BURNT HILLS – Residents and members of the Burnt Hills Fire District stopped by the Town of Ballston Community Library to learn more about the proposed new CVS Pharmacy during the community information session Wednesday.
The proposed CVS would be built on the former site of the Old Homestead Restaurant at the corner of Lake Hill Road and Route 50 and would replace the existing CVS. In order to gain access to Route 50 from the site, the Zaremba Group, the developers of the project, proposed an easement agreement with the neighboring Fire Station No. 1 to connect the parking lot to Route 50 utilizing the entrance to the left of the station for a shared driveway.
The proposed building would be 13,225 square feet, with 57 parking spaces, a drive through window and access to the parking lot from both Lake Hill Road and Route 50. Access to Route 50 would be limited to right hand turns both in and out of the parking lot.
Following unanimous approval of the agreement by the five members of the Board of Fire Commissioners in mid-August, the project will be voted on in a public referendum, which will be held on Sept. 20.
As part of the easement agreement, the Fire District would receive $280,000 from CVS, 2.5 acres of land adjacent to the firehouse, CVS would replace the station’s septic system and CVS would expand the station’s existing parking lot. CVS would be responsible for all costs related to constructing and maintaining the shared driveway.
During the information session, residents Barbara Thurnau and Anna Mae Emerick questioned the value of the property that CVS would transfer to the Fire District given that a portion of the land consists of wetlands that may not be suitable for use.
The women, whose husbands both serve as volunteer fireman, said that they were concerned about the placement of the pharmacy at an already busy intersection. “I’m afraid someone will get hurt,” Thurnau said.
Resident Nancy Reynolds said that as the owner of one of the oldest houses in Burnt Hills she was concerned that the proximity of the location to the fire department would negatively impact response times. Members of the Fire District voiced the same concern when the project was discussed at the June Planning Board meeting.
At that meeting, Alanna Moran of Creighton Manning Engineering reviewed the results of a traffic study the firm had completed in December. According to the study the new CVS would generate approximately 79 new vehicle trips during peak hours for the pharmacy, which would be in the evening.
The additional vehicles would cause an estimated delay increase of 14.5 seconds, which is considered to be an acceptable impact under state guidelines. Moran noted that the impact would be lower during non-peak hours.
At that meeting and the info session, fireman Carl Thurnau was critical of the traffic study stating that traffic volumes are much higher during other times of day and year. Thurnau was especially concerned about an increase in traffic during the morning when school buses are out.
Thurnau added that the traffic study would not have examined the potential impact that additional development projects that have been proposed and are currently under review by the planning board would have on traffic if approved and completed.
Burnt Hills Fire Department Assistant Chief Bill Crawford spoke in favor of the project pointing out that the same people who visit the current CVS location would be visiting the new location. “I don’t feel that the easement will affect us greatly,” he said.
While some questioned the value of the additional items CVS has offered the Fire District as part of the easement agreement, Crawford said that the additional land and money would be assets for the district. “If we ever need to change the fire house or add-on to it, we will have the land to do it,” he added.
Crawford also related that he had been told by engineers on Tuesday that the department’s existing septic system was failing and required replacement.
Les Bonesteel, one of the District Fire Commissioners, said that he was concerned about the department sharing a driveway with the CVS, but that the majority of the fire fighters enter on the other side of the building when responding to calls. Members of the fire department previously raised concerns about the potential for drivers to cut through the department’s first entrance going around the building to avoid traffic and reach CVS, potentially blocking emergency responders.
Bonesteel said that he voted against the easement agreement when the Board of Fire Commissioners first voted in January. When the board voted on the agreement for the second time in August, Bonesteel said that he voted in favor of sending the project to a referendum for the voters to decide. He noted that the project had undergone significant changes from when it was first presented to the commissioners and that the fire department would see significant improvements if the project is approved.
The public referendum will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 20 from 2-9 p.m. at Fire Station No. 1. If the measure is approved, the project would go before the Planning Board again for site plan approval, followed by approvals from state agencies.