he said. “So did the state, by the way.”
Cassie Coles’ residence would be demolished to make way for the store.
“I hope the fact that I live there doesn’t sway why I’m standing here,” she told planning commissioners. “…My concerns are broader than my own family’s relocation.”
However, she said she did want to emphasize that a number of people will be displaced by the proposal. Several are more than 80 years old.
“One of those residents is currently on disability and survived cancer twice in the last five years. One of those residents is someone who has worked and lived here since 1990,” she said. “I wonder what it says about our city if we relocate those people who don’t know what they’ll do.”
The city would not be displacing those residents. It would be their landlords, who have agreed to sell to the pharmacy.
Coles said the project deviates from the city’s comprehensive plan.
“There are lots of places within the comp plan where little exceptions are made here and there,” she said. “I would use caution. It’s too early in the game to begin making exceptions.”
For example, Coles suggested that the comprehensive plan recommends that the city adopt a streetscape plan for downtown. That hasn’t been completed yet. The CVS proposal may be “a piecemeal strategy that may or may not work to reinvent some of our economy.
“…The staff report says there will not be adverse affects, but there will be adverse affects to people,” Coles said. “Do that necessary, robust planning so retrofitting isn’t necessary, so we don’t have to do it down the road.”
Commissioners agreed to recommend approval of the project, but there were concerns.
“It’s burning on me. Why did they pick this corner?” Karin Livella, planning commissioner, asked. “Why not far south on Center Street? There’s a lot of space.”
She voted to recommend approval. Commissioner Sheri Barber was the sole commission member to vote against approving the project.
Commissioners also discussed how a pharmacy on that corner would affect traffic.
Mehrdad Givechi, a traffic engineer representing the project developer, said site itself will only generate about 120 vehicles total throughout the day, and that’s the worst case scenario.
His numbers suggest that there will be approximately 26 cars during a peak traffic hour entering or exiting the property from Shawnee Street and another 34 cars entering or exiting the property on Main Street during a peak traffic hour. Givechi anticipates traffic would peak between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on a weekday.
“On Main Street, 22 cars would approach from the east,” he said. “That’s about 2 percent of the total traffic. Typically, when you get to 10 percent, that’s when you start thinking about turn lanes.”
Planning Commissioner Heath Freeman said the added traffic downtown is a positive.
“It expands the footprint of downtown,” Freeman said. “Those are 33 cars an hour that will be downtown. We have empty businesses downtown.”
When Bruce Funeral Home expanded its footprint, Freeman said residents voiced similar concerns about how the traffic would impact that part of town.
“That was a tough decision, but once it happened, it was OK,” he said. “Overall, the consensus seems to be pretty good. I think the CVS is an exciting development.”
Commissioners will recommend that the property be approved without adding a right-hand turn lane on Main Street, pending approval from the Kansas Department of Transportation.
City council will consider rezoning and preliminary and final development plans at a future council meeting.