A group hoping to build a drive-through CVS at Belmont Avenue and Rock Hill Road in Bala Cynwyd is offering to set aside a parking lot for users, if officials loosen restrictions on how pharmacy customers enter and exit the site.
The proposed site includes a township-owned defunct gas station at the southwest corner and privately owned adjacent parcels on Rock Hill Road. Ross Weiss of Summit Realty, which intends to enter a long-term lease with the owners of the site, addressed the Planning Commission Monday night, though the project is not yet the subject of a formal development proposal.
Weiss' main message was that CVS would be built on Rock Hill Road, away from the corner, but would still need an entry and exit on Belmont Avenue—not just the two planned Rock Hill Road interchanges—for development to make sense. That would involve an easement for access through the township-owned parcel. Weiss said he hoped the Planning Commission would recommend at least that component of the project to the Board of Commissioners. CVS customers coming off Belmont would pass 18 parking spaces designated for users of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail, whose north end is across the street, before reaching the drive-through and parking lot next to the pharmacy.
Chris Leswing, the township's assistant director of building and planning, suggested commission members consider whether the project would be an asset to residents and to what degree it would fit the master plan for the Rock Hill Road commercial corridor, which the township and developers have struggled to revitalize amid a difficult economy.
"There's been a lot of desire to make this a more attractive gateway to the township," Leswing said.
Commission members reacted to the plan with varying levels of enthusiasm:
- Anthony Vale: "I'm delighted to see a project here. I would like to express some enthusiasm for the fact that someone is willing to come in and spend millions of dollars. ... I'm skeptical about the drive-through and about having two driveways onto Rock Hill Road."
- Marc Vitale: "I may be more concerned with cars backing up on Rock Hill Road."
- Robert Gray: A CVS is "the highest and best use" for the site.
- Brian Hirsch: "This is not a lock of a thing to do, for me."
Leaders of the Bala Cynwyd and Belmont Hills civic associations could not be reached for comments on the project. Building and Planning director Bob Duncan said the Neighborhood Club of Bala Cynwyd has voiced opposition to the drive-through component, which would also require a zoning exception.
The commission members and representatives of the developer haggled over whether the township could endorse part of the project without seeing the whole, whether an easement could be lifted if CVS would ever vacate the property, and whether it would be worth the developer investing more time and money without the assurance of an easement.
Eventually, commission members voted in favor of putting on the record a careful statement validating the idea of Belmont Avenue access. The timeline of the project is uncertain.