MILLBURN, NJ - The Millburn Board of Adjustment on Monday took what could be the first step in authorizing a Walgreen’s Pharmacy on the Morris Turnpike and Millburn Avenue site that currently includes the closed Short Hills Caterers building and a Shell service station.

The zoning board voted to grant a number of variances, with conditions, for construction of the 15,200-square-foot drive-through facility. Now, however, the applicant, Sound Short Hills of Parsippany, must seek approval of its site plan by the board.

Hearings have been held on the zoning variance applications since last November.

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Conditions for the approval to construct the 15,200-square-foot facility in a zone limiting retail uses to 5,000 square feet included:

Limitations on operating hours of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days per week, with the pharmacy closing at 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Entrance and exit of delivery vehicles via right turn only from a new driveway to be constructed to the site from Millburn Avenue and exiting only of the vehicle via a right turn onto the westerly end of Farley Place.

Limitations on deliveries by truck to the site to the hours of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Demonstration to the board during the site plan hearings that the site will be designed so that tractor-trailers making deliveries will be able to  make one continuous turn onto either Millburn Avenue or Farley Place with one continuous movement, rather than stopping midway into a turn to negotiate the turn better.

Approval by the board of the site plan.

The new Walgreen’s facility, that will replace the current Walgreen’s in the King’s shopping center on Morris Turnpike, will include the pharmacy and will sell stationery and packaged food items.

In fact, arguments presented at Monday’s hearing by Sound Short Hills representatives in seeking approval for 48 parking spaces rather than the required 76, cited the fact that there would be less demand for parking spaces in a single facility housing all three uses than there would be if three separate 5,000-square-foot uses were permitted on the site.

Sound Short Hills traffic consultant Corey Chase said studies taken during two weekend days at the newly-opened Walgreen’s store on Morris Avenue in Springfield indicated that the proposed parking at the new facility would he more than adequate.

Chase also said that studies at the Springfield store and projections using Institute for Traffic Engineers (ITE) software pointed away from significant queuing by customers waiting to enter the new Walgreen’s site during rush hours either entering or leaving the site from Millburn Avenue or leaving the site from Farley Place.

Board trafffic consultant Hal Simoff said, however, that use of ITE methods seemed to point to greater queuing, especially when taking into account all intersections surrounding the site, including Morris Turnpike and Baltusrol Way in Springfield, which is across from the site of the proposed new facility.

Board member Steve Togher said that drivers making a left turn from Morris Turnpike onto Millburn Avenue, in particular, during the evening rush hours would encounter backups from the site, particularly because some Walgreen’s customers would be picking up prescriptions on their way home from work.

On another facet of the application, Chase noted that his clients had redesigned their plans since the last hearing on the project to include concrete aprons on the delivery driveways to restrict delivery vehicles to the correct entrance and exit aisles and would add signage to indicate that delivery vehicles leaving the site from Farley Place were restricted to right turns onto Morris Turnpike.

Richard Keller of Millburn, who is the planning consultant for Sound Short Hills, testified that the proposed Walgreen’s facility presented a much better use for the site because the proposed facility’s parking could much more easily accommodate its customers than the former catering facility whose parking often overflowed onto adjacent streets.

He added that fuel trucks making deliveries to the current Shell station often cause backups along Millburn Avenue and other streets in the area.

In addition, according to Keller, Sound Short Hills’ plans will allow for more planting on the site and the drive-through pharmacy would be a benefit to the community because it would be convenient for senior citizens and for families with children, who would not have to leave their cars to pick up prescriptions, and it would “quarantine”  ill patients from other customers waiting inside the pharmacy.

Although several board members expressed concerns about the site, they also acknowledged that the size and location of the site would present challenges for whatever use ultimately occupied the site and the Walgreen’s proposal seemed to meet more of the challenges than other potential uses.

Site plan review, due to a number of other applications due to be heard by the zoning board, probably will not begin until at least the beginning of April.