2007-05-17 / Letters to the Editor

Jack's Electric building concerns

Last Thursday evening my husband finished reading the Press, and commented, with absolute certainty, "He's going to get away with it." His reference was to the article about the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for a recently completed commercial building on Clinton Avenue.

Controversy erupted when the building was first proposed. It took great time and energy to hammer out construction plans that answered the concerns of the neighbors and the town. A building permit was issued based on cooperative agreement between the neighbors, the town and the owner. Construction was begun.

In an official letter (July 2006) the building inspector noted serious discrepancies between the submitted plans and the actual construction. The owner did not respond. In February of 2007, another (five-page) memo was sent to the owner revealing "items of significant noncompliance." Construction continued.

It may be the case that the town officials had no legal recourse to obligate the owner to construct the building according to the submitted, approved plans. The bottom-line question is whether the plans for the building, as it has actually been constructed, would have passed muster with the neighbors and the town committees that approved the original plans.

Now we are not talking about the color of paint trim here. Storage spaces on the approved plans had morphed into offices. Another (alleged) floor was added. It is because of these changes that the owner went afoul of our zoning codes, and has now applied for a special use parking permit to retroactively come into code.

Toward the end of last week's article, the building inspector said (and I am quoting the Press), "as long as Brittain's special use parking application is approved by the zoning board and the construction is in compliance with the revised plans…he would have no problem issuing a certificate of occupancy".

Our town officials undoubtedly have no right to stop the owner from submitting the application for a special use permit. But I believe it can be turned down, although expensive legal action can be threatened by the owner, perhaps on past precedent.

"Precedent" is a key issue. The owner of this building did not follow approved plans, was cited for it, refused to respond to the official citations, and finished construction. If he is awarded a certificate of occupancy based on retroactively submitted plans, the precedent will be laid.

What, perhaps, I find most troubling, is that the owner knew very well how our zoning system worked. Jack Brittain, the owner of the building in question, was the electrical inspector for the Town of Jamestown for years.

The Planning Commission will have met by the time this letter to the editor is printed. The Zoning Board will meet next Tuesday, May 22. Please come forward and request, by your attendance at this meeting, that the Zoning Board turn down the special use parking application. In doing so, the owner will have little recourse but to reconstruct the roof (removing the - alleged - third floor), take out the additional wiring that was undoubtedly laid to turn storage spaces into offices…in other words, to conform to the agreement the town had originally made in good faith. Don't let this one slide by. Don't let those who breach the trust of their neighbors and the town "get away with it".

Alma Davenport

Jamestown Artillery Company of Newport, Captain Tew's Company of the 2nd Rhode Island, and the Varnum Continentals enacted the part of the colonial army, firing cannon and musket salutes. Larry Mc- Donald, in the role of foot soldier in the Le Regiment Bourbonnais, raised the French flag; and representatives of the Grenadier Company of the 10th Regiment of Foot raised the British flag. Members of Jamestown's Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion raised a "Betsy Ross" flag with 13 stars and 13 stripes.

Richard Kingsley donated and planted a "Liberty elm," a tree bred by the American Elm Institute to be resistant to Dutch Elm disease.

Behind the scenes, the Jamestown Recreation Department provided the sound system and general support. Steve Heath and Art Dutton organized the parking of the cars. Mary Heath and her committee did a marvelous job of organizing the day, and deserve a special thank you.

Rosemary Enright, President,

Jamestown Historical Society

Dennis Webster, Chair, Friends of the Conanicut Battery

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