The following is a letter to the editor submitted by Elie Y. Katz, a Teaneck councilman:
Let me start by saying that I am not writing this in any official capacity, but rather to express my views as a resident and tax payer concerned about the future of Cedar Lane and the tax base of Teaneck.
If I were making the decision of what store to place on Cedar Lane and its location, I probably would not have chosen another pharmacy and certainly not next door to CVS and J&J. In my opinion, another pharmacy in Teaneck is needed as much as another bank, ATM or nail salon.
In the last year and a half, I have heard from residents, read articles, and driven past many of the stores on Cedar Lane that are for rent, lay vacant and give the impression that Cedar Lane is dying. Most recently the yogurt shop and Louie’s Charcoal Pit have closed. The movie theater closed, but hopefully there is a new operator that will renovate and invest over $500,000 into the facility.
Let me be clear: not only is Cedar Lane alive and vibrant, it has some of the best merchants and shopping in Bergen County. If you have not walked or shopped Cedar Lane recently, make it a point to do so and fall in love with the wonderful merchants that are here servicing Teaneck; they do need our support.
However, when a multi-billion dollar national retailer, that spends millions of dollars on market research determines that it makes economic sense to infuse over three million dollars into Teaneck's downtown business district and there is no one in line before or after as an alternative, I feel we should welcome the idea. Maybe this merchant is not the perfect merchant and maybe this location is not the perfect location, but it also well known that national retailers attract other national retailers.
This project doesn't have to be the end of Cedar Lane, but the turning of the tide for more growth and future Cedar Lane investments that we as a community may then have the luxury of being a little more discerning and vocal about.
Two things are for certain; we need to bring in more commercial revenue to help shift the tax burden from our residents to the commercial districts and to do that we need to revitalize our main business district, Cedar Lane. I would like to see this project follow the guidance from Teaneck's Master plan and have more height, possibly add a few apartments upstairs.
The Teaneck tax assessor recently did an analysis of the current property. He determined that the proposed structure to be erected by Walgreens on the current site of Block 702 Lots 1, 2 & 3 will contain 10,557 square feet, inclusive of a single vehicle drive-through canopy. The likely assessed value will be approximately $5.3 million dollars inclusive of land. At an assessed value of $5,300,000 and using the 2012 tax rate of $2.40/$100, taxes generated by the property are estimated to be $127,200.
The current value of the three properties that currently occupy the location (Larry's Automotive, Louie’s and the old Davis Toys store) is $3,147,500, which in 2012 yielded taxes of $75,540. This Walgreens project will yield an additional $51,660 in annual taxes.
For years, Teaneck has been anti "drive thru." In an era when commerce is being done to make life more convenient from instant everything, online ordering to apps! Why not a "drive thru"? (as long as the Teaneck Police Traffic Bureau feels it can be built safely).
Look how successful the Cedar Lane Dunkin Donuts "drive thru" has been. Its outstanding usage says that Teaneck residents and shoppers are being less inconvenienced, and are enjoying the luxury and benefit of staying in their car to order and pick up their food. I know Dunkin Donuts may not be a great example, since at times it is a little too successful, but Walgreens is also not a donut shop.
The current Larry's gas station, which Walgreens will replace, has four drive thru pump lanes with vehicles going in and out all day. If the CVS drive thru at Queen Anne Road and Cedar Lane is any indication of what to expect with a drive thru pharmacy, there will be a reduction in drive thru traffic with the new Walgreens at that location. I imagine that taking advantage of the convenience of the pharmacy "drive thru" are many seniors and parents with children that can't or don't want to get out of their vehicles and walk in for their prescriptions. If a drive thru is the business model that Walgreens feels they need to be successful, then why hinder that?
The current CVS by North and Cedar (or Larch) has not only been a great shopping anchor for Cedar Lane, but it has also acted as a great shopping feeder to other merchants on the Lane. I expect the new proposed Walgreens to do the same.
We should not let the quest for a perfect project get in the way of a good project. We should throw out a welcome mat for businesses that want to invest in Teaneck and not an obstacle course.
So, while this may not appear to be the ideal merchant and it could potentially be a real change to the look of the Lane we all have come to know and love, it may end up being the jumpstart to the revitalization that Cedar Lane and Teaneck desperately need.
If we are not prepared to work with other people's vision, then we must prepare to continue and pay the tax increases.
-- Elie Y. Katz