2007-11-15 / News

Art gallery property set for an extreme make-over

By Michaela Kennedy

Allan and Nancy Randall received a unanimous nod from the Planning Commission to move forward with their major land development plan at the corner of Narragansett and Howland avenues. The project will require no variances or deviations from the zoning ordinance, noted John Murphy, attorney representing the Randalls.

According to the plan, the building which currently houses the Randall Art Gallery will be relocated to the rear of the L-shaped lot and a new, larger building will be constructed in its place. Architect William Burgin who designed the plan, explained that a goal of the project was to move the residential building onto a residential street, and position the commercial construction on the main commercial street. The applicant also agreed to plant street trees on Narragansett Avenue, Burgin added.

Bill Munger, owner of Conanicut Marine Ship's Store on the same street, stood up to express his excitement about the plan. "This project gives some purpose to that end of Narragansett," Munger said.

Anne Livingston, who owns property on Howland Avenue, also stood up to express her support for the land development. Livingston asked if the zoning law that allows commercial development on side streets off Narragansett Avenue could be changed to protect residential neighborhoods. "Knowles Court was never intended to be commercial," she noted as an example.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer responded that anything can be petitioned by a citizen. She encouraged communication, since the town was currently looking at changes to the ordinance.

In old business, the commission voted to approve an escrow account to pay for road infrastructure development at Upland Farm on Cedar Lane. Road construction, storm water drainage facilities and underground utility facilities are estimated to cost a little over $108,000 for the eight-lot subdivision project, according to a memo from Murphy, representing land owner Joseph Manning.

Also in old business, a proposed two-lot subdivision with an extension of Prospect Avenue off Summit Avenue and Holly Street was discussed, but no vote was taken.

Joseph Palumbo, the attorney representing applicants Michael and Janice Dutton, noted the plan was a re-subdivision of an existing lot. The plan included a 50-ft. length of Prospect Avenue proposed to become a private gravel road, with maintenance responsibility to be handled by a homeowners' association. A delineation of wetlands was approved by the state Department of Environmental Management, Palumbo added.

Planning Commissioner Richard Ventrone found the document confusing where wetlands were concerned. He said the letter from DEM flagged the area that was delineated by the biologist hired by the applicants, but did not address other areas of the property where wetlands might exist. Palumbo said he would talk with the biologist and the DEM to clarify the confusion.

In a memorandum from the town planner, Lisa Bryer noted that the existing section of Holly Street was constructed outside the right of way. The commission must make a finding that the subdivision lots have adequate access to a public street, and this finding cannot be made with the street in the wrong location.

Palumbo pointed out that the town was warned about the mistake when the road was constructed, but did nothing about it. "We would vehemently object to the suggestion of the town planner that we fix the road," he said. "That is a town problem."

Ventrone argued that the applicant was responsible for proper access, "whether or not the street was put in the proper spot."

Town Solicitor Christopher Orton said that ultimately the issue must be dealt with. "It's the applicant's burden to meet that requirement for you," he added.

A public hearing will be scheduled for the proposal, according to the planning office.

In other business, the commission:

• continued a review for Windridge Properties, owned by Jack Brittain.

• continued an application review for Walter Wetmore to replace an existing house and individual sewage disposal system.

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