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posted: 3/27/2012 4:41 PM

Supporters rally for new Batavia Walgreens

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Not everyone thinks allowing a parking lot in front of a proposed new Walgreens store in downtown Batavia is a bad idea.

Signatures -- pen on paper, and electronic -- are being gathered on petitions urging Batavia city officials to approve the plan for 122 W. Wilson St.

A paper petition was on display at the pharmacy counter of the current downtown Walgreens, 138 W. Wilson, over the weekend. And an online one is available at petitionbuzz.com/petitions/forwalgreensdowntown. As of late Tuesday afternoon, the online one had 100 signatures.

"We are not an urban place. It (the front parking lot) is not a big deal," said Scott Salvati, signer of one of the petitions. Salvati, who pointed out he is a tenant of Batavia Enterprises Inc., said he supports the plan for the free-standing store because it will improve the downtown and provide better service to the store's customers. The plan calls for a pharmacy drive-up lane. The current store is in the middle of a strip mall.

Batavia Enterprises owns the land; Walgreens would be a tenant. Officials from BEI have said Walgreens is willing to sign a long-term lease if the plan is approved.

The store would be on the spot of the old Swanson's Hardware, which most recently held a bicycle store, on the south side of Wilson, west of the former post office. It has asked for a variance to let the building be 77 feet back from the lot line; the city's zoning for the area calls for a maximum of 10 feet. Walgreens would put a parking lot in front of the building.

Last week, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted in favor of the request, despite protests from residents and against the city staff's recommendation. The matter now goes to the city council's community development committee, which then will make a recommendation to the city council.

The 10-foot setback was meant to encourage pedestrian-friendly building designs. The city wants to increase foot traffic downtown. Opponents also have protested the plan because the building would be partially located on what is now a city-owned parking lot, reducing public parking.

Still to be determined is whether the city should grant a permit for the drive-up lane.

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