2011-02-24 / News

Review, revision of community plan continues

By Geoff Campbell

The Jamestown Planning Commission last week addressed the Economic Development section of the Jamestown Comprehensive Community Plan in its continuing 10-year review and revision of the document.

At its Feb. 16 meeting, Chairman Mike Swistak began by reading portions of an e-mail from Commissioner Dick Lynn into the record. Lynn wrote, “I am still opposed to including the [Jamestown Community Survey] results in the JCCP. I thought that we agreed not to include them.”

A discussion of the members’ various recollections, the average age of the respondents versus the average age of the town’s people, and various views regarding the validity of the results followed.

It was determined that a note would be placed in the preamble of the community plan highlighting the scope of the results of the survey, methods and returns. The survey would be thoroughly discussed at the end of the document.

Swistak reminded the Commission that it did vote to accept the results as valid.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer said that given the survey’s distribution electronically and via the Jamestown Press, the calculation of the ratio of distributed surveys to responses is difficult to make.

Bryer added that the while 527 respondents are fewer by half from the 1998 respondents, the results, nonetheless, represent the second largest “forum” gathered in Jamestown since the 1998 survey.

Pendlebury noted that the choice of Jamestowners to respond or not, to the survey, was theirs to make and that choice is a byproduct of a democratic system of government. He added that the community plan should include a note such as: “A large group received the survey and a small group responded.”

It was confirmed that notes would be added to both the front and back sections of the community plan concerning the survey, but that the data points would not be removed from the body of the text.

A line-by-line review of the Economic Development section of the community plan followed. It included revisions of the homebusiness language, the inclusion of updated employment numbers and the addition of aquaculture enterprises on the island.

A substantive discussion developed concerning the commercial district, size, tax-base contribution, location and containment as well as its ability to meet the needs of the citizenry.

“Communities need commercial districts, or they aren’t communities, they’re suburbs,” Commissioner Michael Smith said.

Commissioners Smith, Duncan Pendlebury and Rosemary Enright suggested that language be added to the community plan that indicates the need for a regular review of the ability of the commercial district to meet the town’s needs. One of the examples raised was the departure of one of the two banks on the island and whether one bank is enough to meet the needs of Jamestowners.

In the town planner’s addendum, Bryer also reported that Jamestown Town Council member William Murphy raised the issue of accessory dwelling units at a recent Council meeting.

Accessory dwelling units, or accessory apartments, are defined as an extra living space that includes a kitchen, bathroom and sleeping area in a preexisting home.

Bryer said that although she did not speak with Murphy prior to the meeting, she took the opportunity to explain the Planning Commission’s most recent actions regarding accessory apartments to Murphy following the meeting.

In 2009, the Commission added a provision to the zoning ordinance to permit accessory apartments only as affordable housing units. The Commission mentioned the state-mandated goal of making 10 percent of all dwelling units affordable housing and avoiding the potential population increase and subsequent impact on water resources.

Currently, accessory housing is only allowed in the village, Bryer said.

Bryer also reported that a productive workshop was held with state historic officials and leaders of the Narragansett Tribe to consider topics including excavation in the vicinity of the Jamestown schools in order to construct safety corridors for students who walk or ride bikes to school.

Pendlebury asked Bryer if the Town Council had accepted the Commission’s recommendation not to place a moratorium on wind turbines on the island. He also questioned whether or not the Council had agreed to authorize the Commission to develop a list of criteria regarding the installation of wind turbines.

Bryer answered yes to both questions and noted that the Commission would be tasked with developing that list of criteria.

Commissioner Susan Little said that Town Manager Bruce Keiser told her that a statewide planning sub-committee is looking at the issue of wind turbines in order to develop appropriate guidelines and possibly a model ordinance.

In a review of the public hearing on the Evangelista Subdivision, which has been continued twice, Bryer said that the hearing is now scheduled for March 2. Bryer added that the owners are considering further changes to reduce the impact on the lot by creating three lots instead of four. They are also planning to include a public road, Bryer said. The changes were in response to feedback received from the Technical Review Committee of the Planning Commission.

Bryer said that if the owners were not prepared to move forward with the hearing on March 2, then she would recommend that they retract their application. “It is not fair to the abutters,” she said.

Also, the Planning Commission welcomed Michael Jacquard as its newest member at the meeting. Jacquard is a lifelong islander who replaces Daniel Lilly and will serve a three-year term.

The next Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for March 2 at Town Hall at 7:30 p.m.

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