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After Mayor John Dickert cast the tie-breaking vote rejecting the proposed CVS Pharmacy at Ohio Street and Washington Avenue, several readers contacted Racine County Eye asking why the store was turned away.
The new store was planned at more than 13,000 square feet. A new CVS would have replaced its current store a half-mile east at West and Washington, and that store would close.
CVS had an option to purchase the buildings housing Racine Cyclery, American Coin, the vacant building in between and the empty cash store next door to Racine Cyclery. The store also was going to buy at least three homes and level it all to make way for the new pharmacy and parking lot.
In order to move forward with the project, the Common Council would have had to approve rezoning the parcels to a commercial designation. Several alderpersons opposed the change because the area is supposed to be a buffer zone between the commercial corridor on the west side of the intersection and the residential neighborhoods of Manree Park and West Racine to the east.
After an August 3 vote denying the necessary rezone request, Alderman Henry Perez introduced a reconsideration measure, but it was defeated Sept. 1 with the 8-7 vote in which Dickert cast the tie-breaker.
When Racine County Eye reached out to the mayor to ask why he voted against CVS at Ohio and Washington, he said it wasn’t to turn away a business with which the city wants to partner. Instead, it was about preserving the area as the buffer zone it was designed to be.
“Look, I know people are disappointed, and I hope this isn’t the end of our discussions with CVS,” he said. “But I voted ‘no’ because I think we could have set ourselves up with a dangerous precedent that would have worked against us in the future.”
Dickert pointed to the gradual transition along Washington Avenue from commercial to residential and how changing the rules for CVS could open up the 4300 and 4400 hundred blocks to more commercial development which would irreparably alter the neighborhood.
Both of those blocks on the south side of the street each include one business and a handful of homes. The north side of the street is strictly residential.
“What happens if we say ‘yes’ to CVS and then other businesses want to come in and point to what we did there to support their requests to do the same on those other blocks?” Dickert added. “The change to the neighborhood would be irreversible, and then we’d face similar situations in other areas of the city, and I don’t think, in the end, that our residents want that.”
Perez – who represents the district that includes the proposed CVS site – disagrees with the mayor. He said he doesn’t see a dangerous precedent and said that was actually discussed early in the process with CVS, but didn’t see a problem because West Racine transitions into a solid commercial district between Blaine and West Blvds.
“Looking at Washington Avenue going east, you see homes that move into commercial and then it’s solid store fronts so I don’t see adding CVS to that corner as an issue,” he said. “It’s a busy corner so of course a business would want to go there.”
Perez said most people have an issue with the current traffic, but they haven’t considered how much it would change with a building set back from the corner and improved site lines.
“It is a bad intersection, but changing the configuration with CVS will actually make it safer,” he added.
As for the city’s land use plan, Perez understands it’s an important planning document, but he also said it’s meant to be a fluid document.
“Comprehensive plans are great for long range planning, but they’re also meant to be flexible to take into account the ebb and flow of how neighborhoods change and how the needs of residents change, too,” he said.