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ZONING REQUEST TO CLEAR WAY FOR DRUGSTORE SHELVED

The Zoning Board of Appeals tabled a variance request Tuesday for six homes to be purchased and razed by Benderson Development Co., to make way for a drugstore at the corner of South Transit and West High streets.

Kim Fiedler, Benderson's development manager for acquisitions and special projects, said the company is planning an 11,200-square-foot pharmacy on a 1.2-acre lot to be created by the purchase and demolition of the homes.

Fiedler said Benderson is negotiating with various drugstore chains, but denied a deal had been made with any of them. He said nothing would be signed until Benderson knows it will be allowed to buy the houses.

He denied local rumors that Walgreens is the chain planning to build at the corner, saying the location isn't large enough for one of its stores.

He said Benderson has signed purchase contracts with the owners of the homes at 115, 121, 137 and 139 South Transit St., and 17 and 19 West High St.

Even though South Transit Street is heavily commercial, there are residential pockets, and the corner in question is zoned R-2, a residential classification.

Fiedler said, "The focus of this variance action is the residents. These residents have tried to market their residences unsuccessfully. We're here as a qualified, capable developer."

The owners of the homes tried to sell to another developer in 1995 and 1996, but plans to build a Rite Aid pharmacy at the corner were stymied by public opposition. The Planning Board approved a rezoning request by one vote on the third try, but the Common Council rejected it, and the Zoning Board of Appeals turned down a variance request.

This time, the residents are seeking a variance first, but Zoning Board Chairman Joseph Kibler told the sellers' attorney, R. Joseph Foltz, that the board's attitude has not changed.

"We went through this with Rite Aid the last time," Kibler said. "The zoning has to be changed. . . . What you're looking for is spot zoning. We don't spot-zone."

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