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Walgreens project moving forward

Zoning Board grants variances to project at site of former CVS

A proposal to build a Walgreens pharmacy and medical office building on the corner of Elsmere and Delaware avenues will be advancing from the Bethlehem Zoning Board of Appeals to the Planning Board.

The ZBA granted six variances Wednesday, April 21, for the project, which would level the former CVS pharmacy building and the current home of Community Care Physicians next door, then build a new, two-story structure to house the medical offices and a Walgreens.

Community Care would remain open during the construction process, before that building is knocked down.

The variances dealt mainly with the project's parking area. The developer is proposing a 183-space lot, less than the 227 required for a building of that size. The new building would contain 48,109 square feet of commercial space.

There was some discussion among members of the ZBA about how to conduct the required environmental review for the project. State law allows for the ZBA and Planning Boards to do their own reviews, or to combine for a coordinated environmental review.

ZBA attorney Michael Moore recommended asking the Planning Board to take the role of lead agency and conduct a coordinated review. The plan would then have to be bounced back to the ZBA for the variance approval.

Given the size of the project, its location we believe it appropriate for town agencies to proceed in a coordinated review, Moore said.

Peter Lynch, attorney for developer Tom Burke, asked the board to make its own determination to avoid delays.

"In the real world of economic pressures of development we can't have the luxury of that kind of timeline," he said of a coordinated review.

The board ended up agreeing with Lynch and voting 4-to-1 to do an uncoordinated review and issue a negative declaration of environmental impact on the project. Chairman Daniel Coffey dissented, saying the environmental impact review deals with issues like traffic impacts.

"I don't know if this board is capable of making that conclusion," he said.

The applicant will now go before the Planning Board for a site plan review.

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