NEIGHBORS OPPOSING RED BANK WALGREEN’S

Melissa Grieves, seated at right, addresses neighbors concerned about the planned redevelopment of the former Rassas car lot, below, into a mega-drugstore.  (Photo by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)

By SARAH KLEPNER

A proposed Walgreen’s drugstore on Broad Street in Red Bank would be a bitter pill, say nearby homeowners, who’ve begun to organize for a fight.

About 30 residents of the quiet neighborhood between Pinckney Road and Rumson Place gathered in a Little Silver backyard over coffee Saturday morning to strategize a response to the proposed mega-pharmacy, at the site of the recently-closed Rassas auto dealership.

“I was stunned and extremely concerned,” organizer Melissa Grieves of Salem Place said in an email to redbankgreen. “As a neighborhood, we are concerned about not only our property values, but also the potential for additional car traffic through our quiet streets, as well as lighting and noise concerns, amongst other issues.”

As redbankgreen reported earlier this month, the plan on file at the Red Bank planning department calls for a 14,000 square foot, two-story pharmacy with a drive-thru window on the now-vacant property. The one-acre lot sits opposite the confluence of Broad Street and Maple Avenue, and is just feet from the North Jersey Coast Line Tracks and the eastern terminus of Newman Springs Road.

The proposed plan calls for vehicle access from Broad Street in both directions, via Garfield Place.

“This is about getting everyone on the same page,” said Craig Orlando, Grieves’ husband. “We have to organize and make a united front.”

Orlando, a construction manager, is a new appointee to the Little Silver planning board.

Little Silver mayor Bob Neff, who was present, offered four points: There’s strength in numbers. Check out the plan directly and get to know the details. Show up and testify at the meeting. Hire an attorney.

What does it mean that the people who would be most affected by this project don’t live in the town where it will decided?

“How much they [Red Bank planning officials] would consider a neighboring municipality is new to me,” said Neff. “I will discuss the issue with the council about what role the council should play.”

Other immediate steps, the group agreed, include a letter to property owner Aaron Rassas appealing to him not to sell to the applicant, Mark Developers; letters to the editor of local papers; and outreach to the folks who want to put a pharmacy in a vacant building near the corner of Harding Road and Broad Street, as well as to the Foodtown on he opposite side of Broad Street; and the creation of a subcommittee to look into traffic mitigation if the plan does go through.

Grieves, who handed out flyers to the 150 houses nearest Rassas’ and organized the meeting, has also launched a petition on Change.org calling for planning board denial, saying the plan “would exacerbate what is already a traffic nightmare.”

“Red Bank calls itself ‘Hip City.’ How hip is it to have a national chain sitting at your southern gateway?” Grieves asked.

Mike Simpson, an architect and past chairman of Red Bank RiverCenter, said Red Bank officials should dust off their own 1994 Master Plan before acting on the Walgreen’s request.

That document, “literally called a ‘Vision Plan,’ called for looking at a much more radical resolution to the traffic and uses at this intersection,” Simpson said.

“Here’s a crazy idea, maybe they could actually go back, read and utilize their own Master Plan that they paid for, rather than continue to retread the old broken adage that some use/ratable is better than no use/ratable,” he said. “Maybe they could even look at actually writing an ordinance that reflects that plan, since that was called key to strategic revitalization.”

No hearing date has yet been scheduled, borough officials said Monday.

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