At the end of its third meeting on the matter, and after several concessions by the developer and a protracted debate among township officials about the viability of 24-hour businesses in Maplewood, the developer’s application for a new Walgreens store on Springfield Avenue was unanimously passed by the Planning Board on Tuesday. The redevelopment plan still needs to be approved by the Township Committee, and, contingent on that approval, construction could begin as early as September.
The meeting opened with Peter Steck, a certified planner for the developers, who outlined the “deviations and variances” the developers were requesting for the property. Chief among the requests was permission to install a sign exceeding the size limits set out in zoning regulations.
Steck argued that “part of the strength of a national retailer” is its “recognizable sign package.” He emphasized that the redevelopment plan for Springfield Avenue called for a national retailer such as Walgreens, and that the pharmacy was asking to move into an irregular site without a request for tax abatement.
Residents expressed concern over the construction for the development, as well as signage and light issues. Beth Macdonald of the Springfield Avenue Alliance said the Alliance was prepared to sign off on the plan.
“They’ve been sensitive to neighborhood needs,” Macdonald said in an interview before the meeting. “They’ve really made a number of concessions.”
The deliberation over the plan was quick, with Planning Board members noting the need for a commercial development in the space, and saying the developers have convinced them of the worthiness of the project despite reservations about having a 24-hour retail store there.
The Township Committee will consider the redevelopment agreement at their next meeting in September.
“After that, we can all get our drugs,” Maplewood Mayor Vic De Luca joked after the meeting.