2008-01-04 / News

Planning department dreams became reality in 2007

By Michaela Kennedy

The planning office led many municipal improvement projects over the threshold of success in 2007. From road improvements to a new Town Hall, the notches in Jamestown's chimney this year mark much more than a 350th celebration of the town's foundation.

In her 10th year as town planner, Lisa Bryer looks back over 2007 as one of the most productive years of her professional career on the island. "So much has happened. There's been a tremendous amount of infrastructure changes," Bryer notes.

No resident can doubt that the completion of the new Town Hall on Narragansett Avenue is a major step for the island. From a functionality perspective, the town government is under one roof. No more running between buildings is needed for inter-departmental communication. No more residents can complain about driving to the wrong office and being sent elsewhere. Municipal workers have found relief from mold and dust allergies that lurked in the old buildings. "Everything is in one location and that's great," Bryer says. "It's been long a time since everyone has been together."

The list of infrastructure improvements is long. The town has seen the pendulum swing, from shocking news of citations by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of sewer discharge problems, to the construction of a new water treatment plant on North Main Road at Great Creek. Local government officials, downtown merchants and residents have joined forces to clean up our island.

Other refinements to the town include finalized strategic plans at Fort Getty and the school grounds. Bryer reflects, not only on the year, but also on the last decade. "So many things talked about for years are coming to fruition," she comments. The campground expansion sparked the beginning stages of implementation for Fort Getty improvements. The acceptance of the school use plan dovetails with the Safe Routes to School project, a federal program about to be implemented on a local level, with grant approval of $250,000.

A ground-breaking change in terms of process is recognized with the Downtown Charrette. The town is embarking on a new type of zoning, never before considered in the management of the island. Consultants and planning officials brought citizens together in dialogues rarely seen until recently. Although drafts of zoning amendments and new municipal guidelines were due in December, the deadline for the report of the process with findings gleaned from the charrette has been moved up to January. "It's much more comprehensive than anyone anticipated," Bryer adds.

Even the most skeptical islander cannot deny the miracle of a resolution to the highway barn. The bidding process for its construction is about to begin.

In addition, private enterprises that worked through their own planning processes heaved a sigh of relief at year's end. Windridge Properties celebrates with a longawaited nod of approval for the building to house Jack's Electric on Clinton Avenue. Allen and Nancy Randall modified their major land development project a second time before preliminary approval at the site of the Randall Art Gallery. Joseph Manning received a go-ahead for his oftentweaked major subdivision project on Cedar Lane. These are a few of the more notable designs that were scrutinized by the tough eye of the Planning Commission.

"It's been a very difficult year," Planning Commission Chairman Gary Girard said at the last commission meeting of 2007. Everyone who participated in the major hurdles and achievements of the town this year would agree the road to so many successes has not been easy.

The commission drew the year to a close with the farewell of three of its members. Betty Hubbard, who has served on the board for 17 years, and Victor Calabretta, who served nine, have both retired. Commission members expressed thanks to the veteran appointees. Michael White, a more recently appointed member, stepped down after his election to the Town Council. The board will open the New Year with fresh faces and energy to move forward with the task of adopting updates to the zoning ordinance.

With some major projects completed and more plans to implement, "The town is moving in a pretty neat direction," the town planner comments.

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