2009-07-09 / Front Page

Council cements parking protocol on Watson Avenue

Parking zone moved from south side to north side of street
By Erin Tiernan

The Watson Avenue parking controversy that has preoccupied residents and local business owners since April finally ended Monday night. The Town Council reversed zoning ordinances and moved to allow parking on the north side of Watson Avenue with a 30-foot setback from the intersection at North Main Road.

On average, the parking setback is 40 feet from the intersection of town roads.

In deciding to restrict parking only to the side of the street where Island Rubbish and the Village Hearth Bakery are located, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said both business owners’ needs and the safety of residents were considered. “It’s a matter of judgment, but a setback close to 40 feet will limit the number of parking spaces and may be counterproductive to what we’re trying to achieve relative to serving the businesses on that street,” he said. “A safe setback of 30 feet would be acceptable.”

Although most residents and area business owners favored parking on the north side, one Ocean Avenue resident argued that after the installation of curbing on the north side of the road, cars parked on that side of the road would stick out into the road and obstruct drivers from safely moving through the intersection.

Council President Julio Di- Giando and other council members agreed to compromise with a parking setback of 30 feet from the intersection to protect drivers and pedestrians, while still allowing ample space to park.

Steve Tiexiera, of Island Rubbish, agreed the new restrictions would service his business and keep kids safe by blocking them from traffic. “My vehicles are about 10 feet wide, maybe a little wider,” he said. “With no parking on the south side there’s no problem there,” he said about his vehicles’ ability to pass.

Other major concerns were the safety of children walking to and from school, which council members believed would be solved by the curbing to be installed prior to the start of the school year this fall.

After the meeting, Keiser said he was sure the new parking plan would serve to keep everyone out of harm’s way. “Separate from the parking regulations enacted tonight, we already had planned a new sidewalk and curb along the north side, which enables this north side parking to work a whole lot better and keep the kids safe,” Keiser said.

The council also decided to ban parking on both sides of Avenue B, but deferred a decision to impose parking regulations on Westwood Drive and any weight ordinances on Carr Lane, pending more input from residents and the Traffic Committee.

Shoreby Hill historic district

Mindful of Shoreby Hill residents’ concerns, council members approved a grant request sponsored by Town Planner Lisa Bryer and Shoreby Hill Historic District Study member Betty Hubbard to determine the feasibility of naming the neighborhood to the National Register of Historic Places.

The application requests $18,325 from the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission to fund an outside study to catalogue the homes in Shoreby Hill and conduct an inquiry to determine whether or not the neighborhood fulfills necessary requirements to receive a national historic designation.

“A couple of people who live in Shoreby have said they aren’t really in favor of Shoreby becoming a historic district,” said Councilman Robert Sutton. “As government starts to get involved, there’s got to be some process that we listen to the people who actually live there.”

Bryer said the grant only sponsors a consultant’s opinion and does not make a decision either way. If, in the future, the town decides to move forward with the process of creating a historic district in Shoreby Hill, “this adds credibility to the process for those seeking to create a local historic district,” Bryer said.

“It is almost like a beginning layer,” she added. “It adds validity.”

DiGiando agreed resident input would be necessary to ultimately establish a historic district, but thought the grant application was a step in the right direction.

“If it leads us in the direction of historic preservation, then I think it’s a benefit to the community,” he said.

If Shoreby Hill eventually receives a national designation as a historic place, residents would be entitled to tax credits and incentives to maintain and preserve their property.

Construction permit extension

In another matter, the council voted 3 to 2 to support a bill that temporarily suspends the expiration of construction permits until June 30, 2011.

The bill is an attempt at an “economic safeguard through the recession,” said Keiser, and it would allow more time for individuals seeking funding in between the permitting and actual development processes.

Bryer said the impact to the town would be minimal, possibly benefitting two or three projects that have been hanging in limbo.

Council President DiGiando and Sutton opposed the measure, but Councilwoman Barbara Szepatowski drove its approval.

“It puts the message out there that the economy is going to improve, the councilwoman said. “We don’t see it as much here in Jamestown,” but there are people “who put efforts into permitting and unfortunately, because of the financial market, banks are reluctant to lend money at this time,” she said. “Since it can’t hurt us, I think it’s important to support the construction industry in the state.”

In other business, the council listened to residents who depend on the use of Summer Street for access to their properties. The residents petitioned that the paper street be adopted and maintained as a public road.

Conditions, they said, are deteriorating on Summer Street and pointed out that other nearby paper streets, which service fewer residents, had been taken over by the town.

No decision was reached, but the council said property boundary discrepancies needed to be addressed before further action was taken.

Licenses and permits

The Town Council approved the license for the annual Kid’s Fishing Derby to be held Saturday, July 25, from 8 to 11 a.m.

Also conditionally approved was Conanicut Yacht Club’s license to hold the 2009 Club 420 Nationals, a sailing competition that runs from July 27 through 29 at Fort Getty, as long as safety issues involving the pier are resolved.

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