2009-01-15 / News

Planners consider making East and West Ferry separate zoning districts

By Sam Bari

Town Planner Lisa Bryer last week asked planning commissioners to consider a zoning amendment that would split East and West Ferry into separate commercial districts.

The Jan. 7 meeting focused on zoning ordinance amendments in the downtown areas from East to West Ferry. Bryer suggested the change because the characteristics of the two ferry areas are so different.

The opinions of the commissioners on the matter varied, but they agreed that the idea should be discussed. Commissioner Michael Swistak said that he would be in favor of the idea with conditions that were clearly defined.

The commissioners rated possible types of businesses with a Y for permitted use, an N for not permitted, and an S for special use.

Spencer Potter of Narragansett Avenue said, "You don't have to assume growth" when discussing the area of Narragansett Avenue west of North Main Road and Southwest Avenue. Planning Commission member Richard Ventrone agreed, and said that he would like to see commercial growth restricted in the area.

Potter added that it was not the responsibility of the residents to see that the boatyard made a profit. "They knew what they were getting into when they bought the property. We are concerned about the neighborhood, not their business," he said.

Another Narragansett Avenue resident in the West Ferry area asked that restaurants that serve alcohol not be permitted.

Ken Newman, an abutter to the Dutch Harbor marina, was concerned about the parking if a restaurant were permitted, particularly at night. He said that it could disrupt life in the quiet residential neighborhood. He was also against alcoholic beverages being served.

Planning commission member Alexandra Nicole agreed that alcohol should not be permitted. She asked what the advantage would be to serve alcoholic beverages in a restaurant in a residential area.

William "Bucky" Brennan of 238 Narragansett Ave., who is a boater, said that he supported the previous owners of Dutch Harbor Boatyard when they requested extended hours. However, "the idea backfired," he said. "The noise after 10 p.m. made by boatyard employees was very disruptive to the neighborhood."

The commissioners discussed at length the kinds of businesses that should be permitted in the areas and the limitations that should be imposed, particularly in West Ferry, because the boat yard is in a residential neighborhood.

The idea of a grocery was discussed, with limitations to the size and kinds of items that it would be permitted to sell. The commissioners, as well as the attending audience, which was mostly abutters, agreed that a "full-blown" supermarket should not be considered.

Restaurants, luncheonettes and delicatessens were defined. The issue of whether the sale of alcoholic beverages should be permitted in any form was raised several times under various circumstances. Even the pros and cons of a restaurant with a BYOB (bring your own bottle) policy was reviewed.

The hours that businesses could be open were considered, particularly eating establishments. Gifts, souvenir and tobacco shops were also reviewed.

Nicole said that giving an area a special-use rating exposed the commissioners because they would be put in the position of possibly denying an applicant if neighbors were unilaterally opposed to a business like a restaurant opening in the area.

Mary Brennan, a West Ferry resident, said that she did not understand why businesses that were not water dependent and boat related were being considered.

Board member Nancy Bennett questioned the wisdom of a public parking lot in the Dutch Harbor Boatyard. Parking was a particularly hot issue among the local residents.

The contingency of abutting neighbors to the Dutch Harbor Boatyard generally discouraged commercial development in the area. All were opposed to restaurants serving alcohol.

Newman said that it was "totally inappropriate in this neighborhood." Giving the nature of the neighborhood now, that kind of development should not be encouraged, he said.

Carol Cronin of 230 Narragansett Ave., who is an avid sailor agreed. She said she saw no reason to introduce the sale of alcoholic beverages in the neighborhood.

Bryer pointed out that any establishment considered for alcoholic beverage sales would have to be a restaurant and serve food. "Just bars are not allowed," she said.

The discussion shifted to family cluster housing and mixeduse areas. Bryer said that cluster developments for that area would incorporate no more than five units per development. Bennett suggested that permitting affordable housing in the cluster units could help the town comply with the state mandate.

Even heliports were discussed, provided the property was large enough by FAA standards. The commissioners did not discuss every business on the list for the commercial districts before time ran out. Chairman Gary Girard said that the discussion would be continued at the next meeting.

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