2008-09-11 / News

Commission makes decisions on Shores property

By Sam Bari

The Planning Commission voted Sept. 3 to deny a recommendation to the zoning board for a variance on the John A. Hayes application to build a house at Bark and Seaside Drive. The motion to deny passed by a 3-2 margin. Chairman Gary Girard recused himself from the proceedings.

However, the commissioners voted to approve a recommendation for a special use permit request for Section 308 for the same property. The motion to recommend the request to the zoning board passed by a 3-2 margin.

After the meeting, Hayes' Attorney Peter Brockmann said, "We are obviously disappointed by the commission's decision regarding the section 308 setback issue. The uncontroverted comprehensive testimony from two wetlands experts establishes that the proposed development meets each and every element of the ordinance provision that expressly allows for variances. The majority of the commission completely disregarded that expert testimony. We will be taking an immediate appeal to the zoning board."

The application was continued to the Aug. 20 meeting 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 property 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.

The commissioners took the testimony home from the Aug. 20 meeting and weighed the concerns of abutting and neighboring property owners as well as the finding of facts gleaned from the testimony of expert witnesses making presentations for opposing attorneys.

Vice Chairman Michael Swistak presided over the meeting in Girard's absence. He asked the commissioners to voice their opinion on the variance concerning Zoning Ordinance Section 314 Sub District A and the request for variance to Section 308 - Setback to Freshwater Wetlands.

The opinions of the commissioners varied dramatically. Commissioners Nancy Bennett and Richard Ventrone said that the commission should listen to the Conservation Commission for their recommendations. "If their calculations are accurate, I couldn't recommend approving this project to the zoning board," Ventrone said.

Commissioner Barry Holland supported the request. He said that the ISDS system was a high-tech system that more than adequately mitigated any possibility of adverse impact on abutting properties. He felt that the application should be approved, as did Commissioner Alexandra Nickol.

Swistak said the commissioners were going to rely on the strictest rules of the comprehensive plan and recommended denying the request for variance after reading the findings of fact.

Although Ventrone and Bennett strongly opposed recommending the special use permit, Swistak said that Town Engineer Michael Gray approved the plans for a mitigating system as presented by the applicant. Swistak then made a motion to approve the request for recommendation.

In new business, the Valerie Tessier request for a recommendation to the zoning board for relief from Zoning Ordinance Section 314 Sub District A for a variance for her property at 529 Seaside Drive was continued from the April 20 meeting. Holland motioned to approve the request and Ventrone seconded the motion. The motion for approval carried with a 6-0 vote.

The commissioners had a few minutes at the end of the meeting to discuss the Jamestown Zoning Ordinance update and the Jamestown Village Special Development District, which was continued from the previous meeting.

Bennett suggested that the commissioners discuss the process of achieving the ordinance changes and asked if they could make clear the goals and objectives of the ordinance update and the plan for the Jamestown Village Special Development District. She was not convinced that all the suggestions adhered to the comprehensive plan.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer said that the process for updating the zoning ordinance was absolutely in keeping and consistent with the comprehensive plan.

"As we are drafting this, we are keeping all those things in mind," she said. "We need to update the comprehensive plan. We do this every five years. We need to look at each element and see what has changed over the five year period."

Bryer emphasized that the charrette was looking at things in the context of the comprehensive plan. She said that nothing was suggested in the charrette that was not in keeping with the existing plan. "If something were suggested that would not be consistent, we would be required to amend the comprehensive plan," she said. "However, the plan is quite clear that we are not going to expand the commercial district. It is explicit that we cannot do that."

Before Girard made a motion to adjourn, he said that the next meeting would be dedicated to discussing the ordinance update and the special district development issues. He urged everyone in attendance to spread the word and encourage people to come to the meeting, emphasizing the importance to the future of the town.

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