June 18, 2019

Essex Zoning Commission Approves Rite Aid Expansion

ESSEX— The zoning commission Monday gave quick special permit approval for an expansion of the Rite Aid pharmacy in to adjoining vacant space in the Bokum Center shopping plaza at 125 Westbrook Road.

The approval came after a brief public hearing where no residents spoke either for or against the permit application from the Rhode Island-based pharmacy chain and Provident Bokum Holdings of Guilford, owner of the shopping plaza. The lack of public comment was in sharp contrast to the response to a 2009 application for a new 14,673 square-foot pharmacy with a drive through that would have been constructed on the opposite side of Westbrook Road (Route 153) at the site of the Oliver’s Tavern restaurant building.

In 2009, there was more than four hours of comment at two public hearings from residents from residents who objected to the claimed “big box” size of the pharmacy and the traffic impact of the larger separate store. In early 2010, the commission denied the permit application, citing concerns for pedestrian and vehicle safety at the busy three-way intersection of Westbrook, Plains, and Bokum roads. The permit denial was upheld after a court appeal.

The new plan would expand the existing 7,649 square-foot pharmacy in to 1,824 square-feet of abutting space that was previously occupied by a martial arts center. The plan for a total 9,427 square-foot Rite Aid would not change the existing entrance, but would upgrade the existing sales area while adding a new waiting consultation area, handicapped accessible restrooms, and an employee lounge.

The only issue for discussion at the public hearing and following commission discussion was parking. The shopping plaza that was built in the 1980s currently has 118 parking spaces. The panel determined that only 10 additional spaces would be needed for the pharmacy expansion, with the spaces to be provided by striping a reserve parking area on the south side of the block of storefronts. Striping of the back parking area was the only major condition imposed with the unanimous permit approval.

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