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Downtown Lakeville needs one more change

It’s hard to have patience when something is taking much longer than one thinks it should. For those who live and have businesses in the center of Lakeville, their patience has been tested in the past several years. Much has been done to improve this part of town, of course, including new curbing, a much safer pedestrian crosswalk and a new iteration of the intersection of routes 44 and 41 there. The Main Street storefronts and commercial buildings are full, thriving and well-kept. But there remains one central building, the former Chinese restaurant, that is vacant, neglected and overgrown. 

The owner, who also owns the Chinese restaurant in Millerton, certainly has had her hands full over the past several years and would likely welcome having this building off her plate. There has been interest in the purchase of the building from Richard Gentile, who would like to increase the number of apartments in the building (now there are three, presently vacant). This should be seen as a good thing in an area that is searching for ways to provide more and better affordable housing to its current and potential residents.

In order for this to happen, however, the planning and zoning regulations need to change to increase density standards. The Salisbury Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) is in the process of considering this change, and has scheduled two public hearings on the matter, one of which happened July 1 in the evening, and another yet to come on Saturday, July 13, at 10 a.m. at Town Hall. Anyone with an interest in this change should attend that meeting on July 13, hear about and see the plans (which are also available to the public at Town Hall during business hours) and discuss the details and ramifications to give the members of the P&Z guidance in making their decision.

One alternative to Gentile’s plan could be another restaurant coming in and using the commercial kitchen that exists in the building. But in downtown Lakeville, there are multiple restaurants right now: The Black Rabbit, On The Run, Mizza’s, Deano’s, The Green Café and The Boathouse, all within walking distance of one another. Does it make sense to have one more?

The building has been inspected by two different town building officials, and has passed general standards for remaining in its owner’s hands, and it is paid for and its taxes are up to date, according to the first selectman. But no one would argue it should stay as it is. It’s time to make the change to the zoning regulations and increase density, clearing the way for more rental housing in the area and improving downtown Lakeville.