By DAN TOMASELLO
PEABODY — Tensions ran high Thursday, June 4, as officials representing CVS Pharmacy’s proposal to construct a new facility to replace the corporate offices of Bridgewell at 471 and 495 Broadway got an earful from abutters at an informational meeting held at the Holiday Inn.
The neighborhood meeting held by CVS and Bridgewell was their second meeting about the proposed project. They previously held a similar meeting in February after CVS purchased the property.
Attorney Brian McGrail; Tighe and Bond Traffic Engineer Jason Plourde; CVS’ Director of Real Estate Debbie Constantine; RJ O’Connell Vice President/Civil Engineer Brian Dundone; and local attorney Jay Kimball made CVS’ case to the 50 residents in attendance. Additionally, all three members of the Board of Selectmen attended the meeting as private citizens (see separate story).
The majority of residents who attended the meeting blasted CVS’ proposal. Many residents voiced their opposition to the project because of traffic concerns, decreased property values, the proposed drive-thru and the pharmacy’s “cookie cutter” design. There were also residents who expressed concerns a CVS would bring nefarious activity into Lynnfield.
McGrail said CVS believes Broadway is an ideal location for the company to open its first pharmacy in Lynnfield.
“We think if the property is developed responsibly and properly, a CVS Pharmacy in this location would be a nice amenity for the neighborhood with no significant impact, including traffic,” said McGrail.
McGrail said CVS officials will be asking voters to approve a zoning change request at October Town Meeting to allow a drive-thru be constructed as part of the project, which will require a two-thirds vote. He said CVS initially wanted to ask voters to approve the zoning change at April Town Meeting, but that plan was nixed after neighbors requested CVS to “slow down” the project.
Kimball said CVS representatives will also be asking voters at Town Meeting to create an overlay district, which he said would ensure the only businesses that will be allowed to use the drive-thru are drug stores. He said creating an overlay district will be more restrictive than if the area was zoned general business.
As part of the project, McGrail and Kimball noted the project’s special permit and site plan review process will need to be evaluated and approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board. He said the project has not been presented to the town and stressed CVS wants to listen to the public’s comments before the project moves forward.
“We want to hear your thoughts and input,” said McGrail. “It’s our goal to earn your support as the project moves through the town’s approval process.”
Dundone said the proposed CVS would be 12,900 square feet with 78 parking spaces. He said a fence and landscape buffering would be installed near abutting homes.
After listening to abutters’ concerns in February, Dundone said CVS decided to relocate the drive-thru window and trash compactor. While the pharmacy drive-thru window was relocated to the right-hand corner of the building, its proposed location is not located in front of Route 1 as requested by some neighbors in February. Dundone said the drive-thru will not have an external speaker system.
According to Dundone, there will be entrances and exits to the pharmacy on Route 1 and Salem Street. He said the project’s revised design will allow delivery trucks to enter and exit the pharmacy exclusively through Route 1.
“There is no delivery truck access required through Salem Street,” said Dundone.
Plourde gave an overview of CVS’ potential traffic impact. While citing estimated trip generation data from the Institute of Traffic Engineers, Plourde said, “A CVS would generate less traffic than an office building between 7 and 9 in the morning and between 4 and 6 in the afternoon.”
Additionally, Plourde presented transaction data from CVS Pharmacies in Salem and Malden, which he said would be similar to the proposed Lynnfield store. He said both locations’ peak traffic times are between 3-4 p.m. on weekdays and 2 p.m.-3 p.m. on Saturdays.
McGrail noted traffic data is still in the process of being collected because one of the traffic counters malfunctioned, which made CVS’ data incomplete.
Abutters rip project
David Kulakowski, 17 Munroe Street, was furious Plourde presented sales transaction data from two cities instead of data from CVS Pharmacies in Saugus, West Peabody, South Peabody and Wakefield.
“To compare us to Salem and Malden is absolutely worthless,” said Kulakowski. “You are talking about areas that have public transportation and buses who go by those stores. We don’t have public transportation. Everyone who is going to go there is going to go by car.”
Kulakowski was also upset CVS did not relocate the drive-thru to the front of Route 1 and by failing to do so, he said CVS showed “no consideration” for the project’s abutters. He also asked if CVS would consider building a smaller store and would scrap the pharmacy’s “cookie cutter design.”
Constantine said CVS conducts “market research” when they are going to build a new pharmacy in order to determine a new store’s “sales volume.” She said the proposed Lynnfield location would be “comparable” to the Malden and Salem stores. While she said the Lynnfield pharmacy would not generate “the same sales volume” as the Wakefield store, Constantine offered to gather sales data from the Wakefield pharmacy and the other pharmacies Kulakowski requested.
While Constantine said CVS would consider reducing the proposed pharmacy’s size by 1,000 square feet, she said CVS is not interested in building a smaller store. She said CVS needs to build a 12,900 square foot pharmacy to comply with Americans with Disability Act (ADA) regulations, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA) Act regulations and prescription drug safety protocols. She also said health care clinics are now located in CVS Pharmacies.
“It’s not all being done so we can add one more aisle of cosmetics,” said Constantine. “We are trying to set up our stores so we can service the patient.”
McGrail noted the original design of the Wakefield CVS changed significantly after the Wakefield ZBA requested changes as part of the special permit process.
“CVS is always agreeable with towns and neighborhoods,” said McGrail.
Canterbury Road resident Heather Keane, a staunch CVS opponent, expressed concerns about “random customers” coming to the CVS as well as traffic. She repeatedly urged attendees to vote against the CVS proposal at October Town Meeting.
“This does not fit for our neighborhood,” said Keane.
Several residents inquired if the CVS would still be constructed if voters reject the drive-thru request at October Town Meeting. Constantine said the “drive-thru is what the consumer wants,” particularly mothers and the elderly.
“They are not going to do it without a drive-thru,” said McGrail.
A woman from Canterbury Road said Route 1 traffic is already a massive problem and said adding a CVS would make the situation worse.
“I moved from Revere to Lynnfield not to live near a CVS,” the woman said. “I moved from Revere to Lynnfield to live in a bedroom community. I think CVS is barking up the wrong tree.”
Another Canterbury Road resident said the proposed CVS redesign would only “get more cars” into the store so CVS “can make more money.” She said the redesigned CVS “does not help the residents and does not help the neighborhood.”
McGrail acknowledged future data will show traffic “will be better at certain times of the day” while there will be other times “it will probably be worse.”
Two attendees expressed concerns the proposed CVS Pharmacy would reduce property values.
A Fairview Avenue resident claimed he saw a pair of “junkies” trying to purchase diabetic needles with spare change at the CVS Pharmacy on Route 1 in Saugus. He expressed concerns a Lynnfield CVS would attract similar cliental.
“I don’t want South Lynnfield to become a North Saugus,” the man said. “I don’t need junkies coming up from Saugus to buy needles at the Lynnfield store.”
Melissa Sorrentino, 41 Fairview Road, said she is not thrilled with “a big, gigantic CVS,” but she acknowledged Bridgewell sold the property and something is going to built there “whether we like it or not.”
Sorrentino also said it would be nice to have a pharmacy similar to Village Pharmacy located in South Lynnfield so she can get a prescription while her daughter is sick.
McGrail personally thanked the 50 residents for coming to the meeting, although he admitted CVS representatives “were not excited about the message” they received.
“I think we have to regroup,” said McGrail. “We heard a lot of comments tonight and we have a lot to swallow and digest. Our goal remains to try and work with you as much as possible.”
McGrail noted another neighborhood meeting will be held in the future, which he anticipates will provide more traffic data.