WOONSOCKET — CVS/Caremark won a round Tuesday as the Zoning Board unanimously rejected an abutter's plea to quash final plans for a new pharmacy proposed for busy Chipman's Corner.
Ron Genereux of 41 Dana St. said the board spurned his argument that the Planning Board should have taken another look at the proposal because it contains new elements that will affect the flow of traffic in the congested intersection.
“It's what we expected I think,” said Genereux. “The zoning board was predisposed to grant CVS permission to move forward.”
The hearing was only the latest installment in a battle neighbors in Chipman's Corner have been waging against CVS's proposed flagship store at the corner of Cass Avenue and Mendon Road since 2008. Five lawsuits challenging an earlier series of preliminary decisions granting CVS permission to move forward are pending in Superior Court — all of them bearing Genereux's name as the lead plaintiff.
Now Tuesday's night's ruling, too, will probably become the springboard for yet another lawsuit whose goal is to kill the proposal once and for all, says Genereux.
The proposed 12,900-square-foot store would replace two antiquated CVS pharmacies in East Woonsocket and become the only modern retail outlet in the same city the nation's largest pharmacy chain calls home. But Genereux and his lawyers contend the store is simply too big for Chipman's Corner, a populous residential area with four schools, a major church and a fire station all nearby.
Genereux, 54, says he's lived his whole life in the same two-story house his grandfather purchased in the 1920s.
If the plans go through, CVS's drive-through will be about 50 feet from his front door, and the edge of the parking lot will be even closer.
Only a row of shrubs about six feet high will soften the view from his property.
“Even that doesn't hide much from the second story,” he says.
Genereux says the store will bring substantially more vehicular traffic into a neighborhood that already has more than it can safely handle.
At certain times of the day, Genereux says, motor vehicles are backed up behind the red light on Cass Avenue all the way from Mendon Road to Woonsocket High School, about two tenths of a mile.
See CVS, Page A-2
The final plans won the seal of approval from City Planner Jane Talbot on Nov. 5. Genereux argued that the whole package should have been sent back to the Planning Board for review because the state Department of Transportation had ordered changes to the left turn signal from Mendon Road to Cass Avenue that the board never considered before Talbot approved the plan. The new signal would stay green just a few seconds longer than before, but it's a significant change because it was based on outdated traffic studies, Genereux claims.
After a meeting that lasted about an hour, the Zoning Board disagreed.
It was the right decision, said Economic Development Director Mathew Wojcik.
“We're pleased,” said Wojcik, though he does not expect CVS to begin construction anytime soon. “It's just another step in a long march.”
Like the previous administration, Mayor Leo T. Fontaine's is a strong ally of CVS in the Chipman's Corner dispute, arguing that the proposed store represents the sort of economic development the city needs to encourage in these tough times.
But CVS has waged an uphill battle for the store since unveiling the proposal for the first time in July 2008. Planners eventually rejected the proposal after criticizing the cold, commercial look of the masonry building the company wanted to build.
After working closely with Planning Director Joel Mathews, CVS later rolled out a new version of the store with a softer roofline, a clapboard facade and more vegetation in the parking lot. With some minor tweaks, that's the plan that withstood Genereux's appeal before the zoners.