2006-01-05 / Letters to the Editor

Questions about 'beautiful building'

Questions about ‘beautiful building’

Despite frantic pleas from Clinton Avenue residents, the industrial development at the bottom of our street is underway.

Readers may recall that this development was recently approved by the Jamestown Planning Commission. At the time of review, the issue was use. The developer is Jack’s Electric. The request was to construct a formidable commercial-industrial complex within a residential neighborhood.

The town’s comprehensive plan designates this location at the end of Clinton Avenue as light/limited commercial. This is meant to enable a smooth transition of compatible uses from Clinton to Narragansett Avenue, the island’s commercial core.

The justifiable contention of the community centered on Jack Electric’s request to push the land-use code beyond its legal limit at this location through variance and special-use requests. A dizzying array of site plans was put before the Planning Commission. While different, each depicted an active site with a huge multi-story building with large garage doors for large trucks. The services to be provided from this large complex have never been clearly defined.

Keep in mind, the word “large” is in the context of our small-scale residential community. Had the complex been sited in a more suitable or properly zoned area or on the developer’s own non-Clinton Avenue property, there probably would not be a problem. Regardless, what is clear is that the scale is meant to accommodate the developer’s long-term, but not clearly defined, plans. Turning a deaf ear to Clinton Avenue resident concerns, the Planning Commission approved these variances and the attendant site plan,

Since that fateful decision, I have observed the site in summer and this winter. Readers may recall that Clinton Avenue received written assurances in a Jamestown Press letter from the developer that the building will be “beautiful.” From my observation, the growing development at the end of our street has gone from bad to worse.

First, there was a bevy of white vans scattered throughout the site. Then an ugly metal fence ringed the property, with signs blaring “temporary” and “fence and wood.” Now there is a freshly cut mud hole fronting Clinton Avenue. This is a poor start to an unwanted land use. It seems the lax Planning Commission, in approving the site plan, could have at least directed:

1. Routine and ongoing review of each phase of the development — including this first stage with the new mud hole and metal fence. These reviews could have included input from the community. They would have ensured that every impact (visual or otherwise) would be mitigated.

2. Required the developer to send written notices to each Clinton Avenue resident as to what is planned at the site and how the building phases will proceed. In other words — no surprises and no flowery images that are not backed by facts and figures and a schedule for when this will unfold.

3. Required preservation of the community pathway that once angled from Clinton Avenue east to Howland Avenue. With the installation of the rude fence, this off road pedestrian pathway is now blocked. It would have also been nice to require polishing up the pathway over time with benches and/or local artifacts.

There are probably more responsible steps the developer should have been directed to follow. The Jamestown Planning Commission had within its power this ability to protect the community but seemed more eager to dismiss our concerns rather than represent them.

Some have said that the chance for thoughtful community planning and input is gone. They say the public process ended with the Jamestown Planning Commission’s misguided vote. I do not believe this or maybe I am just too stubborn to accept this gross mishandling of the public’s trust. After all, history has taught us that the actions taken directly by the people (not our elected or appointed representatives) produce the most meaningful change.

In this, I will continue to look for that “beautiful building” promised in the developer’s letter. As a property owner, taxpayer, resident and lifelong Jamestowner, I win continue to observe — each step along the way.

Valerie J. Southern.

Clinton Avenue

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