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24-Hour Limits Spark Walgreens Debate

Citizens complain about the impact of proposed Walgreens development.

Walgreens will not move into Springfield Avenue if the town passes legislation limiting their ability to operate 24 hours, Maplewood Mayor Vic De Luca reported at the Township Committee meeting on Tuesday. While the drugstore proposed to go into the lot across the street from the police station would not necessarily operate on a 24-hour schedule, the push back on the proposed legislation worried and angered a number of residents in the neighborhood.

Previously, the town had discussed drafting legislation that would require all town businesses not currently operating on a 24-hour schedule to be closed between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. The legislation was a response to a legal action undertaken by 7-11 against the township after the 24-hour chain was blocked from opening a store earlier this year. The contractors for the Walgreens site had previously said they were not interested in opening a 24-hour store.

“I apologize for the change,” Mayor Vic De Luca said at the meeting, explaining that the pharmacy chain said on Thursday they wouldn’t sign a lease with restrictions in place. “We went to the mat with them. It became a deal breaker.”

Residents from the neighborhood took to the microphone to complain. One resident noted that the pharmacy would have both a stock of narcotic drugs and a location close to Maplewood’s borders. Another resident worried that the trash bins planned for the Walgreens parking lot would contain medical waste. The store, residents said, would disrupt their neighborhood with deliveries, increased nighttime traffic and lighting.

“Lighting that parking lot will have a negative impact on children who live in my home,” Gus Heningburg, the owner of the property adjacent to the site, said.

De Luca said there were limited options for the property, and said there weren’t other lots in Maplewood that could accommodate the space.

“There have not been a parade of developers that want to go into the spot,” De Luca said. He also said that Walgreens has accommodated many of the town's requests for the store, and that the town would be able to shape the project's future. "This is not an out-of-the-box Walgreens."

After a protracted debate by residents and officials, the Committee voted to draft legislation stating that businesses in a redevelopment zone needed to be closed between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., with exceptions for pharmacies and certain types of medical facilities. The developers, De Luca said, would be present at a Planning Board meeting scheduled for Tuesday, July 14.

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