2011-09-15 / News

Draining issues complicate pair of Spindrift proposals

BY KATHLEEN MCKIERNAN

Plans to construct a two-bedroom dwelling on a vacant lot on Spindrift Street is one step closer to being realized after the Planning Commission recommended approval to the Zoning Board of Review last week.

After long talks of the Jamestown Comprehensive Community Plan, the Planning Commission put aside those discussions last week to focus on plans brought by engineer Craig Carrigan on behalf of property owner Donna Fishman to develop the 14,400-square-foot lot on plat 5, lot 278, on Spindrift Street.

Recommendation for approval was based on the town’s Zoning Ordinance, section 314. According to the Zoning Ordinance, natural physical limitations render the land unsuitable for development without restrictions. These are areas where nonconforming lots predominate, no public sewer and water are available, and the water table is within 4 feet below the original grade or where the depth to impervious layer is within 5 feet below original grade. These conditions create severe limitations for development and require special design or infrastructure in order to be safely developed.

The Spindrift Street plat falls under sub-district A, which consists of those lots where the seasonal high groundwater table has been determined to be less than or equal to 18 inches or the impervious layer is less than or equal to 42 inches below the original grade.

As a result of the zoning restrictions, Carrigan had to provide plans for development that included a drainage analysis and storm water controls. To mitigate the increase in runoff from the proposed improvements, the applicant proposed the use of two 266 cubic feet grassed QPAs or a qualifying pervious area as defined by the state Storm Water Design Manual. A QPA is generally a flat, natural or landscaped vegetated area that is fully stabilized and where discharge from impervious areas may be directed through sheet flow to obtain storm water credit. The Planning Commission did confi rm that the proposed QPAs appear to be able to accommodate the increase in runoff for a 10-year storm.

To mitigate the increase of storm water runoff, Carrigan said there are three options: a rain garden, a QPA or a separation distance. Carrigan said the plot could use either a QPA or a rain garden and both meet state standards under the Storm Water Design Manual.

Although Carrigan recommended either a QPA or rain garden, Planning Commission Chairman Michael Swistak had concerns of the maintenance of the garden between ownership.

“The biggest danger is if the homeowner gets tired of looking at it,” Carrigan said. “[R.I. storm water management] has been pushing the rain garden because it’s noticeable.”

To guard against a homeowner not keeping up the rain garden and thus threatening the viability of the drainage of the storm water, Town Planner Lisa Bryer suggested the commission make the maintenance of the garden a part of its approval if the applicant does choose a rain garden instead of a QPA in the end.

“As part of a condition of approval and recommendation to the Zoning Board, maintenance of it could be recorded as a requirement as well as site grading around the structure itself, because as it changes homeowners, the next owner doesn’t want a huge hole in front of it,” Bryer said.

Bryer also suggested that the engineer provide maintenance requirements so the initial and future homeowners are aware.

The Planning Commission also considered a second proposal for another lot of Spindrift Street, plat 5, lot 273, in which the piece of land was subject to the same zoning restrictions as the first proposal. Once again, Carrigan spoke on behalf of property owner Donna Fishman, who submitted plans for a three-bedroom dwelling on the 7,200-square-foot vacant lot. Since the soil evaluation reports indicate that the depth to seasonal high groundwater is 24 inches and the depth to impervious soils is 34 inches, the proposal was also under the restrictions of a sub-district A lot.

To mitigate the increase in runoff from the proposed improvements, the applicant proposed the use of a 383-square-foot rain garden. A berm would be used on the downstream side of the rain garden to prevent any runoff from entering onto Spindrift Street. The proposed rain garden accommodates the increase in runoff for a 10-year storm.

Though the plans were proposed to the Planning Commission, the commission decided to continue the plans for Spindrift Street, plat 5, lot 273, until the next available meeting to determine if it needs a dimensional variance for a setback.

Swistak explained that the house has to be a certain number of feet from the road.

“We need a ruling from the Zoning Board to know what the setback requirement is,” Swistak said.

According to the geographic information system map, the setback is 17 feet. The applicant, Steven Desimone, said he believed the setback of the proposed lot is 15 feet, but could not be certain so the Planning Commission continued the plans until the setback could be determined.

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