2010-01-28 / Front Page

Commission hears plan to divide farm

By Iain Wilson

During its meeting last Wednesday at Town Hall, Jamestown’s Planning Commission heard several proposals from local landowners, including a preapplication review for a plan to split the 32-acre Cottrell Farm into three parcels.

Commission member Gary Girard explained the purpose of a pre-application review.

“It’s a conceptual review to tell us what they plan on doing,” he said. The land, located just outside the Village area on the south side of Hamilton Avenue, houses an 18th-century farmhouse.

It is an active farmhouse to which the owners are making serious restoration efforts, said John Murphy, who spoke on behalf of the owners. He explained that the owners were seeking waivers to build a road through a portion of the property.

Subdividing the farm would create a 12-acre lot, a 16.5-acre lot and a 3.5-acre lot. The road in question would be 14 ft. wide, and some concerns were raised over utilizing the paper street as access to one lot.

“The driveway for plots two and three, the two large plots, would be down the existing driveway, which has been used for many, many years,” Murphy said.

The owners aren’t seeking to build an asphalt road, according to Murphy, but an older-looking stretch to match the land’s historic look.

“The only real problem there is that we [the Town] don’t inherit those roads to rebuild,” Commissioner Richard Ventrone said.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer said that according to town regulations, if the town allows the private road on Cottrell Farm, the owners must sign a covenant stating that they “will not ask the town to own the road for a period of 99 years unless they bring it up to town standards.”

Ventrone called it a “win-win proposal.”

After discussion, the commission voted unanimously to combine the master and preliminary reviews into one session to be heard at its Feb. 17 meeting.

The commission then heard from attorney Peter Brockman and Dan Cotta of American Engineering on behalf of Thomas Bellayuto, who wants to build on his property on Frigate Street.

Bellayuto came before the commission to show he was in compliance with the town’s high ground water ordinance and to receive a recommendation to the zoning board. The commission voted to recommend the project to the zoning board, but not before a discussion of storm water run-off stemming from the project.

Ventrone was the only member of the commission to vote against the recommendation, calling the plot of land, “One of the worst lots I’ve seen to build a house on.”

The land in question sits on a hill, and Ventrone was concerned about the downhill flow of postconstruction water. Discussion ensued as to whether the town would be liable for any damages resulting from a project that it recommended.

Town Solicitor Wyatt Brochu told the commission, “I’d hesitate to comment on any potential town liability for a set of circumstances that hasn’t happened yet.”

Jamestown’s environmental scientist, Justin Jobin, reviewed the plan and stated that it met the requirements of the ordinance.

To comply with the town’s ordinance, Bellayuto must not alter the amount of run-off.

“The R.I. Supreme Court has said that people upstream have the right to develop their land, as long as they take all reasonable measures to mitigate the effect downstream,” Brockman said.

After including several findings of fact and conditions, the commission voted to recommend the project. Those findings of fact included a memo from Jobin that concludes the project meets the necessary requirements and conditions. Conditions were that information from the latest site plan is to be used and that the driveway will be constructed of crushed stone. Final drawings must also include an annual maintenance requirement for the drainage systems.

In other business, the Planning Commission heard a preliminary review for a minor two-lot subdivision at 119 Watson Ave. and unanimously voted to send the zoning ordinance amendments related to flood plain management to the Town Council.

Commission Chair Michael Swistak voiced his appreciation for Commissioners Gary Girard and Richard Ventrone, who presided over their final meeting as members of the commission. Susan Little and Richard Lynn are the commission’s new members.

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