May 23, 2018

Essex Zoning Holds Special Meeting to Act on Proposed Centerbrook Pharmacy

ESSEX-— The zoning commission is ready to hold a special meeting next week to act on a special permit application for a pharmacy in vacant former restaurant space in the commercial building at 31-33 Main St. in the Centerbrook section. But any action on the application is dependent on the approval Tuesday of a parking variance from the zoning board of appeals.

The commission opened the public hearing Monday on the application of Quality Care Drug/Centerbrook LLC. Greg McKenna, a licensed pharmacist and partner in the firm, said the partnership currently owns and operates five small “community based” pharmacies including pharmacies in Haddam, Portland, and three in Fairfield county. McKenna said the parking needs for the pharmacy would “certainly be far less,” than the parking requirements for restaurants that had operated in the vacant space until late 2010.

JMB Properties, a Cheshire group that owns the building, is seeking a variance from the zoning board of appeals to allow a total 35 parking spaces for the building where 44 spaces would be required under zoning regulations for all current and proposed uses in the building. The ZBA is set to hold a public hearing, and possibly act, on the appeal Tuesday.

No one expressed opposition to the proposed pharmacy at the zoning commission hearing Monday. Two residents spoke in support of the application, Paul Partica, owner of the Centerbrook Cheese Shop located in the 31-33 main St. building, and local engineer Robert Doane. Doane’s father ran a pharmacy that operated in the Centerbrook building for decades until around 2006. Partica said he has never observed a lack of parking at the building, which also houses the Centerbrook Package Store, since opening the cheese shop in late 2010.

When commission members also raised no questions or objections during the hearing,

Peter Lucchese, a Clinton realtor who has been marketing the vacant space, asked the panel to consider acting on the permit application before the next scheduled meeting on Oct.21. Lucchese said McKenna is hoping to open by Thanksgiving to allow the business to start generating some return on the investment going in to the winter season.

Commission Chairman Alvin Wolfgram said the panel usually delays a vote until the next regular monthly meeting, particularly if a key requirement, such as the nine-space parking variance, is still lacking. But after discussion, the commission agreed to schedule a Sept. 23 special meeting to close the public hearing and vote on the pharmacy application, as long as the parking variance first wins approval from the ZBA.

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