2010-03-04 / News

Council sharpens focus on Ft. Getty and affordable housing

By Phil Zahodiakin

The Jamestown Town Council on Monday signaled its intention to start a process leading towards major decisions on Ft. Getty.

The council, which met March 1, is well aware of the infrastructure problems at the campground; in fact, a solution to the shower and restroom issues is currently in the design phase.

However, previous councils have failed to move “off the dime” any major recommendations from Master Plan committees impanelled to identify the most desirable reconfigurations of the park.

Consequently, there were questions about the merits of reconstituting a third Master Plan Committee to replace the newly discharged panel. But there was support for dividing the work of a Master Plan Committee between two other groups – the Bike Path Design Committee and the Buildings and Facilities Committee.

Council member Bill Murphy said he was “leaning towards getting the Buildings and Facilities Committee involved. So, maybe we could split [the work of a Ft. Getty panel] by assigning some of it to the Bike Committee, some of it to Buildings and Facilities, and having them coordinate.”

Council member Ellen Winsor raised the concern that spreading around the Ft. Getty work “might be unwieldy,” and council President Mike Schnack said, “My take is similar. My priority is to get off the ground and actually implement the Master Plan and figure out how to pay for improvements” at the park.

Council member Bob Bowen, pointing out that the Bike Path Committee will be looking at hiking trail issues, had suggested the formation of a Parks and Recreation Committee with a charge to issue recommendations across a wide range of initiatives.

Schnack said he was not opposed to a recreation committee, but added, “I’d like to hear from the recreation director.”

He also said he wasn’t opposed to asking the Facilities Committee to look at Ft. Getty issues and then come up with a “grand scheme” and priorities for that plan.

The council, which will re-visit the issue of Ft. Getty planning at its April 1 meeting, also decided to adopt a group of changes to the zoning amendments governing the criteria for multi-family dwellings in the Special Development District in and around the downtown area.

After adopting a sweeping package of amendments to encourage the development of affordable housing in the Village, the Planning Commission asked the council to temporarily suspend the lot size rules for multi-family dwellings in the Special Development District.

The affected development district zones are those classified as R-8, R-20, R-40 and R-80 – meaning lots with a minimum size of 8,000, 20,000, 40,000 and 80,000 square feet.

Among other changes, the town will require any R-8 multi-family dwelling to have town water and sewer, and a minimum of 3,000 square feet of lot size per bedroom for any dwelling with more than three units. The water and sewer mandate also applies to R-20 multi-families, with a minimum lot area per bedroom requirement of 7,000 square feet. The lot area minimums for R-40 multi-families vary by the source of water and sewer.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer told the council that these and other changes will help ensure that multi-family structures “won’t erode the nature of neighborhoods with single-family homes.”

However, she also said that the commission plans to re-visit Article 10 of the zoning amendments to make sure that its lot size requirements aren’t hindering the development of multi-family dwellings by imposing lot size requirements that are too large for neighborhoods with few, if any, lots that meet the requirements.

The council also learned that the coyote issue is back. Town Administrator Bruce Keiser will ask Bryer and Police Chief Thomas Tighe to review a package of non-regulatory coyote management measures proposed by Numi Mitchell, the lead scientist for the Narragansett Bay Coyote Study.

Unlike her proposed ordinance, which was shot down by the previous council, Mitchell’s draft best management practices would not impose any penalties for intentionally or unintentionally providing food to coyotes.

“One resource issue,” said Keiser, “would be finding a compost area for the carcasses of large animals [including road kill and deceased farm animals]. Numi has not found any farmers who would be willing to compost carcasses.”

In other business, the council:

• Heard a Bryer update on the School Land Use Plan, which – along with Rolling Agenda efforts – is intended to increase cycling and walking safety for students by, among other things, increasing coordination among town agencies responsible for school facility maintenance, athletics and other programs.

• Deferred for review by Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero a draft resolution entitled, “Remembrance of Victims of Domestic Violence,” which would declare a “Victim’s Day” and state the town’s “commitment to a safe community for our children and families.”

• Accepted a Bridge and Turnpike Authority resolution warning of the safety and security threats posed by liquefied natural gas shipments up Narragansett Bay.

• Deferred for later consideration a Providence “Blue Alert” resolution which calls upon the General Assembly to enact a law requiring the rapid, and public, dissemination of any information regarding assailants believed to be responsible for injuring or killing police officers.

• Agreed to adopt updated Federal Emergency Management Agency flood plain maps when they become available – a step that ensures that the town will remain a participant in the national flood insurance program.

• Accepted a letter from Conservation Commission Chairman Chris Powell, who advises the council to pursue a study on the environmental impacts of a wind turbine that the council endorsed for Taylor Point.

• Deferred for later consideration a Cranston resolution asking the General Assembly to enact a law requiring motorists to keep their vehicles at least three feet away from cyclists – or to keep their speed within a 10 to 20-mph range if the three-foot passing buf-

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