The nation’s largest pharmacy chain saw a late-night wrench thrown into its plans to build a CVS Pharmacy with drive-thru at State and 17th streets west of Boise’s downtown.
After five hours of opposing statements from the neighborhood, the Boise Planning & Zoning Commission at 10:43 p.m. denied a drive-thru window for CVS, a crucial element for the modern pharmacy. The vote was 4 to 1.
The drive-thru and a variance for a side yard setback were the only matters under consideration, but commissioners and the 50-some community members that addressed the commission Dec. 4 clearly signaled that CVS was not welcome at 17th and State.
Commission and community opposition revolved around CVS wanting to remove a 23-unit affordable housing apartment complex, three historic homes and an office building to build a 19,000-square foot pharmacy with 48 parking spaces.
The property is zoned commercial, which allows a pharmacy. A drive-thru is also allowed with a conditional use permit.
But “just because we can build it doesn’t mean we should,” Commissioner Eileen Thornburgh said.
The commission decision can be appealed to the Boise City Council. Cory Webster, vice president of T.M. Crowley & Associates, the Indianapolis developer of hundreds of CVS pharmacies, including three proposed for Boise, declined to comment after the commission meeting as did Geoffrey Wardle, the Boise attorney representing T.M Crowley.
The Planning & Zoning Commission and the city’s Planning and Development Services staff offered contrasting interpretations of Boise city code and zoning regulations.
“There’s no way to kill the project,” City Planning Director Hal Simmons told the Idaho Business Review before the commission meeting.
If T.M Crowley chooses to proceed without the drive-thru, there are no historic protections or demolition restrictions on the property. It’s properly zoned for a pharmacy, said Cody Riddle, manager of current planning at Boise Planning & Development Services.
The planning commission and the neighborhood speakers relied on Blueprint Boise, the city’s comprehensive master plan, to kill the drive-thru.
They emphasized one criterium listed in the Boise code to evaluate conditional-use permits: “The proposed use is in compliance with the Comprehensive Plan.”
Blueprint Boise identifies 17th and State within the downtown planning area and designates State Street for mixed-use development. The comprehensive plan also seeks alternatives to the automobile.
“Yes, this is zoned commercial C-2,” Commissioner Jennifer Stevens said. “We also have in front of us Blueprint Boise. We have a lot of things in this (CVS proposal) that does not meet that vision.”
Stevens honed in on the loss of a mixed-use lot.
“”We’re talking about taking our four homes on a residential (street) and replacing that with a parking lot,” Stevens said. “The goal is not to create more surface parking lots.”
The public speakers and commission members said they were loathe to lose a mixed-use block to a single use. They also said the CVS plan was a suburban car-centric proposal for an urban district; that three other pharmacies are within three blocks of the CVS site; and that CVS should pick another location.
“This proposal has a dozen things to hate about it and absolutely nothing to like,” said Lori Dicaire, organizer of Save Boise Neighborhoods. “It defies common sense.”
Wardle noted there are seven other drive-thrus on State Street. But those aren’t “identical uses,” Stevens said.
“Not a single one is identical,” said Stevens, adding that the CVS proposal with access from Jefferson (a residential steet), 17th and State streets was unacceptable.
The 23-unit Arcade Apartments affordable housing was also a focal point.
“The demolition of 23 affordable units is a crisis,” said Brittney Scigliano, co-chair of the East End Neighborhood Association.
“To eliminate 23 affordable housing units goes completely against the comprehensive plan,” said Monica Fabbi of the Intermountain Fair Housing Council.
Wardle responded on behalf of T.M Crowley.
“I can assure you no one is going to be forced onto the street,” Wardle said.
Three CVS Pharmacies
T.M. Crowley & Associates has three CVS Pharmacy stores planned for Boise.
The first free-standing CVS in Idaho is expected to start construction in spring or summer at Fairview Avenue and Cole Road, said Cody Webster, T.M. Crowley’s vice president of real estate.
Webster in June filed for a conditional-use permit to build another CVS on Capitol Boulevard at Ann Morrison Drive, now the site of the Fisher Retail Building, which has four tenants and a vacant Pizza Hut. The application was withdrawn in August, said Cody Riddle, manager of current planning at Boise Planning & Development Services.
“We don’t have an active application,” Riddle said.
Webster said the Capitol store is not dead.
“We’re still working through it,” Webster said.
CVS is the nation’s largest pharmacy chain, with stores in 49 states. It arrived in Idaho in April 2016 with two in-store pharmacies in Target stores in Nampa and Twin Falls. This followed the CVS purchase of more than 1,660 Target pharmacies in 2015.