Town Council supports Clancy zoning appeal
The Town Council on Monday voted 5-0 to approve a resolution supporting David and Jennifer Clancy's appeal for a special use permit to sell their hand-blown glassware at their studio on North Main Road.
A standing room only crowd turned out for the decision, which has been at the center of a dispute over protecting the island's open space from commercial development for more than two years.
Debate leading into the vote was heated.
In a strongly-written letter to the town council, the Jamestown Historical Society (JHS), which recently was granted party status in the dispute now in Superior Court, urged councilors against granting a zoning variance based on a 2005 Zoning Board decision which cited the potential threat to Jamestown's open space and historic district posed by a commercial business.
"The Jamestown Historical Society strongly believes that those potential harms and degradations cited by the Zoning Board in its unanimous decision to deny the Clancy application for retail sales of glassware constitute in fact a real threat to both its property and to the surrounding district," John Murphy wrote on behalf of the JHS.
Rosemary Enright, of 44 Clark St. and president of the JHS, reit- erated the historical society's opposition to the variance saying that the society was founded to protect the windmill and property that the Clancys abut. "A retail outlet would violate the trust of our members, both past and present," Enright said.
However, Joann Ziegler of 9 Union St., an art and architecture teacher, disputed the historical society's position. "This may be the only time that we don't see eye to eye," she said.
Ziegler likened Jamestown to historical villages with a downtown center surrounded closely by rural countryside and then by water. Ziegler argued that, "Working artisans constitute the very definition of village."
Don Minto, a neighbor to the Clancys' at Watson Farm and member of the Jamestown Historical Society and Conanicut Island Land Trust, also expressed his support, emphasizing that local artisans such as the Clancys are an asset to the community. Saying that the Clancys "have been more than reasonable." Minto asked that the council be reasonable and meet them "somewhere in the middle."
Karen Krider, president of the Conanicut Island Art Association, spoke on behalf of her organization and in support of the Clancys.
However, not everyone in attendance at the meeting were there to support the Clancys.
Zoning board member Richard Allphin, of Bonnet View Drive, said that he was a board member when the matter first came to the attention of the town. In the course of the hearing, Allphin said that he directly asked the Clancys if they had any intention to engage in a retail sales operation. According to Allphin, they responded that they did not. Had they answered yes, according to Allphin, he does not believe they would have been granted permission to construct their studio in the first place.
Quentin Anthony, attorney for the Conanicut Island Land Trust, echoed Allphin's sentiments, and said that he was unaware of any instance where a disgruntled zoning applicant has taken its objection to the town council to overturn. Anthony argued that the council had very limited authority over zoning ordinance, and asked that they not intervene.
Approaching the dais as his argument progressed, Anthony argued, "You are not a judicial body, but you sit here entertaining the merits of the case as if you were a judicial body."
The General Assembly, Anthony argued, has provided a process for appeal where the matter currently is under review - Superior Court. "Let it run its course," he said.
Mark Bardorf, who represents the Clancys, disagreed. Bardorf described the town council as the "essence of democracy" and asked that the council settle the matter under its jurisdictional authority over litigation. Referencing the large crowd in attendance, Bardorf implored, "I think that this requires significant leadership to hear what the community is saying."
Harbor Commission Chairman Mike D'Angeli said every public body needs to answer to an elected body of the town. It's important that the zoning board report to the town council, D'Angeli said.
Meanwhile, Chris Powell, chairman of the Conservation Commission, said that no matter what the council decided, the town needs to address open space with the utmost care. "Let's be very careful," Powell said.
Ken Newman, of Avenue B, echoed earlier sentiments saying that the town council was not the appropriate forum for the matter to be played out.
Larry Parks, who has represented the town in the matter, acknowledged that the matter can only be settled in Superior Court. He added, however, that because the Zoning Board had been unable to clarify its position to the court in a recent 3-2 decision to allow for restricted retail operations, the court would probably appreciate the opinion of the town.
Councilor William Kelly said that while he did not want to be part of a council that "second guess the decisions of the Zon- ing Board or any commission," he was willing to weigh in on the matter. Michael White and Barbara Szepatowski agreed. Councilor Robert Sutton said that he saw an inconsistency in the North Main Road driveways. "In all but one of them you can drive in and buy something. The only place you can't drive in and buy something is the Clancy's," he said.
Sutton introduced the resolution and included the following restrictions: no other artwork may be displayed or sold by artists other than the Clancys; the permit may only apply to the Clancys and shall not be transferable; the plot may not be subdivided; signage shall be limited to only existing displays; and operating hours limited to June 1 to Dec. 31, Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m., with daily operation allowed between Dec. 15 and 24.
West Ferry lease
In his regular report to town councilors, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser briefly provided an update on the status of the West Ferry boat yard lease. According to Keiser, a Request for Proposals (RFP) was issued last week and five bid packets were subsequently sent out by the town.
Keiser also reported that Town Planner Lisa Bryer had submitted a Historic Park Improvement grant application in an effort to acquire funding for an additional layer soil for an in-ground irrigation without disturbing known Indian burial grounds on the property.
Council Chambers named
for Rosamond A. Tefft
Recalling stories of long-time Town Clerk Rosamond Tefft, town councilors voted on Monday to name the new Town Hall council chambers in her honor.
The honor, which was proposed by island resident John Doty Jr., is fitting said Councilor Robert Sutton. "Rosamond Tefft was the Town of Jamestown," he said.
Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski agreed, noting that Tefft was one of the first people she met when she moved to the island.
Councilors Michael White and William Kelly, who said they had not known the former clerk, were duly impressed by the impression she has left on the town and were happy to lend their vote in support of the measure. Council President Julio DiGiando added that the council should engage in a broader discussion on the council's policy regarding future town bestowed honors.
Current Town Clerk Arlene Petit, referring to herself as "the new kid on the block," added after the vote was taken that the council's actions represented a "great honor for a town clerk."
Council begins search for
Beavertail Lighthouse keeper
Beavertail Lighthouse needs to be protected and the town cannot stand by while bureaucratic red tape holds up the process of determining stewardship. That was the consensus on Monday night from counselors who took the matter of the Beavertail Lighthouse lease up for discussion.
Councilman Robert Sutton led the call for "aggressive action" by the town to save what he described as one of the island's most treasured assets.
"I think we need to be super aggressive about this," Sutton said. Sutton, who as Town Administrator guided the town through the acquisition process when the town originally claimed stewardship of the light after the Coast Guard gave up its claim in 1983, said that the lighthouse will not survive in its current condition. Citing the threat of vandalism to the historic light, Sutton said that the only successful measure the town could take is to begin the process of finding a new caretaker.
"The only thing that stops that kind of activity is to get someone in it," Sutton said.
Aggressive action by the town, according to Sutton, was the reason the light was saved in the first place. Waiting for the Coast Guard to act should not be an option, Sutton said.
"Boston is a long way from Beavertail," Sutton added, referring to the Northeast Coast Guard headquarters.
Councilman William Kelly agreed. Beavertail, Kelly said, was not high on the list of priorities for the agency.
Following discussion, Sutton moved that the town begin the process of identifying a possible caretaker and defining his or her responsibilities. Kelly provided the second and the council unanimously agreed to move forward with the resolution.