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The Hendersonville Planning Board cleared the way for a new CVS on South Main Street that the developer says will clean up a strip of dilapidated buildings and add to the city tax base.
The approval came after some trepidation about whether allowing left turns in and out would create a traffic hazard. But Planning Board members said they felt reassured by a condition in the driveway permit that allows either the state DOT or the city to revisit the traffic pattern if crashes happen.
The developer must still get approval from the city staff on its landscaping plan and approval from the county of a stormwater runoff plan but those hurdles are expected to be easily cleared compared with the driveway request, which caused landowner Boyd "Bub" Hyder to suspend his effort for almost six months.
Hyder and CVS originally filed plans for the 12,000-square-foot pharmacy a year ago. The city and the DOT resisted the request for a full-access driveway for safety reasons. But after the applicant filed new traffic impact studies, the DOT relented and the city's traffic engineer said OK. City Planner Sue Anderson said the city will keep an eye on the traffic and the crashes, if any, and invoke its authority to reexamine the driveway movement if it proves to be dangerous.
No one spoke against the project based on traffic. One adjoining property owner raised questions about whether the project would worsen flooding in the area. Others spoke in favor.
"This has been an incredibly long and tedious journey, two, two and a half years to get to this point," said Matt Cooke, who works for Hyder. "We want to clean up the south end of town, all the buildings that are dilapidated. The checks and balances are in place. This is the right thing to do."
If all goes as planned, the developer will clear the old Mr. Gatti's restaurant and other buildings on a strip of land between Mud Creek and Spartanburg Highway. City entryway rules will require CVS to plant trees in parking lots island and along Main Street.
Real estate broker Gary Jones told the board that the CVS is not "a spec store" but a relocation of the pharmacy next to the Ingle's on Spartanburg Highway. The supermarket chain is expected at some point to raze that location and build a new Ingles, and CVS is on a month-to-month lease.
CVS officials told him "we have about 1,800 (pharmaceutical) customers in that store that have been there 34 years, and we don't want to lose them."
In a revised traffic impact analysis, traffic engineers for the developer changed projections to show that 75 percent of trips to the store would originate from the south. The initial studies had the trips split 50-50 north and south. The change was based on information the chain drug store has about its customers.
"They can tell you exactly where they come from," Jones said. "They come from Flat Rock and that vicinity."
Attorney Kenneth Youngblood, who owns property behind the site, said the development was a good project that will improve that part of downtown. But he said the traffic concerns are broader than that one project and ought to be solved through creative solutions by the city, such as a roundabout.