The shopping plaza at the corner of Wallace Road and Route 101 in Bedford, anchored by Harvest Market, is getting a long overdue upgrade. Everyone involved seems to agree that the renovations and construction of a new bank building will serve the people, the tenants and the town very well. So why did the upgrades require a zoning variance?
The plaza was built in the 1970s. It just lost an anchor tenant (Dunkin’ Donuts) to the new plaza at the corner of Routes 101 and 114. Though it is a nice looking little plaza, the need to upgrade it from a competitive standpoint is obvious. But the owners’ first proposal was rejected by the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
The owners came back with a new proposal. This one was approved, thankfully, even though it violated the zoning rules for the site. It took a variance to get this beneficial redevelopment approved.
The busy new Market Basket in town also was built only because of a variance. The town granted the variance, approving a store twice the size allowed by the zoning rules, then rewrote the rules after being sued by Hannaford, which had dutifully — and disadvantageously — followed the size rules.
Beneficial commercial development should not require the waiving of regulations on a case-by-case basis by town officials. When that happens, it is a clear sign that the regulations are too strict.