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Potential Walgreens Site Plan Memorialized

Memorialization motion failed to get a second, causing an executive session at the end of the meeting before a unanimous 'yes' vote.

It took a half hour closed session, but the site of a potential Walgreens ultimately had its preliminary and final site plan approval memorialized by the Planning Board on Tuesday night.

Memorialization on the property located at 122 Main St. could not get a second to the motion upon first try early in the meeting.

It became obvious the board was unwilling to pass the resolution swiftly when no one spoke up initially to make a motion for the project, which has become more contentious during the past two meetings. Planning Board Chair Steve Tombalakian eventually made the motion, but there was no second to follow.

The item had to be held to the end of the meeting, when the board went into executive session, citing potential litigation as a reason. After 30 minutes of discussion, the board reconvened with Planning Board Member John Forte seconding the motion. The eligible board members then voted unanimously to memorialize the plan, though a number of them were reluctant to do so judging by the tone of their voice.

The friction stems from the acknowledgment by owner Rocco Iossa Jr. at the April 7 meeting that Walgreens is the likely tenant for the property at the corner of Greenwood Avenue and Main Street, and 24/7 usage would be requested.

The project was discussed at the Borough Council meeting on Monday, as a group of residents on neighboring Alexander Avenue, Greenwood Avenue, Brittin Street and Grove Street expressed their disapproval of any 24-hour business.

"This vicinity is different from all other commercial districts in Madison," said Toni DeRosa, an Alexander Avenue resident and also Zoning Board member on Monday night. "This vicinity abuts residential properties. A 24/7 operation abutting a residential district is going to change the integrity of the neighborhood, is asking for problems during the night. It's just not how Madison is designed."

Mayor Mary-Anna Holden and Councilwoman Astri Baillie, who also serve on the Planning Board, expressed their displeasure with the possibility at the council meeting, as well.

When referring to the project, Holden said, "that's not Madison," and Baillie said they were looking into it as fast as possible to find a solution.

Borough Attorney Joseph Mezzacca shed more light on what that could be when he said, although it was impossible to prevent all 24-hour businesses in Madison, as it is a blanket ordinance, there was the possibility to pass a resolution preventing it on property where a commercial area abuts a residential area.

"But if there is sufficient impact on residential, I think you can structure something, and that's what I've been working on," Mezacca said.

Immediately prior to failing to second the motion on Tuesday night, Holden continued to voice her displeasure with the recent meetings with Iossa and his lawyer, Nino Coviello, a stance echoed by Planning Board Member Judy Mullins.

"To some degree, I guess I'm feeling that this is (a new fact)," Mullins said to board attorney Vincent Loughlin after he said the board was not permitted to reopen the case at this point unless there was something significant like new facts on the plan that came to light. "We've been dealing with this application as sort of a shadow, it was only last week we that we had any discussion from the applicant about two food operations and a national drug store. We did not have a vision of the tenancy that was clear enough to clearly illuminate impacts in downtown. I guess I'm trying to figure out how that relates to the guidelines you are talking about."

Loughlin also said that memorialization of a resolution is an administerial act that makes sure the plan confirms the hearing, testimony, deliberations and board requirements.

Coviello also reiterated to the board that there is a provision that the applicant would have to appear again for any proposed 24/7 business for an amended site plan. Tombalakian confirmed that provision existed.

Holden told the board that in the future she would like to see the board make it more difficult, and require more from applicants, for them to be allowed to apply for final site plan approval at the same time as preliminary approval.

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