HONESDALE — By the narrowest of margins, the CVS Pharmacy project in Honesdale was given the green light during a special meeting of the Honesdale Borough Council on Monday night.
The council voted 4-3 to grant CVS the necessary approval needed to move forward with the project.
But it did not come without much discussion and contention.
CVS intends to partly demolish the old DSFI building located at 4th and Main streets in the borough. They also plan to have one lane of eastbound Main Street go into the new pharmacy location.
That is where the debate has focused over the past few weeks.
Some on council believe CVS should have to get approval from PennDOT to reconfigure the intersection to allow larger trucks to make right-hand turns onto 4th Street.
CVS already has approval to reconfigure the intersection, however, even the borough's own engineer questions whether or not it will work.
The borough safety committee recently raised this issue and were asking the rest of the council to hold off any approval until it could be approved by PennDOT.
Last week, CVS officials proposed a "developer's agreement" which outlined the company's intentions of redesigning the intersection. However, there is no guarantee it will get PennDOT approval. Should that not happen, the intersection would be redesigned as proposed by CVS.
Borough solicitor Rich Henry has also cautioned council, in several letters, to proceed with caution before making the approval.
Councilman Bob Jennings said Monday he thinks the council is rushing into an agreement.
"I don't think we've had enough time," said Jennings. "It's the principle."
Jennings also questioned why he never received the revised developer's agreement on Friday.
Councilman Scott Smith said he emailed the agreement to all council members with the exception of Jim Brennan, who does not have an email account.
Jennings asked Smith why he hand delivered the agreement to Brennan on Sunday, wondering if it was because he wanted Brennan's "yes vote."
Smith said it was because Brennan did not have an email.
Jennings also said when he attempted to gain access to borough hall on Friday evening to pick up his correspondence, the security code had been changed. He wanted to know why.
Nobody answered his question.
Jennings then made a motion to deny the CVS request, citing health and safety concerns. He cited the opinion of borough engineer Mary Bogart, who has said she has questions about the safety of the intersection as it now stands approved for changes by PennDOT.
The motion was seconded by councilwoman Juanita Pisano.
Page 2 of 3 - Jennings reminded council the borough is already in a "major lawsuit" over the death of a woman in a crosswalk after the roads were changed to one-way streets.
Smith questioned the reasoning of Jennings, saying he had a letter from Bogart and didn't "see where it questions safety."
"She's telling you it makes it worse and that is a safety issue," said Jennings.
In the Dec. 13 letter, Bogart says the plan currently approved by PennDOT "is not sufficient to accommodate tractor-trailers with a wheel base of 67 feet."
She further states that in order to address this issue, CVS has proposed shifting the "stop bar"on 4th Street back toward the railroad tracks.
Bogart said in the letter that if a vehicle does not observe the stop bar, a turning truck would have to wait for 4th Street traffic to clear before turning right. "This would effectively shut down the Main Street right turn lane until the truck could negotiate the right turn."
That, says Jennings, is a safety issue and is why the council should wait until the redesign is approved.
He further stated that waiting a little longer would not harm the project.
"I think for public safety, several weeks is not too long to wait," said Jennings.
Jennings said he spoke with officials at area trucking companies and they agreed, saying the large trucks have difficulty negotiating the turn.
Further, he said those trucks haul thousands of gallons of oil, gas and propane and should one rupture, it would be a disaster.
Mayor Ed Langendoerfer said it was his understanding that Jennings was "asking that CVS be denied until the safety issues are addressed."
"Do it right to protect the citizens," said Jennings.
The mayor, who has been outspoken on this matter and says he thinks it should wait for formal approval, told the council the developer's agreement is "not concrete."
Council president F.J. Monaghan said it was "his intention" to vote to approve the developer's agreement.
"This is a good faith agreement," said Monaghan, adding he didn't want to see a "further delay."
He further stated that CVS has applied for the "proper application" that requires adding space to the 4th and Main intersection and it will be submitted to PennDOT for approval.
At that point in the meeting, Jennings withdrew his original motion.
Councilman Harry Devrieze then made a motion to approve the subdivision plan for CVS and execution of the developer's agreement with a new traffic signal agreement.
When the vote was taken, it passed 6-1 with Jennings dissenting.
Page 3 of 3 - Devrieze then made a motion to reject the traffic plan as submitted on the presented mylars.
That would have effectively forced CVS to get PennDOT approval for the newly designed intersection.
When the vote was called for, councilman Mike Slish was the first to be asked. At first, he voted "yes," but then Monaghan explained to Slish that a yes vote meant rejecting the traffic plan. Slish then changed his vote to "no."
In the end, the motion failed 4-3, with Devrieze, Pisano and Jennings voting yes.
Voting against were Monaghan, Smith, Jim Brennan and Slish.
Another motion was then made to allow the applicant's current plan to be released by council.
That motion passed 4-3 with Jennings, Pisano and Devireze voting no.
A final motion was made to approve the developer's agreement between CVS and the borough.
Again, the vote was 4-3 with Jennings, Devrieze and Pisano voting no.