2010-07-29 / Front Page

Commission approves subdivision

By Iain Wilson

Swiburne Cottage, proposed street facade. Affordable home design for the Church Community Housing Corp., Jamestown, R.I. Presented by Ronald F. DiMauro Architects, Inc. Swiburne Cottage, proposed street facade. Affordable home design for the Church Community Housing Corp., Jamestown, R.I. Presented by Ronald F. DiMauro Architects, Inc. Lengthy discussions and confl icting opinions eventually led to a unanimous preliminary approval for a proposed subdivision near downtown during last Wednesday’s meeting of the Jamestown Planning Commission.

The proposed three-lot subdivision at 12 Swinburne St. – to be developed by Church Community Housing Corporation of Newport – will consist of three affordable housing units.

CCHC, whose mission is to work to create affordable housing for families of low and moderate income in Newport County, wants to divide the 14,000-square-foot parcel into two lots measuring approximately 4,300 square feet each and one measuring approximately 5,200 square feet. The actual units would measure roughly 925 square feet, with the structure currently on the lot undergoing repairs.

Attorney John Murphy spoke to the commission on behalf of CCHC and cited the organization’s “track record of operating housing units in Jamestown.”

Of the proposed affordable housing units, Murphy added, “I consider it a great thing for Jamestown.”

CCHC, founded in 1969, has built more than 1,000 affordable homes and repaired more than 2,000 properties.

Bridget Ryan, senior project manager for CCHC, spoke to the commission about the organization’s past work in Jamestown, noting, “We appreciate the history we have working with the Jamestown staff.”

Preference will be given to island residents who could apply for the potential affordable housing through CCHC, she said.

State law mandates that 10% of town dwellings fall into the category of affordable housing. Currently, Jamestown has 104 such units, but will eventually need to complete 243 to comply.

Discussions moved smoothly until hitting one snafu: What to do with a 10-foot right of way that sits on the eastern front of the land?

The slice of land was owned by Arthur Knowles, who granted access to the three lots that abut the land, but do not have frontage on Swinburne Street. Some neighbors have used and maintained the way, but have noted its recent wear and tear.

Murphy, who noted the concerns of abutters, said, “We want to work with the neighbors to keep it the way it is now.”

Ray Gill, a neighboring resident on Narragansett Avenue, shared his only concern: “We just want to be able to get out.”

Discussion hinged on the topic of the right of way for an hour, with concerns of access and upkeep at the forefront. When talk turned tense, Murphy warned the commission, “To let this issue control your decision tonight would be a shame.”

Murphy called the use of the right of way “historic” and said, “We want to get along with the neighbors.”

Though neighbors did voice concerns about over-usage of the right of way, none seemed entirely opposed to the proposal.

Also discussed was the location of the proposed driveway.

“They have access to a public way for off-street parking. They need to illustrate that on the plan and in the proposal,” Town Solicitor Wyatt Brochu told the commission.

After a lengthy discussion, the council voted to approve the motion for preliminary approval with a bevy of findings of fact and conditions. The proposal will seek recommendation from the town’s Affordable Housing Committee.

Prior to discussion at the Planning Commission meeting, the Town Council had voted to approve an allocation of $200,000 from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, all of which will be used to fund this project.

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