Clinton Parkway, by its very name, was envisioned as a break from the commercial clutter on 23rd Street east of Iowa.
The limited commercial development that has taken place on the parkway has been carefully scrutinized to avoid disrupting either the traffic flow or the intended ambiance of the drive from Iowa Street to Clinton Lake.
All of that effort is in danger of being undone by a proposal that gained the endorsement of the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission this week.
Against the recommendation of the planning staff, planning commissioners gave their backing to rezoning that would allow construction of a new Walgreens store at the southwest corner of Clinton Parkway and Crossgate Drive. Commercial rezoning for that area, as the staff pointed out, goes against the city's comprehensive plan and would attract additional traffic that the nearby network of streets was not designed to handle.
Planning commissioners weren't swayed by the staff's recommendation, choosing instead to side with developers and some neighbors who made the nonsensical argument that having a drug store within walking distance might decrease the need for area residents to make frequent trips on Clinton Parkway. Nothing against Walgreens, but it's highly unlikely that any great number of people are going to walk to this store. This is an especially silly argument when one considers that any product or service, including the pharmacy, that would be offered at Walgreens already is available at an equally walkable location about three blocks away at the Hy-Vee shopping center at Clinton Parkway and Kasold Drive.
The bigger issue, however, is that it only takes one piece of commercial zoning at that location to start the march of development that could turn Clinton Parkway into 23rd Street West. If zoning is approved for Walgreens, there will be little basis to deny similar zoning for another business next door or across the street and another business next to that, and so on.
Approving this zoning request as a supposed matter of convenience for a few neighborhood residents ignores the planning commission's responsibility to act on behalf of the public good. Lawrence city commissioners should accept that responsibility and reject the planning commission's recommendation and the rezoning request.