Controversial plans for a new CVS Pharmacy at Lake Hill Road and state Route 50 have begun moving in the direction of approval.
Members of the Ballston Planning Board said they are fine with the concept, but they also acknowledge the issues surrounding the project, which has split Burnt Hills firefighters because of CVS’ proposal to cut across fire district land.
“As the board is sitting here talking, the concept is good,” Planning Board Chairman Richard Doyle said after a public hearing on the plan Wednesday night. “We all want to understand a little more about the traffic, about the impact on the fire district.”
The board postponed any votes until at least late July.
CVS is looking to build a new 13,225-square-foot store on Lake Hill Road, on the site formerly occupied by the Old Homestead restaurant for many years. The restaurant closed in 2006 and was demolished in 2010, leaving the land vacant.
“This is a very important intersection for the town, and we feel this proposal is the right fit for a vacant parcel,” said Stephanie Bitter, an attorney representing CVS.
The property has no direct access to Route 50. That prompted CVS’ land developer, the Zaremba Group of Lakeland, Ohio, to seek permission to build an entrance across fire district property just south of the fire station, including part of the station’s parking lot.
In January, the Burnt Hills Fire District’s commissioners gave preliminary approval to the deal, under which CVS would pay the fire district $280,000 and give it 2.6 acres of land north of the CVS for parking and possibly a helipad. Compensation could be higher, depending on whether the fire district or CVS does certain remediation, such as construction of a new septic system for the fire station.
A new CVS would replace a 10,000-square-foot store leased in a nearby plaza on Route 50. The proposed store would have a drive-through pharmacy, which the current store doesn’t.
The volunteer fire company has debated the issue internally for months, and the divisions remained apparent on Wednesday.
“Mixing emergency responders and the general public is a bad idea,” said Alan Colyer, a 56-year member of the fire company and former district commissioner.
“It’s going to create massive traffic trouble,” said Carl Thurnau, another opponent who is a former fire commissioner.
Supporters have said the deal would give the district money to plan for a new fire station, and they believe the potential traffic issues can be resolved.
As proposed, the Route 50 entrance would allow only “right-turn-in, right-turn-out” movement. The state Department of Transportation has said it has “no objection,” based on those limitations.
The main drug store entrance would be on Lake Hill Road.
Once the Planning Board takes an initial vote on the project’s environmental impact, which could be in late July, the fire commissioners will have to take a formal vote to put the matter before fire district voters in a referendum.
If the referendum passed, the application would then come back to the Planning Board for final town approval.