2007-03-01 / News

Compliance of Clinton Avenue property argued at planning

By Michaela Kennedy

Discussion of the upcoming work session to focus on a downtown strategic plan was upstaged by James Donnelly, the attorney representing Jack and Mary Brittain, at its Feb. 21 meeting. The Brittains are under fire for changes made to a new construction on Clinton Avenue not approved by the commission.

The meeting at the library began with a warning to the commission from Andrew Teitz, attorney representing neighbor Frank Andres. Teitz told the commission that police officers had prevented Teitz and his client from entering Brittain's property earlier in the evening. The commission at that time met and held an inspection of the property with the town planner and building inspector. "I would hate to see you people fined for violation of open meetings laws," Teitz said. "There's no reason to have the public banned."

Solicitor Lawrence Parks noted that information from the building official showed the building to not be in compliance with the plan approved by the commission originally.

He said the board's goal was to review the plan and hear suggestions from the applicant as to how he would modify the building to bring it into compliance. Parks also said the required number of parking spaces "can't be found" and would need a dimensional variance. "In the meantime there is not going to be a certificate of occupancy," he said.

If an agreement were not reached, the problem would require enforcement at the Superior Court level, Parks continued.

Commissioner Victor Calabretta asked why the argument of compliance was before the board if it was an enforcement issue. Parks explained that, after reviewing the plan, one option was "to do nothing."

Donnelly stood up and challenged Town Planner Lisa Bryer, claiming that she wrote a letter "full of inaccuracies." He accused the town planner of reporting "erroneous information" and passed out highlighted copies of Bryer's correspondence to Jack Brittain. "I am going to address every line of the town planner's report as to why we are absolutely 100 percent in compliance with what was approved," he argued.

An uproar ensued between the commissioners and Donnelly, who continued to voice "frustration with Ms. Bryer."

The town solicitor intervened. "We are not here to listen to arguments from the developer as to how he is in compliance," Parks said, reminding the board that the applicant was there to make suggestions regarding problems with the plan.

Planning Commission Chairman Gary Girard repeatedly asked Donnelly to "please stick to the building and not specific people."

Parks recommended that the commission table the agenda item, since the applicant "hasn't responded to Ms. Bryer in any way shape or form."

According to the town planner's report, some of the inconsistencies noted in the new building and not existing on the approved plan include a crawl space, a third floor with a staircase, and changes in elevations.

The commission continued the meeting with an informational discussion about the work session for downtown development ideas to be held in the spring

Board members agreed to come up with a group of questions they would like answered at the work session.

Girard commented on acceptable setbacks for applicants who develop property in the commercial district. He noted that input from the business community would be valuable. He asked board members to consider the build-out analysis, a potential of 9,000 residents, from the Comprehensive Community Plan. "When an applicant comes to us, they'll have some guidance and make things easier for them," he added.

Bryer noted that at present the town had "very general standards," and whether that was a good idea.

Commissioner Michael White suggested hiring someone to help brainstorm ideas for the work session. Girard agreed that a consultant would help with "a lot more planning" for the work session.

Commissioner Richard Ventrone made suggestions about how to "distinguish it (downtown) and keep it good looking," adding that details such as color of the shingles, and window treatments should be considered.

Commissioner Jean Brown warned not to be insensitive. "The business community is afraid of being over-regulated. We have all the great intentions of making Jamestown a great place, but we don't want to make it prohibitive to the shop owner," she said.

Bryer suggested a consultant be chosen who is "more than just a facilitator, someone with architectural experience."

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