— Honesdale Borough Council decided to kick the can down the road for one week concerning the proposed CVS project in the borough.
A decision was made during Monday night's regular meeting of the borough council to have a special meeting next Monday to further consider the issue. That meeting will be at 7 p.m. at borough hall.
But that decision didn't come without very lengthy discussions about the matter, one with CVS representatives present and another discussion after those representatives had left the meeting.
At issue is the intersection of Main and 4th streets in Honesdale, the busiest intersection in Wayne County.
A plan to reconfigure the intersection has been approved by PennDOT, however, some on council feel there is a better fix which needs to happen — and they say that approval should be given before any formal agreements are signed with CVS.
Near the beginning of Monday night's meeting, board president F.J. Monaghan announced that solicitor Rich Henry had written a letter to the council recommending no action be taken Monday night.
The agenda outlined various proposed agreements with CVS, including the subdivision plan, the erosion control plan, the traffic signal mylars, the traffic signal agreement and a developer's agreement related to the traffic intersection.
"I do not think we should take any action on this matter this evening," said Monaghan, who then called for a special meeting next Monday.
He did, however, say he thought CVS should be able to present its proposal during Monday's meeting. Attorney Susan Smith, representing CVS, made a presentation to council.
Smith said that CVS has been working on the project for two years and have submitted several plans related to the project.
She said a traffic plan was submitted to PennDOT this year and that design has been approved.
That issue is what has caused much of the controversy in recent weeks because it has been revealed there is an alternative plan to widen the turn off of Main Street.
Because of that, Smith said CVS has "heard the concerns" and she offered a "developer's agreement" to the council indicating CVS would be willing to fund changing the intersection.
However, it comes with a caveat.
The ultimate decision would be up to PennDOT, said Smith, and if they didn't approve the proposed changes, the intersection would not be fixed the way some on council think needs to happen.
Smith said it would be "ultimately up to PennDOT" and that CVS "can't guarantee the DOT will agree to the change in design."
For councilman Harry DeVrieze, that just isn't good enough.
Page 2 of 5 - DeVrieze said because PennDOT has already approved a design, they have no incentive to approve another design.
That is, unless the borough council forces that to happen.
Mayor Ed Langendoerfer said the borough should first secure approval by PennDOT before signing any agreements with CVS.
He said if the borough signed the developer's agreement and PennDOT decides not to accept the changes, the borough would be forced to accept the original plan.
Prior to this discussion, two members of the public voiced their concerns about how to properly fix the intersection.
Business owner Paul Ludick told council he is "very concerned" about Main Street, saying there are already "serious" backups on Main Street. He said if CVS puts in a third lane at the intersection, that will get even worse.
"This is damaging businesses on Main Street," he said.
Ludick also said he has approached the planning commission about other changes and though he was told those would be considered, they were not. Ludick said he has simply been ignored.
He thinks CVS should have to make the entrance from Main Street one-way with no exit. He thinks the borough should require CVS to build a road around the professional building which exits at the Terrace Street stop light.
He also pointed out the fact CVS is a "$58 billion company" and "whatever deadline CVS has should not be the borough's deadline."
Dr. Bill Davis also expressed concern to council, urging members to "proceed slowly."
He said losing the current downtown CVS location is a "loss to the citizens" and said should hydrofracking come to this area, there will be even more truck traffic at the intersection.
Davis also noted the current intersection is a bad design, saying there are a "few brave pedestrians" who attempt to navigate that intersection.
"I hope you will work for infrastructure improvements," said Davis.
After CVS officials left the meeting, the issue was once again brought up by the mayor during his report.
"That is a huge intersection and I feel uncomfortable approving a plan we don't know what will look like," said Langendoerfer. "I don't understand why they can't come to us with a plan Honesdale Borough wants. I think we need to proceed with caution with this whole intersection. Once you approve it, you lose control."
Councilman Bob Jennings, chairman of the safety committee, said he disagrees with meeting on Monday night, saying it is "too quick. I don't know what the rush is."
Jennings said that borough council "has the last say" and the situation "looks like it is being railroaded through and I'm against that."
Page 3 of 5 - Monaghan asked how long the borough should wait.
Langendoerfer said even the borough's own engineer doesn't agree with the CVS plan.
Councilman Scott Smith said that was "not true."
But in the letter presented by solicitor Henry, it states that engineer Mary Bogart of Bogart Engineering, indeed, does not agree with the CVS plans.
In his letter, Henry said Bogart, after getting the revised plan from CVS, said the turning radius is "too abrupt" and that a "longer radius should be used."
