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Plans Detail Controversial Katonah CVS Expansion

Demonstrators at a recent protest against a proposed expansion of the Katonah CVS. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
Demonstrators at a recent protest against a proposed expansion of the Katonah CVS. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
A photo of submission material for the proposed Katonah CVS expansion, which depicts where the pharmacy would relocate. Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie
A photo of submission details for the proposed Katonah CVS expansion Photo Credit: Tom Auchterlonie

KATONAH, N.Y. -- Plans that have been filed for a controversial proposed expansion of the Katonah CVS provide details as to what form it will take.

According to the plans, which were filed with the town of Bedford as part of a building permit application, CVS would move to the middle part of the Katonah Shopping Center. CVS is currently located on the southern end of the plaza, having taken over the space last November from Katonah Pharmacy.

The proposed reconfiguration would take up 6,928 square feet and be created from a combination of four existing storefronts, the application shows. The building permit would allow for demolition of demising walls so the spaces can be combined.

Documents for the application were received by the town on June 16 and June 18, records show.

David Firestein, of property owner Firestein Management, Inc., told The Record-Review that he would pay for moving costs of displaced stores.

Calls to Firestein Management were not returned.

The proposed expansion has drawn the ire of residents, who argue that it will detract from Katonah's character and is not necessary given that there is another CVS near by.

An online petition against the proposal has garnered 1,348 signatures as of Monday.

Earlier this month, community members rallied in downtown Katonah in protest. Chants from participants included "CVS is big enough!" and "keep it local, keep it small!"

Kate Silverstein Galligan, an organizer of the local opposition, said CVS would place an "undue burden" on local merchants. She argued that it would not only compete with Weinstein's Pharmacy but would overlap with other types of services offered locally do to its product selection.

“So it’s just sort of detracting from the small-scale, independent flavor of the town that we obviously all value."

Galligan does not take issue with chains in general - Katonah's downtown has a few, including Tazza Cafe and some real estate firms - but her concern has to do with what she called "formula stores," which are national-level entities that have generic appearances.

The expansion could be jeopardized, however, if a potential zoning-code change being contemplated by the Bedford Town Board is approved. A public hearing is set for July 7.

The change calls for lowering the current cap for any given first-floor retail space in hamlet centers from 7,500 square feet to just 4,000. The legislation would apply to the town's Central Business (CB) and Neighborhood Business (NB) zones; Katonah Shopping Center has CB zoning.

The proposal came in response to a similar suggestion from the Katonah Village Improvement Society, which came up with a 5,000-square-foot cap, video of a recent board meeting shows. CVS was not explicitly mentioned when talk at the meeting focused on the legislation.

Jeff Osterman, Bedford's director of planning, said at the meeting that a survey of CB properties was done.The survey, Osterman added, shows that 95 percent of businesses use less than 4,000 square feet. 

Town Attorney Joel Sachs noted during the meeting that existing businesses with more than 4,000 square feet would not be affected. The exemptions would continue to apply, Sachs added, as long as they spaces are used for retail purposes. This can include switching from one type of retail use to another, even if a building is sold.

Firestein reportedly criticized the legislation.

"I don't think every time somebody comes in, you start changing the rules of the game," he is quoted as saying to The Record-Review.

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