It’s time for the public to weigh in on the Burnt Hills Fire District’s proposed land deal with CVS pharmacies.
On Tuesday, Sept. 20, voters in the fire district – which serves most of the town – will be asked to decide whether the district should grant CVS an easement to build a driveway from Route 50 across land just south of the firehouse.
The district would receive at least $280,000 in cash, 2.5 acres of land behind the firehouse and site improvements, while CVS would get the access it says it needs for a proposed pharmacy on the Old Homestead site, just west of the fire station. Site improvements would include a new septic system, paid for by CVS.
Lee Ramsey, the fire commissioner in charge of buildings and grounds, said it’s a good deal for the taxpayers.
“CVS approached us and actually listened to our wants and concerns,” he said.
But the proposed deal also has its critics, some of whom turned out for a community forum Wednesday night at the Town of Ballston Community Library.
“I called this an ill-advised project from the beginning,” said Carl Thurnau, a longtime member of the volunteer fire department.
He said traffic at the corner of Route 50 and Lakehill Road is heavy, especially during school bus runs, and the 2.5 acres being offered to the district is mostly wetland.
Ramsey disputed that and said the new land would provide for additional parking while increasing the value of the property.
Fire Commissioner Les Bonesteel, who in January called the CVS plan a potential traffic “nightmare,” said the public should make the decision, and he wouldn’t say how he intends to vote.
“But from day one, there have been some significant changes that are positive,” he said.
Changes, he noted, that would limit the Route 50 entrance to right-turn in, right-turn out only and keep the driveway south of the firehouse.
Ballston Town Supervisor Tim Szczepaniak supports the plan. He said it should be approved because a new CVS would help revitalize a critically important intersection in town.
“It’s the central gateway to our town, and this greatly enhances the gateway,” Szczepaniak said. “We’ve had residents tell us they’re embarrassed about the condition of our downtown.”
He also said the Town Board is discussing the feasibility of sewer service on Route 50 – and if that means the fire station’s septic system doesn’t have to be replaced, CVS will pay the fire district another $40,000.
The town Planning Board has already reviewed CVS’s plans. The 13,225-square-foot store would replace a smaller store in rented space on Route 50.
The board found the plan will have no significant negative environmental impacts.
“We think it’s a good deal for the fire district,” said John M. Wojtila, a vice-president with Zaremba Group, which would develop the site for CVS. “We’re paying $280,000 just for the right to drive across (the land.)”
Alan Colyer, a 56-year member of the fire department, opposes the project. He said the entrance will create too many potential conflicts.
“I don’t think retail customers and emergency responders should be on the same roadway,” he said.
If the referendum is approved, fire commissioners have said the $280,000 payment could be used toward either equipment purchases or future building improvements.
A separate study is looking at whether the district needs to build a new station, perhaps elsewhere. But firefighters feel the current location in the heart of Burnt Hills is a good one.
“Our station No. 1 is essentially located. That’s where most of the action happens,” Ramsey said.
The district averages 120 to 140 calls per year.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.
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Categories: Business, News, Schenectady County