Troubled by the realities of traffic that stacks up regularly, shortening tempers, eroding good judgment and leading to accidents, the Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night not to grant a “certificate of location approval” for a new gas station on Danbury Road, across from South Street.
That is well done. The vote is only the first step — it instructs the town planner to draw up a formal resolution of denial, which goes to a second vote. Then, there will be a special permit application to be dealt with.
But the commission’s intention is clear: Stop & Shop will not soon be building the gas station proposed as part of its program to reward regular grocery shoppers with discounts on gasoline purchases — at least, not at that troublesome location.
When it’s finished dealing with the gas station proposal, the commission should use it as an occasion to look over its zoning map and reconsider areas — like the site in question — where long-standing commercial zones allow high intensity uses that, perhaps, are no longer practical.
This proposal was for a gas station, which state law recognizes as a use of exceptional concern with the extra requirement that a “certificate of location approval” be granted as a first step toward development. There are other high-traffic uses that may be inappropriate for busy Danbury Road — and other locations in town — that would not allow the commission this extra discretion. Limited to the usual zoning considerations, the commission could be hard pressed to turn them down.
It’s difficult to change zoning in ways that may reduce the development options — and possibly the dollar return, both for property owner and town tax collector. But some of the town’s commercial zoning dates from the days when state highways like Route 35 and Route 7 were big roads with relatively little traffic.
Today, the town’s state highways are dramatically overburdened. That’s a reality that isn’t going away. The town’s zoning map should reflect it.