Builder Floats Idea for Large CVS at Corner of Plymouth and Butler
Planning Agency unanimously voted against a recommendation for zoning change.
If one were to put the conversation surrounding builder Sal Paone's request to the Plymouth Township Planning Agency in the simplest terms possible, it'd go something like this:
Sal Paone: "It is impossible to sell the north corner of Butler Pike and Plymouth Roads as residential, so I'd like you to recommend the zoning be changed to allow something like a 14,000 square foot CVS to be built."
Plymouth Township Zoning Agency: "Well, we can see where it would be difficult to sell residential, but a CVS? No way."
That was the end result of Paone's request before the Planning Agency at the body's monthly meeting Wednesday night. Paone, the builder of the Cold Point Manor and Cold Point Village developments at that intersection, was requesting the agency's recommendation before taking his plans before the township's Zoning Hearing Board later this month.
Paone argued that he had successfully followed the township's vision of mixed-use and walkability in building the two Cold Point developments, and now wished to extend that zoning across the intersection. While Paone said that he was having success in finding businesses such as salons and spas to locate inside the developments, he could not find one for day-to-day necessities.
"The one thing that we have a hard time with is getting service type retail," said Paone. "Needs of people who live in this area, who when they need to go grab something…if they forgot a gallon of milk, whatever it may be. I think we have an opportunity here at the [north corner]."
Paone also argued that he had tried to sell the property for residential use, as it is currently zoned, unsuccessfully.
"We looked pretty hard at this property and tried to work in a residential component," said Paone, adding that he hadn’t received any offers on an old stone house that used to exist at the corner. "We tore it down, marketed it as a build to suit, spec house with reasonable prices…zero offers."
"To say residential at the intersection is a challenge, is an understatement," Paone continued.
Paone then said he had been in talks with CVS, which had expressed interest in building a store at that location. While official dimensions were not stated, a graphical rendering showed the building to be very similar to a 14,000 square foot Audubon location, with a large parking lot surrounding the store.
Planning Agency members weren't particularly enthused.
"I feel like that's crazy there, at that intersection," said member Kelly Isett. "I get why it's not good for residential but… I think it may make traffic really complicated."
Planning Agency member Jeffrey Branagh echoed Isett’s sentiments.
"I do appreciate some of the work you have done in the township and appreciate you have a business to run… but at some point enough is enough," said Branagh. "To be quite honest, to grant a variance or change in zoning, most of the time we ask for hardship, and these aren't hardship cases."
Paone referenced a number of conversations over the past decade in which he says the township stated its vision for mixed use at the intersection. He suggested that the Planning Agency had to develop a plan for the property in question, as it was not selling as residential.
"Just because you can't figure out what to put on a piece of land that fits its current use, to me does not constitute a hardship," said Branagh. "The Council and Planning Agency that was there [in 2006]… there's a reason why those people are no longer council or planning members, because the residents of this township stood up and said ‘enough.’”
Roughly half a dozen community members, of both Plymouth and Whitemarsh Townships, spoke out against the proposal.
"I love the mixed use concept…I like the village idea, and the cafe," said Cathy Stanton, of 1 Village Way, Whitemarsh. "But a CVS is none of those. It's not something that the residents will use, it's something where high traffic will stop…and in my mind it's creating another Ridge Pike."
Residents also expressed concerns over lighting, noise, and 24-hour activity.
The Planning Agency ultimately voted 5-0 against a recommendation to the Zoning Hearing Board that the zoning be changed. Paone can still present the plans at the ZHB's May 21st meeting.