2010-11-04 / Front Page

Council discusses reducing speed limit

By Phil Zahodiakin

The Jamestown Town Council on Monday sought assurances that the town was not flashing a “green light” for the state to reduce the 40 mph speed limit on the Great Creek stretch of North Road to 25 mph.

Bike Path Design Committee member Bob Sutton proposed reducing the North Road speed limit along Great Creek during the Sept. 7 meeting of the Council, which held off any decision until Town Administrator Bruce Keiser met with the state Department of Transportation, which has purview over North Road because it’s a state road.

Keiser informed the councilors that his meeting with the department has been scheduled for Nov. 16, when he will also discuss the conceptual plan for a bike path around Conanicut Island. But Councilman Bill Murphy raised a flag about the speed-limit proposal.

“Would they lower the speed limit without any input from the town?” Murphy asked. “I think we should hold a workshop to let Jamestown residents know that we’re proposing this.”

Keiser said that the DOT reaches speed-limit decisions without soliciting public comment. Murphy replied that it wasn’t his intent to endorse a change, and added, “If anything, I would prefer to widen the bridge [over Great Creek].”

The council will re-visit the speed-limit issue on Sept. 15, the day before Keiser meets with the DOT. Keiser said that he plans to ask the DOT if they would be willing to consider a change in the speed limit, but will also ask the department to delay any action until the town reaches its decision.

In other state-related news, Keiser informed the councilors that the town has not launched its well-water testing initiative in Jamestown Shores because the state Department of Health has not told Jamestown environmental scientist Justin Tobin what number of samples the department lab could handle each week.

Another Shores issue arose when resident Charlotte Zarlengo asked if there was any more money available in the Water Protection Fund for land acquisition. “At one time it was funded on a yearly basis, and there are still lots of properties for sale that need to be protected [to help absorb floodwater],” Zarlengo said.

Keiser replied that the fund, which has dwindled to about $60,000, is no longer budgeted for allocations.

As of 2007, there was $350,000 in the fund; since then, $130,000 of it was used to prepare the legal petitions necessary for the town to foreclose on each of the 100 lots with unpaid-tax judgments against them, and an additional $160,000 was used to purchase the development rights for a number of farms.

Council President Mike Schnack noted that residents who would like the town to re-fund the Water Protection Fund would have the opportunity to advance their request during the next budget deliberations.

In additional Shores-related news, Keiser said that Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero is working with the Conanicut Island Land Trust to prepare deeds with development prohibitions for the repossessed tax lots. Keiser proposed funding half of the $10,000 expense for deed preparation with monies from the town legal budget; Councilwoman Ellen Winsor pointed out that the total cost would be reduced if the CILT secured grants for the work.

Regarding this year’s property revaluation, Keiser acknowledged that a number of residents have asked why waterfront property values increased disproportionately in comparison to the reassessments of inland property values on the island.

The residents have also asked if there was a deliberate effort “to shift [additional] value to the waterfront owners.

“The revaluation was based on the premise that the market determines what the assessments will be,” Keiser said. “During the previous revaluation the opposite occurred: there was a shift in value to the village because of the red-hot real estate market. These shifts refl ect fluctuating trends in real estate, and, if anyone has any questions about our recent revaluation, my door and [Tax Assessor] Ken Gray’s door is always open.”

The council also addressed the issue of mooring fees, asking for an update on the Harbor Commission timeline to vote on a revised fee schedule. Commission Chairman Michael deAngeli said, “We should be able to vote by next week as long as we have a quorum.”

Councilman Bob Bowen raised a question about the composition of the commission, whose membership is weighted towards non-riparian recreational boaters. Schnack acknowledged that membership guidelines express a preference for an even distribution among the different types of harbor stakeholders, but added that the guidelines are only suggestions, which means that the imbalance will likely be addressed through attrition.

In other news, the council proclaimed November as National American Indian Heritage Month, and adopted a resolution congratulating the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association for its recent Rhody Award, which was granted in recognition of its efforts to preserve the Beavertail Lighthouse and associated buildings.

The resolution, which was offered by Winsor, points out that the preservation effort, which has so far cost $327,000, “ensures that [Jamestown] residents and visitors will always have an opportunity to enjoy, and learn from, this historic landmark.”

The Town Council also noted that all election signs are to be taken down by Saturday morning, 72 hours after Election Day.

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