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Design board votes no to CVS

North Shore residents will hold another meeting Tuesday night where they'll discuss the fate of a drugstore looking to replace Watson's Foodtown.


© St. Petersburg Times, published June 11, 2000

ST. PETERSBURG -- A North Shore neighborhood committee last week issued a resounding "no" to a proposed drugstore development, giving heart to the project's opponents.

"Residents have realized what is happening," said Suzanne O'Neill-Charneski, who lives on 14th Avenue NE. "We're not going to roll over and play dead."

A CVS drugstore is being planned for 845 Fourth St. N, a corner site that Watson's Foodtown now occupies. A city board last month approved a rezoning request needed for the project, and the City Council will take it up Thursday.

The issue is beginning to take on a national tinge.

John Hildreth, director of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's southern office, sent a letter to City Council chairman Larry Williams on Friday opposing the project and offering to help find an alternative.

Hildreth said that if four historic properties are demolished to make way for the drugstore, the neighborhood's nomination to become a National Register Historic District could be adversely affected.

A special meeting for all North Shore residents, both property owners and renters, is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Sunshine Center, 330 Fifth St. N. Membership in the North Shore Neighborhood Association is not required.

The residents likely will vote on the CVS proposal. The vote is only advisory and carries no formal weight. But whatever its result, it could send a message to City Council and other city boards that may consider the CVS proposal during its permitting stage.

"I'm sure efforts are going to be made to pack the meeting with positive votes," said Ed Caldwell, meaning people who are inclined to vote for the drugstore development.

Caldwell, who owns the Dickens House bed and breakfast on Eighth Avenue NE, is a member of North Shore's Neighborhood Design Review Committee, which voted against the development Wednesday.

The tally was 19-3, said Caldwell, who was among those who voted against it.

The committee reviews projects to determine whether they are compatible with the North Shore neighborhood, often referred to as the Old Northeast. Many of its homes are among the city's oldest and have become showpieces through remodeling.

Residents who oppose the CVS proposal are not necessarily trying to save Foodtown. The grocery has generated complaints about attracting nuisance patrons.

But opponents do believe the 10,880-square-foot drugstore and its parking lot would be too large for the site and will extend too far toward residential areas zoned for single-family homes.

They also oppose demolition of historic buildings to make way for the project and cite what they fear will be additional traffic through the neighborhood.

"I have no problem with another retail use (on the Foodtown site) as long as it remains the same size and out of the residential area. CVS does not," said Jim Martin, who lives on Ninth Avenue NE.

The opponents' campaign has resulted in a number of "Stop CVS" signs popping up around the neighborhood, whose boundaries are Fifth to 30th Avenues N, between Fourth Street and Tampa Bay.

Martin, a "Stop CVS" leader, said last week he had given about 150 signs to residents.

O'Neill-Charneski, who said she is acquainted with various celebrities through working with Home Shopping Network, said she is trying to recruit some big names to lend weight to the anti-CVS effort.

She said she has contacted wrestler Hulk Hogan, fitness trainer Tony Little and beauty author Beverly Sassoon to help speak out.

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