To the editor:
Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commissioner John Haase has proposed new regulations that will give city commissioners broad authority to reject or encourage particular new businesses in Lawrence. With existing authority, our City Commission has been successful in maintaining a vibrant downtown. New businesses succeed or fail because of their ability or inability to provide a product of value. The decision to compete in the highly competitive retail market is best left to those people who will be risking their own capital in the competition.
Haase's notion that the desirability of a new business can be determined by comparing Lawrence's per capita spending in each retail category with national benchmarks requires scrutiny. Should Wheatfields have been rejected because Lawrence's per capita consumption of bread was above the national average? Is it our goal to consume all products at the national average? Do we wish to protect all existing businesses from competition from new ideas or greater efficiency?
Haase assures us that city commissioners always would have the ability to approve a project, especially if there was evidence that a particular sector of the retail market wasn't meeting the needs of the community. It is not easy to know what businesses will succeed, and the simple rules of thumb proposed by Haase will not work. We trust city commissioners to decide whether a proposed new business meets general planning regulations. Let us trust Lawrence consumers to decide whether the business meets the needs of the community.