CVS developer worries traffic plan means expensive fix

Officials for the store are wondering if traffic-calming measures will mean they have to spend more money to improve Cherry Street.

By: Linda Seida
   LAMBERTVILLE — The plan for taming traffic hasn’t even been presented officially to City Council, but already it has become a bone of contention between a top city official and representatives of a national pharmacy chain slated to open a new drive-through store in Lambertville.
   At issue is whether a site plan approved October by the Planning Board for a new CVS pharmacy will be subject to recommendations yet to be made by the author of the city’s traffic-calming plan, engineer Ian Lockwood of the Orlando, Fla., firm Glatting Jackson.
   The site plan includes proposed improvements to Cherry Street, which borders the site of the pharmacy. The building formerly housed the IGA store and then the Ben Franklin five-and-dime store. The proposed roadwork will run the full length of Cherry Street, but only on the half of the road closest to the pharmacy.
   Those plans had yet to go before the council, which holds jurisdiction over Lambertville’s streets. The board told CVS in October all plans for road improvements must be approved by the council and the city’s engineer.
   But questions directed to the Planning Board Jan. 7 by representatives of CVS, attorney Lawrence Wohl and engineer Chad Gaulrapp, indicated the pharmacy fears its initial obligation could be greatly expanded beyond the agreement reached in October. They said they’re concerned the estimated $50,000 in improvements to Cherry Street could suddenly balloon to $250,000, depending on Mr. Lockwood’s recommendations. Also of concern is whether CVS could begin improvements now before the traffic-calming plan is reviewed by the council.
   Board Chairman Timothy Korzun termed the concerns "unspecific fears."
   The traffic-calming measures proposed by Mr. Lockwood are designed to reduce speed and lessen the number of accidents and injuries as well as the severity of injuries. They include more trees in the area of Cherry and North Union streets because the presence of trees tricks a driver’s eye, narrowing roadways and causing motorists to slow down, according to Mr. Lockwood.
   The board told Mr. Wohl the pharmacy chain could proceed with improvements, but at its own risk, until the issue is reviewed by the council.
   Still, Mr. Gaulrapp tried to elicit a more definitive answer. He said the site plan approval given by the board "does not mean we agreed to conform to Ian Lockwood’s overall design."
   Mayor David Del Vecchio, who had been seated in the audience directly in front of Mr. Gaulrapp, stood up and turned to face the engineer, at one point pointing his index finger at Mr. Gaulrapp.
   "If it’s the city’s desire that you meet with Mr. Lockwood, you meet with Mr. Lockwood," he said. "Beginning and end of story. You don’t want to move forward, fine."
   The mayor termed CVS representatives’ appeal to the board a "cheap stunt" and a way to bypass the council.
   "We’re offended by the cheap stunt these guys are pulling," he said. "I think this is offensive."
   Mr. Wohl said he merely was seeking clarification of the original approval. In addition, he requested an amendment from the board, allowing CVS to begin work at its own risk.
   "I don’t think anyone’s asking you to do more than your fair share," Mr. Korzun told Mr. Wohl.
   "If the improvements Mr. Lockwood envisions aren’t too drastic, then we shouldn’t have a problem," Mr. Wohl said.
   Mayor Del Vecchio tried to forestall Mr. Wohl’s appeal to the board. He asserted — three times — the board does not have jurisdiction over work planned for a city street.
   "Let’s keep cool and have a good project," Mr. Korzun advised.
   In the meantime, Mr. Wohl accepted the mayor’s invitation to meet with members of the council and Mr. Lockwood in mid-January.
   "If this is so important to you, you can get it resolved before the council meeting," Mayor Del Vecchio said.
   The council is scheduled to meet Monday.
   "I’d like to do that," Mr. Wohl replied.
   The city has "no desire to stick it to CVS in any way," Mr. Korzun said.