2008-01-10 / News

Planning Commission requests $25,000 funding increase

By Michaela Kennedy

The Planning Commission unanimously approved $25,000 to be used for planning and development documents, a recommendation which will now go to the Town Council for approval. The commission voted 4 to 0, with one abstaining vote, towards support of a $10,000 increase in planning department allocations for the Jamestown Capital Improvement Fund for the year 2008-2009.

The planning department's line item in the capital fund is set aside for expenses that arise for updates to the comprehensive community plan, the zoning ordinance, and subdivision regulations.

Before the budget draft was reviewed, Planning Commission Chairman Gary Girard told newly appointed board member Alexandra Nickol that all documents to be addressed at a meeting should be submitted by deadline. He reminded all commissioners that the board had no obligation to discuss anything received late, referring to a parking agreement from Windridge Properties handed to the board at the last meeting.

Commissioner Jean Brown asked if Girard's comment applied to the budget proposal on the agenda. Brown noted that everything in that evening's packet was handed to them "as we sit here." Girard responded that he had no problem immediately discussing the documents just received.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer gave board members a breakdown of allocations for planning in last year's and this year's capital improvement fund. She noted the line item labeled "fees, supplies and dues" covered stipends for commissioners once a year.

Bryer went on to note a change in Cyndee Reppe's job description, which was altered in the last few months. "We secured Cyndee into a planning assistant position, for 25 hours a week," she explained. The change impacted the intern position, which was eliminated "I gave up some of the grant writing budget as well," Bryer added.

The planner voiced concern that not enough money was left in the budget for zoning updates. "Generally the money was allocated for updates to the comprehensive plan, zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations," she noted. "We've used fees for a community survey, editing the comp plan, and consulting fees."

The town planner mentioned money that may be needed for consultants. Architect Ron DiMauro offered the town 60 free hours of consultation work. "We are seriously chipping away at that amount," she added, and suggested reserving around $2,000 for future consulting fees. The planner also said that Di- Mauro had reviewed three proposed architectural designs for the town, and more could be expected for review.

Planning commissioner Richard Ventrone brought up the question of water on the island.

"I'd like to see us look at the island in terms of ground water. How much water do we really have on this island? Do we or do we not have an aquifer? I think it's important to have something more definitive than what we have," he said.

Bryer noted that three renowned geologists, specialists in rocks and hydrology, gave the town a proposal a few years ago for a study that came with a $300,000 price tag at the time. The idea was tabled, however because grant applications for the study were not approved.

Ventrone pressed the issue to be revisited. "We're making decisions on lots that go for a million dollars. How much potential do we have to protect a million-dollar property? I think it's a small amount of money to spend to protect these milliondollar homes," he opined. "I want the commission to go on record as saying there is a problem here because we don't really know if we've got it or if we don't have it."

Bryer commented that a study of that proportion would cost "a huge chunk of money that we can't afford in this budget."

Commissioner Jean Brown said that water has been used as a political football, and was not sure if it should even be discussed by the board. "That's not a planning issue as much as a Town Council issue," she noted.

Commissioner Barry Holland aired doubt that more studies could determine exact water levels on the island. He commented that he was not convinced that studies performed already were not enough, but he would agree to go along with an appeal to the council. "You can't even get experts to agree on global warming," he added.

Girard brought up talk of charging residents island-wide for water. "Talk to people whose wells went dry last year. I personally would object to that because no one comes over to me and gives me water."

As the discussion dragged on about the non-agenda item, the town planner reeled the conversation back to the agenda. Bryer said she hoped to get comments that evening on the proposed budget amount for the capital fund so she could take it to the council.

Girard made a motion to accept the line item totaling $25,000.

The commission also voted to send a recommendation to revisit the proposal for a water study.

Bryer went on to ask for support of $100,000 for affordable housing in the capital budget, to which the commissioners agreed.

The commission agreed to hold off appointments to open seats on committees until a full commission was present. Newly appointed Michael Swistak was not present, and one seat still remained open.

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