A step forward

A truck stops April 15 at Stewart’s Shops on Washington Street in Watertown to make a delivery. Chris Brock/Watertown Daily Times

Stewart’s Shops cleared a big hurdle last week in its plan to replace one of its gas stations/convenience stores in Watertown.

The City Council approved a zoning change for a proposed 3,445-square-foot facility on the southeast corner of Washington Street and Flower Avenue East. This would replace the 2,500-square-foot store a half mile south on Washington Street.

Council members had to change the zoning for a parcel of land on Flower Avenue East from Residence B to Neighborhood Business. Residents on Flower Avenue East raised concerns about how the presence of the new store would alter the character of their neighborhood. Council members Sarah V. Compo Pierce and Lisa A. Ruggiero along with Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith expressed doubts that they would support the project.

Stewart’s Shops initially wanted to construct a 3,975-square foot facility at the proposed site. But representatives of the company scaled the project back by reducing the size of the store and decreasing the number of pumps.

On May 2, Pierce joined council members Patrick J. Hickey and Clifford G. Olney III in voting for the zoning change; Ruggiero and Smith opposed the measure. The city’s Planning Board needs to review the site plans and send the issue back to the council. Members would need to approve a special-use permit because the facility will sell gas for the plan to receive final approval.

This is a good step forward. The store on Washington Street is too small and has a single gas island. The lot is so cramped that cars often need to carefully maneuver their way into place to pump gas.

Stewart’s Shops made appropriate modifications to its plans to accommodate residents in the area. In addition to reducing the size of the project, authorities agreed to thwart delivery trucks from using Flower Avenue East by installing a sign prohibiting right-hand turns onto the street.

We urge company representatives, city officials and residents to continue working together on any remaining concerns. This process has improved the project, and we hope to see this cooperation continue.

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