2008-11-26 / Front Page

Affordable housing proposal challenged by abutters

By Sam Bari

A two-lot subdivision, proposed by John Lawless on his property at 14 Pemberton Ave., was challenged by abutters David and Ellen Betzer and Mary Ann Oldewurtel at the Nov. 19 Planning Commission meeting.

Lawless presented a proposal to the Affordable Housing Committee on Oct. 8.

The proposal involves subdividing the 26,405 square foot property into two lots. The existing twobedroom house will remain as an affordable housing unit on one lot, while a new, single family dwelling will be built on the other.

Christian Belden from Church Community Housing confirmed at the meeting that Church housing is willing to purchase the existing house for $175,000 and sell it as an affordable housing unit for $150,000.

The existing house is serviced by a well. Both lots will use town sewer facilities. The parcel meets the criteria to be eligible for affordable housing and the planning commission must approve the application because it is the sole authority governing all such permits.

Lawless presented his case for public hearing with a slide presentation describing the existing dwelling and plans for development for two houses on the property. He proposed that the existing building be renovated by Church Community Housing for an affordable housing unit. A Jamestown resident would be given first priority to purchase the property.

Lawless said that the proposed house would be a modest threebedroom home designed to be consistent with the architecture of the downtown village.

The application requested two variances. The existing house on the east side of Pemberton Avenue does not currently meet the front yard setback and the proposed lot requires 80 feet of frontage where 29 is proposed.

According to Town Planner Lisa Bryer in her report, the applicant has provided a well-organized application referencing all required items by both town zoning ordinance and state law. Bryer said that she believes that all items, which needed to be addressed, were included in the application.

Steve Ostiguy of Church Community Housing explained the agency's participation in the project and their position on the ownership of the property. He said that their plan was to keep the existing dwelling as a two-bedroom house. He said that the property would be purchased with $50,000 from a federal community development block grant and that $15,000 is available from the town.

However, abutters to Lawless' property voiced concerns about his proposal. Mary Ann Oldewurtel said that when she applied for a variance to the zoning board for the house on her abutting property, one of the stipulations for approving her application was that she would use wooden shingles. She said it was more expensive, but she agreed and complied.

Oldewurtel wanted to know if Church Housing would be required to do the same thing to be consistent with the rest of the village. She also had concerns about the location of the garage being too close to her property.

David and Ellen Betzer had concerns about the new building blocking the sun to their back yard. Additionally, the Betzers said that they had a drainage issue that would only get worse if a building were constructed where Lawless proposed to erect his new house.

Although Jamestown Attorney John A. Murphy represented Lawless in his application, Lawless, an engineer, acted as an expert witness. He had given a letter addressing the drainage problem to Town Engineer Michael Gray, who reviewed the proposal and passed the letter out to the commissioners at the meeting. Gray said that Lawless' proposal showed him that the plans will handle the drainage and that the new construction would not exacerbate the problem.

The commissioners wanted an opportunity to review the letter from Gray, as well as the other concerns of the abutters before making a decision.

Chairman Gary Girard motioned to continue the case to the Dec. 3 meeting to give the commissioners adequate time to review the case and weigh the concerns of the abutters. The commissioners unanimously agreed to continue the case to the next meeting.

Early in the meeting, Chairman Girard motioned to postpone the zoning amendment portion of the meeting because the heat at Town Hall was not working. Girard said that he only wanted to address the Lawless case because of the number of people who had attended the public hearing that would be inconvenienced if the case were continued.

Return to top