Jack's Electric gets certificate of occupancy
The vote for approval of a special use permit application for shared parking at 14 Clinton Ave. was followed by resounding applause. The Zoning Board of Review, at its January meeting on Tuesday night, voted unanimously to approve the permit for the Windridge Properties building housing Jack's Electric.
Obtaining a shared parking permit allows zoning officer Fred Brown to now issue a certificate of occupancy for the beleaguered building. Although construction was completed more than a year ago, the building has been empty. A certificate of occupancy was denied when the building
was issued a violation notice because of differences with the Planning Board that needed to be resolved.
As if the uphill battle that lasted more than a year to resolve planning and zoning issues were not enough, relentless opposition to the project from neighbors Frank and Magdalena Andre, added more drama. The Andres, who live across the street at 13 Clinton Ave., have attempted to thwart the project with a series of legal maneuvers, since a building permit to begin construction was approved. And, Tuesday's zoning meeting was no exception.
The Andres arrived at Town Hall with their Providence attorney Andrew Teitz
and sat in the center of the meeting room surrounded by Jack's Electric supporters. They were the only opponents at the proceedings. Chairman Thomas Ginnerty announced that 45 letters had been received supporting the project and made them available to anyone who was interested.
Phyllis Bedard, owner of Trattoria Simpatico, and Bill Munger, president of Conanicut Marine, both spoke in support of Jack's Electric, the project in general, and encouraged the board to approve the application. Munger said the building enhanced the downtown business district.
Nonetheless, Teitz argued for the Andres for nearly two hours, alleging that Hanmet Court, the adjoining property leasing the three needed spaces to Windridge, did not have the spaces to lease. Even though Hammet Court has 48 parking spots and only requires 27 for themselves, Teitz alleged that most of the parking spots were illegal because they did not meet zoning standards.
Teitz also attempted to block approval by saying that the parking spots were inconvenient and that visitors and customers to Jack's Electric would park in the street and cause congestion in the neighborhood.
Donald Packer, the South Kingstown attorney representing Windridge properties, accused Teitz of throwing "red herrings" out to distract the board from dealing with the real issue. At one point, Teitz showed a photograph of a truck turning into the Jack's Electric parking lot with a wheel slightly off the pavement. Teitz said that it clearly demonstrated that the design of the facility was inadequate to properly handle the traffic that would frequent the business.
Board member Richard Allphin asked, "What does the design of the driveway have to do with the leasing of three shared parking places?" The question drew laughter from the board as well as the audience.
After all arguments were heard, board member Richard Boren made a motion to approve, citing 23 points of support. Vice Chairman Don Wineberg seconded the motion. After lengthy discussion amongst the board members with occasional suggestions and comments from Town Solicitor Wyatt Brochu, the panel voted unanimously for approval.
Now, the house that Jack Built can finally be occupied.
Windridge Properties owner and Jack's Electric President, Jack Brittain stood beside his wife, Mary, and daughter, Julie Swistak, and listened intently as the motion was read and ultimately approved. During the emotional moment immediately following the decision, Brittain could only say, "The fat lady fi- nally sang."