2008-08-28 / Front Page

Commissioners still undecided on Hayes application

By Sam Bari

Although discussion on new village zoning was planned for the latest Planning Commission meeting, it was dominated by testimony for the John A. Hayes application. The application requested a recommendation to the zoning board for a special use permit as well as a request for variance. The application was continued from a June 4 meeting when new plans and storm water calculations were presented. At the Aug. 20 meeting, opposing testimony from abutters and neighboring property owners of the Seaside Drive address caused the commissioners to extend the meeting a full half-hour longer than normal. The extensive testimony on the part of the applicant as well as the opposing parties frustrated both the commissioners and meeting attendees who were there to discussing zoning ordinance issues and plans for the Jamestown village special development district for at least part of the meeting. Chairman Gary Girard explained at the Aug. 6 meeting that the first meeting of every month would be dedicated to updating the zoning ordinance and the special development district to prepare for a presentation to the Town Council by October. He said that the second meeting of the month would be used "to take care of other business matters before discussing zoning issues." Chairman Girard recused himself from hearing the Hayes application and Vice Chairman Michael Swistak took over the proceedings. At the end of the meeting, Swistak requested that the case be put on the agenda as a continued item to the next planning meeting, which, again, would be the first meeting of the month on Sept. 3, thereby pre-empting the planned agenda for zoning ordinance and special development district discussions. The Hayes application is asking the planning commission for a recommendation to the zoning board for a special use permit under Zoning Ordinance Section 314 C, development within sub district A. The application also requests an advisory opinion from the planning commission to the zoning board for a variance of Section 308, a setback to freshwater wetlands. The applicant is seeking relief from the ordinances because the plans for development of the site mitigate any adverse impact on the abutting wetlands and the surrounding area. However, abutting property owners and neighbors did not agree and they opposed the application. Project engineer John Braga from John Braga and Associates, Inc. of Portsmouth assisted Hayes' attorney, Peter Brockmann, in a lengthy presentation of revised plans designed to satisfy the commissioners. A letter from Town Engineer Michael Gray said that he understands the difficulties of developing a lot within the overlay district. He said he has reviewed the plan as proposed in accordance with the requirements of the town's ordinance. "The storm water design as proposed mitigates the 10-year storm as required. However, I caution the use of a storm water system within and beneath the footprint of the dwelling," Gray said. He recommended that the engineer (Braga) work closely with the architect to assure that the proposed design will not impact the integrity of the structure or create conditions detrimental to the health and safety of the inhabitants. Nonetheless, Hayes’ application received well-researched opposition from abutting and downstream neighbors. Two of them said Braga's calculations were incorrect. The commissioners and the town solicitor recognized Susan Garolick, a chemistry teacher from URI, as an expert witness for the opposition. She and her husband David own an abutting property. Garolick was concerned that the fill used on the Hayes project was above the contour of her land and feared that storm water run-off would impact her property. Attorney Jack Reagan said that recommending approval would set a dangerous precedent in the area and allow everyone applying for relief in sub district A to challenge any denial by using this case as an example if it were approved. Additional opposing testimony is expected at the September meeting. After the meeting, Swistak said that it was important to allow everyone to voice their input and for the commission to listen to all testimony for and against the application before any decisions are made. In other business, Town Planner Lisa Bryer reported that the comprehensive plan is difficult, but the coding is even more difficult. "We are doing a good job of getting through writing the Smart Code and I expect that we will be ready to present to the Town Council by October," she said. Additionally, she said that the commission is at the beginning steps of the coding process. The first draft is being written. It is a changing process as public review and input is heard, Bryer said. Public hearings will be announced and held, and when the recommendations go to the T own Council, additional public hearings will be held. "There is plenty of time for input to be heard," she added. In other new business, Valerie Tessier's application for a recommendation to the zoning board for relief from ordinance Section 314 Sub District A for her property at 529 Seaside Drive was continued to the Sept. 3 meeting.  

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