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No Fries with That

Drive-through Walgreen’s approved by Planning Commission.

Access to a proposed new Walgreens pharmacy on Richmond Highway has neighbors concerned about potential traffic snarls.

The new pharmacy would go on about two acres at the corner of Richmond Highway and Boswell Avenue. Two existing buildings, a defunct Dunkin’ Donuts and Dak’s Lounge would be torn down to make way for the 14,500 square foot pharmacy.

Typically, a pharmacy would be permitted by right in this location, but Walgreens proposed a drive through, which requires approval from the county.

The drive-through itself, however, is not causing the problems, since individuals getting prescriptions filled would be coming and going to the pharmacy anyway, noted Greg Riegle, attorney for Walgreens. "They only generate a handful of trips."

The drive through will only be used for medications, residents will need to enter the store for other purchases.

The problems could come from a proposed access point on Boswell Avenue. If a car wants to make a left turn into the pharmacy while other cars are blocking the entrance, it could back traffic up onto Richmond Highway. "That can create a very uncomfortable situation," said Commissioner John Byers (Mount Vernon).

One proposed solution is to allow only right turns in and out of the pharmacy. This proposal upset neighbors behind the proposed Walgreens, who would not be allowed to make a left out of the parking lot – forcing them into a convoluted series of turns to go home.

At first, the entrance will allow for the free flow of traffic. Walgreens has committed to performing a traffic study, after the business has been established, to determine if that traffic pattern works. If the entrance is causing too many problems, Walgreens will modify it to allow only right-turn-in, right-turn-out traffic.

RESIDENTS NORTH of the proposed Walgreen’s had another issue. The new development will remove the access road in front of Walgreens. This will force them to go out onto Richmond Highway and then make a left onto Boswell, a situation which one resident called unsafe.

"It’s pretty much like playing Russian roulette," said Deane Elliott.

Byers sympathized with the "inconvenience" but noted that the county has a goal of improving the streetscape along Richmond Highway, which includes eliminating access roads.

Byers was hesitant because of the traffic issue, but praised Walgreens efforts. "This is a good development," he said. "Walgreens is going out of their way."

Byers recommended approving the development, and the commission did so unanimously.

The plan will now move to the Board of Supervisors for another public hearing and final decision. It is scheduled for Oct. 23. To register to speak, call 703-324-3151 or visit www.fairfaxcounty.gov/bosclerk/speaker_bos.htm