It’s good to see plans for a new Dillons store near 19th and Massachusetts streets moving forward.
The project cleared a key hurdle Thursday night when the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals approved two variances for the project. The variances will allow the store to be built with 129 parking spaces, instead of the 150 spaces that normally would be required, and will eliminate a setback requirement, allowing the store to build closer to New Hampshire and Massachusetts streets.
The variances might not be justified for a proposal to build a new store in a less-developed area, but they are an acceptable compromise for a company that is trying to build a new store on a limited footprint in the center of the city. The existing Dillons store has provided a solid retail anchor in an underserved area of the city for many years. A new store, with many of the same amenities that customers can find at other Dillons stores, will be a real asset for that neighborhood.
This is a vivid example of the importance of not letting the “perfect” get in the way of the “very good.” There are inherent problems with trying to build a modern supermarket on a small site in a residential neighborhood. Dillons has made an effort to address neighbors’ concerns about added traffic that probably will be generated by the store. We hope the company will continue to work with neighbors and be sensitive to their concerns as planning continues and after the store is built. Dillons has a long history as a good corporate citizen in Lawrence.
That being said, the problems associated with this project are far outweighed by the value it will bring to the center of the city. Insisting on arbitrary standards for setbacks and parking might have pushed Dillons to an outlying site, which would have been tragic for that neighborhood.
It’s good that the zoning appeals board recognized the importance of working with Dillons to move this project forward. We hope city officials will continue to help the company get the necessary approvals to bring this project to fruition.