Proposed lot on East Shore Road draws opposition
Three letters opposing the approval of the proposed four lot subdivision owned by Stephen Evangelista on East Shore Road were accepted into public record at the Jan. 5 Jamestown Planning Commission meeting, which included a public hearing on the matter.
The letters signed by Susi Pendlebury, Nick and Sue Nicholson, and William and Mary Kelly contained similar themes, opposing the project in order to protect the rural nature of the island and to prevent further development in the area.
Commissioner Duncan Pendlebury, an abutting property owner, recused himself from the proceedings, but all other members of the commission were present.
The three letters responded, in part, to a preliminary plan presented at the second of two pre-application meetings in December. Technical Review Committee meetings preceded each of the pre-application meetings.
One neighbor at the hearing was former Town Council member William Kelly of 76 Reservoir Road. He read his letter which was signed by 11 additional islanders.
The letter included the following points:
• The subdivision seriously jeopardizes the rural character of the entire community from Eldred Avenue North to the end of the Island.
• The subdivision would open a Pandora’s Box for additional development along East Shore Road and other similar areas like Beavertail Road.
• The subdivision is inconsistent and incompatible with the almost 1000 acres of permanently protected open space at the Center Island Green Space adjacent to the proposed subdivision.
• The subdivision is basically contradictory to the goals outlined in the Jamestown Master Plan.
• This type of construction project is diametrically opposed of the overall sentiment expressed by the Jamestown community in their response to the survey distributed by the Planning Department in the 2010 to maintain Jamestown Rural Character.
The Nicholson letter acknowledged, in part, the quality of previous Evangelista sponsored design work: “First let us say that we have admired the attractive houses they have built and the beautiful landscaping they have done.” It ended, “…we feel that this plan strays too far from the existing guidelines and that approval of this plan sets a bad precedent.”
The review committee recommended denial of the subdivision following its meeting, according to a Dec. 21 memo from Town Planner Lisa Bryer on behalf of the review committee. The review committee members present at that meeting were Fred Brown, Richard Lynn and Bryer.
The original Evangelista plan attempted to create a compound of four houses connected to East Shore Road by a private driveway. The review committee findings questioned whether the subdivision plan met regulations “with respect to frontage and access.”
The Request for Waiver of Subdivision Regulations was filed by John Murphy on behalf of Stephen Evangelista and stated, “applicant submits that [the] standard approach will result in a less attractive residential subdivision…The private driveways and easements… will enhance privacy and the practical enjoyment of each of the lots without imposing burden upon the Town or impractical burdens upon the lot owners.”
At the Dec. 15 meeting, commissioners voted to change the subdivision status from minor to major, according to Bryer, because Rhode Island law prevents the planning commission from granting waivers for minor subdivisions. The necessary waivers concerned road frontage based on the private driveway.
Following the last pre-application go-round and after hearing and processing the concerns voiced by both the review committee and the commission, the Evangelista design team, led by legal counsel Murphy, reconfigured the subdivision to include a private road that bifurcated the property in a 30-foot right-ofway easement.
Murphy briefly presented the revised plan and said that the “applicant’s team” remains responsive and that the owner has a right to build on the lot given that each lot meets or exceeds the 80,000-square-foot lot size requirement for the area.
Murphy introduced Mike Darveau of Darveau Land Surveying Inc. and he explained the new private road revision in greater detail and began to describe the plan in detail.
Commissioner Dan Lilly stopped Darveau with a question, “Do the drawings now submitted comply with the regulations?” Darveau responded, “Yes,” and the ensuing discussion concerned whether or not limits should be imposed on the scope on what would likely be the review committee’s third attempt at the plans.
The revised plan appeared to satisfy the street-frontage requirements and while there appeared to be a general consensus that the only open matter was the nature and structure of the road, there was also a prevailing sense that the review committee’s hands should not be tied.
Again Murphy reiterated his interest in receiving guidance regarding the town’s preference while at the same time stating that the team’s preference would be to maintain the 30-foot easement that is possible for a private road.
A public road would require a 40-foot right of way, at a minimum, and therefore would force the redrawing of the lots.
Some private roads legally exist in Jamestown and there was discussion regarding the lack of a clearly defined description and purpose of private roads in the town ordinance. Bryer reminded the commission that a private road requires a waiver.
Bryer also told the commission that the feedback on the revised plan would need to be received from police and fire services first.
The commissioners voted to continue the hearing to Feb. 2. The review committee will evaluate the revised plans and send its recommendations to the commission.