She also pointed out the plan "did not account" for relocating the utility pole and she questioned the "complete compliance" with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Jennings pointed out that CVS "never made it known" until November of this year that they had been in discussions about acquiring the land to make the turning radius wider.
"There are a lot of serious issues here," said Jennings.
Councilman Jim Brennan said he would entertain the idea of entering into an agreement with CVS if they agree to do the work.
However, the mayor said it "should be the other way around."
"If there is a better solution, do it," said Jennings.
Henry pointed out that if borough council did sign the agreement, they would be approving the intersection plan as it now stands.
"To take action at this moment may result in an under-designed intersection that Honesdale traffic will have to endure for years," wrote Henry in his letter to council members.
Scott Smith questioned Bogart, saying she admitted the overlays she used during a recent meeting were not to scale.
But Jennings quickly pointed out he sent out an email on Friday outlining the various concerns of Bogart.
"Mary had an overlay of the two intersections," said Henry, referring to the pair of alternatives. "Her concerns were pretty evident at that time."
DeVrieze said he discovered some original plans from CVS which showed widening the turn but "somewhere along the line, it changed."
He said CVS "has to consider the long-term" and "submit a plan we will accept. I do not want to put the cart before the horse."
"Once we give the permission, it's over," said Jennings. "These issues should be deferred."
He also asked why the council should act so quickly.
"What's the rush?" said Jennings. "Why jump in and make a decision Monday night?"
"CVS said they would like to close by the end of the year for budget purposes," said Scott Smith.
He also said that CVS has offered for borough council members to change the proposed draft agreement. He asked any suggestions be presented by Wednesday.
Page 4 of 5 - "That's crazy," said Jennings. "To give us just a couple of days. Why do they want to push this through?"
He theorized that doing the current design is "cheaper" than the one which will really fix the problem.
Public works director Rich Doney was asked for his opinion about the intersection.
"Moving it back would help a lot," said Doney, who noted large trucks and even fire engines have a hard time navigating the intersection now. "I think it should be moved back."
Honesdale Borough Police Chief Joe LoBasso said the intersection is "certainly an issue when trucks try to make a turn."
He told the council they should "proceed carefully" when making a decision.
Monaghan said he told CVS officials they would hold a meeting on Monday but said Jennings "thinks that is not enough time."
He then asked council members if they wanted to meet Monday. In the end, the council voted 6-1 to go ahead with the meeting. It was stressed the council "may or may not" take action at that meeting.
Not a lot of discussion was held concerning the letter from Henry to the council, which was delivered about three hours before the meeting.
A copy of the letter was obtained by this newspaper after the meeting.
Henry said the issue was on the November borough agenda, but after discussions with Monaghan and Jennings, it was decided that because of "ongoing and continued safety concerns at the intersection," it was tabled.
He also pointed out that when some council members met with the development company representing CVS, several suggestions were made to remedy the problem. One was the developer's agreement which was presented to council on Monday.
In that earlier discussion, Henry said CVS agreed it would "bond the cost of correcting this radius-turning problem at the borough's discretion with with a six-month or one-year limitation" in which the final decision would have to be made.
In other words, CVS had proposed doing the intersection the way it is now proposed and then agreeing to fix it if it wasn't working.
However, he said the draft agreement received after that meeting "proposes a different handling of this concern: CVS requests borough approval of the existing PennDOT plan with a promise that CVS would then immediately seek PennDOT approval of an intersection design amendment with the radius/turning modification addressing Ms. Bogart's engineering concerns and safety and traffic concerns of the borough safety and streets committee."
Though Henry said CVS would be bound to submit this modification, it is his understanding "that there is no obligation that PennDOT will consider or approve the amendment, especially since the previously approved PennDOT plan would have already been approved by the borough."
Page 5 of 5 - He said the proposed draft agreement "actually concludes this intersection issue at this time, with only a promise from CVS that an amended plan would be submitted to PennDOT."
Henry said in his letter to the council that to "take action at this moment may result in an under-designed intersection that Honesdale traffic will have to endure for years."
He also said that a promise to bond improvements or submit an amended plan after borough approval of the existing plan "really does not address these collective safety concerns, some of which have also been voiced by tractor-trailer operators at recent meetings."
In his conclusion, Henry wrote: "I suggest that the borough defer further action on this issue until the various engineering and safety concerns have been addressed and a plan doing so has been submitted to Ms. Bogart, the borough's engineer and PennDOT and then approved by PennDOT and the borough. Short of that I believe that the borough runs the risk of approving an intersection plan that includes travel and safety concerns for today as well as tomorrow."