2010-03-11 / News

Planning Commission approves proposed projects for grant application

By Iain Wilson

The Jamestown Planning Commission unanimously certifi ed a set of proposed projects for which the town will apply for community development funds as in compliance with the town’s Comprehensive Plan during its meeting last Wednesday.

Vice Chair Duncan Pendlebury presided over the meeting in the absence of Chair Michael Swistak.

Four communities in the state are entitled to the annual community development grant funds of $400,000. Towns not included on the list of entitled communities – including Jamestown – can apply for funds in a competitive grant application process, according to Town Planner Lisa Bryer.

Bryer said that in the past, Jamestown has received “anywhere from $35,000 to $150,000.”

Funds received are allotted for specific plans presented as part of the application, and money cannot be used for projects other than those that are specified, Bryer said. During the meeting, she presented the commission with the 2010 community development grant priority list.

Top on the list was housing rehabilitation, particularly funding for the Church Community Housing Corporation for repairs and improvements to the Bayside Apartments. The estimated amount requested for this project was $127,750.

The six-item list also included money for a Friends of Jamestown Seniors recreational vehicle, rehabilitation to elderly housing and funding for Church Community Housing Corporation to create one affordable housing unit for a low or moderate income family.

After a brief discussion, the commission voted unanimously to certify that the proposed 2010 block grant applications were in compliance with the town’s Comprehensive Plan and zoning ordinance.

In other business, Anthony Lachowicz, a planning consultant from Wakefield hired by the town, discussed future conservation development on the island. Lachowicz has been hired by the town to aid in amending land use regulations that would help usher in development with an eye on conservation.

The commission was presented with a Conservation Development Manual from the state Department of Environmental Management. The document deemed conservation development “a creative way to grow while preserving the community character,” a topic that has been at the forefront of discussions on Jamestown’s future.

Conservation development does not exclusively mean “going green,” but features several key components. It places an emphasis on identifying natural and recreational resources for permanent protection, and aims to guide growth to appropriate areas in order to minimize negative impacts to the environment while preserving community character.

Lachowicz said that three documents would have to be reviewed looking forward, including the town’s Comprehensive Plan, its zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations. One potential change the group discussed was the town’s cluster ordinance, something Lachowitz described as, “An old technique that really doesn’t address the needs of the 21st century.”

The most contentious point of the meeting was a discussion over actually mandating the proposed conservation development style over conventional subdivision style. Other towns have already adopted conservation development with three communities – including North Kingstown – choosing to go the voluntary route and letting an applicant decide whether to abide with conservation development.

Planning Commission member Barry Holland said that mandating conservation could limit the rights of property owners. Discussion ensued, and commission member Michael Smith likened mandating the conservation easement to “trying to make people jump through some more hoops.”

Members on each side of the argument agreed that more information was needed and, as such, did not make a motion on any of the discussed changes.

The next meeting of the Planning Commission will be held Wednesday, March 17, at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

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