There were concerns but no major objections as a handful of Lakewood residents gathered at the Warwick Firefighters Association hall on Warwick Avenue to review a Dollar Tree store proposed for a nearly one-acre lot diagonally across the street.
“As long as the neighbors’ objections are addressed, I’m good with it,” said Ward 2 Councilman Jeremy Rix following the informational presentation last Wednesday night. The development would entail the unification of six separate parcels and the demolition of a house plus two buildings.
The six lots that include general business, residential and office use would be merged to create two lots. On the larger of the lots, 52,521 square feet, Dollar Tree would build a retail store of about 9,000 square feet. The project is estimated to cost more than $1 million, according to attorney K. Joseph Shekarchi, who is representing the developers, Clark Geer Latham and Associates of Mobile, Alabama. He said Dollar Tree would own the property.
There are no immediate development plans for the second lot of 16,754 square feet, which would also be Warwick Avenue. The merger of the properties entails the acquisition of the site of C & L Auto Sales, the business owned and operated by Vincent Ferla, who is running as a Democratic candidate for mayor.
The merger and subdivision of the properties and their use for general business will require master plan approval of the Planning Board and a zone change from the City Council. The Dollar Tree proposal will also require a modest reduction on required parking from 50 to 47 vehicles. As he has done with other development projects, Shekarchi conducted the informational session to brief neighbors on the proposal before plans are formally presented to the city and hearings are scheduled. In such a manner, neighbors can have their questions answered in a less formal setting and concerns raised can be addressed in the ultimate plan.
Although the developers have been working with city planners for the last nine months, Shekarchi said he doesn’t expect they will be ready for Planning Board review until the Oct. 10 hearing. By then Shekarchi anticipates developers will have taken into consideration concerns over lighting, lot drainage and protective measures for a brook that runs along the back of the property, issues raised by Mr. and Mrs. James King, who live behind the site on Young Orchard Avenue. Other concerns brought up related to a loading dock, which will be on the side of the building rather than the back facing the neighborhood, hours of operation and the use of Atlantic Avenue by delivery trucks.
Principal Planner Trish Reynolds, who attended the informational session, said that Dollar Tree agreed to depart from its standard store to take into consideration neighbors to the rear of the property by giving the building more of a finished design rather than that of a featureless wall. She said developers were also receptive to positioning the building on the site so as to provide landscaping in the front and offer a side, rather than a Warwick Avenue entrance.
Developers said they hoped to gain required city approvals in order to start construction by March of next year.