Council’s Walgreens decision in limbo
A plan to build a controversial Walgreens in Glenbrook Basin remains on hold after the Grass Valley City Council narrowly rejected one appeal but held off deciding on another.
The four-hour meeting was held at a packed City Council chambers Tuesday night to decide the fate of the Walgreens at the corner of Sutton Way and Brunswick Road, which would be the third major drugstore in the area.
Two appeals were filed against the City Planning Commission’s earlier approval of the project – one based on traffic concerns and the other based on the design.
By a 3-2 vote, the City Council turned down an appeal from Citizens Concerned About Traffic. The group had questioned whether the measures to control traffic, such as widened turning lanes, were sufficient.
“The reality is we’re never going to have a perfect fit for that location,” said Councilman Dan Miller, who voted against the appeal. “I believe the traffic solution is what we’re looking for.”
Council members Lisa Swarthout and Jan Arbuckle also voted to reject the appeal, while Mayor Mark Johnson and Councilman Chauncey Poston voted to support it.
“I’ve used that intersection for 30 years, and I know dysfunctional when I see it,” Poston said.
The council held off on a second appeal by land-use planner Steve Enos of the Planning Commission’s approval of the Walgreens – this time citing objections to its design and whether it was pedestrian friendly enough.
At the urging of Johnson, the Council agreed to form a subcommittee to review the design and consider options such as making it more pedestrian friendly. Johnson and Arbuckle will sit on the subcommittee and are expected to report back to the Council on April 8.
“I know Walgreens thinks they’re doing the right thing, but they can do better,” said Johnson. “We need to make sure it’s pedestrian friendly in the future.”
Added resident Judy Olson: “You take your life into your hands as a pedestrian,” who said she once almost got hit by car at the intersection.
The two decisions came after lengthy discussions by Walgreens’ developer Interra, Citizens Concerned About Traffic, land-use planner Steve Enos and about a dozen citizens who came forward to speak. Most who spoke were opposed to the project.
Interra Development Partners plans on constructing a 14,550-square-foot building and two 800-square-foot buildings for commercial businesses on a site where the shuttered Jim Keil Chevrolet dealership sits. The dealership will be torn down to make way for the project. It will join a Longs and Rite Aid drugstore, which are nearby.
One reason for the concentration of drugstores is the county’s demographics, one of the oldest counties in the state ranked by the age of its residents.
“We’ve come up with a collaborative design for the building,” said architect Mark Marvelli.
To east traffic concerns, two additional turn lanes – a right turn lane from southbound Sutton Way onto Brunswick Road and a left turn lane from Brunswick Road onto Sutton Way – were added to the proposal approved by the city planning commission in December. At Tuesday night’s meeting, the Council asked that the extra lanes be built before the construction of the Walgreens begins.
The front of the Walgreens building is separated from the sidewalk along Brunswick Road by some parking spaces. But its location in the latest plans moves the building closer to the sidewalk than in previous plans, a nod to making it more pedestrian friendly.
Citizens About Traffic co-founder Grant Cattaneo questioned whether the measures to control traffic were sufficient. He showed photos of traffic jams at the intersection that existed already – with a vacant lot and no new building. Cattaneo also discussed safety concerns such as drivers who would weave between lanes for a quicker route to the freeway.
In his presentation, Enos expressed concerns about the design of the project. He showed photos of Walgreens in small communities in Ohio that were more pedestrian friendly.
“Doesn’t Grass Valley deserve the type of quality project that were built in Upper Arlington or Poland, Ohio.
Grass Valley’s new development code, approved last year, draws heavily on “new urbanism” concepts to extend the feel of the historic downtown to other commercial areas. Glenbrook Basin falls under community design guidelines that prefer bringing businesses closer to the street – but don’t require that standard, city officials said.
The meeting began at 7 p.m. and the discussion of the Walgreens issue ended at about 11 p.m.
Jeff Pelline contributed to this report.
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