2011-11-17 / News

Panel approves parking variance for yoga studio

BY MARGO SULLIVAN

Downtown Jamestown is about to add a yoga studio, with holistic health and wellness services, to the existing mix of restaurants, stores and small businesses on Narragansett Avenue.

Owners of the Island Heron yoga studio, Karla Jean Bartley and Heidi Steele, had a variance approved Tuesday from the Zoning Board of Review, allowing them to open their business at 42 Narragansett Ave., former home of the Jamestown Press, without the required number of five on-site parking spaces.

The vote on Nov. 15 was unanimous, but two residents went on the record to oppose the variance, and both cited lack of downtown parking as the reason for their objection.

Bonnie Perrotti, owner of the building that houses Chopmist Charlie’s, objected to the variance because customers from surrounding businesses have improperly been parking in her tenants’ spaces and she anticipates the yoga studio will exacerbate the parking problems.

“My tenants when they come home have no parking,” she said. Perrotti said she was not against the Island Heron per se, but did not think it was fair to give variances to new businesses when she had been compelled to meet the letter of the law about the required parking.

“We always had to have parking,” she said. “But they don’t need parking. I’ve noticed it all the way down the line.” She named Slice of Heaven and other popular destinations that don’t provide parking for customers.

Perrotti also said the issue about illegal parking may boil down to enforcement, but it was unfair she had to chase people out of parking spaces.

“My tenants take the brunt,” she said.

Parking was the only issue before the Zoning Board because the studio is an allowed use in the district, Chairman Thomas Ginnerty said. He added that he would note Perrotti’s objection. The Zoning Board also received a letter from Donald Bresnan, who also complained about the parking problems a new business would bring to the area. Bresnan sent the letter because he was unable to attend the hearing.

Zoning Board member David Nardolillo said he saw reason for concern about the yoga studio’s parking requirements, if as many as 15 people, including staff, could be going to the studio at the same time.

But Richard Boren, the Zoning Board vice chairman, said the parking situation on Narragansett Avenue put his panel “between a rock and a hard place.” The Planning Commission has made the creation of a “vibrant downtown” a goal.

“Unfortunately, the downtown consists of one street,” he said. To meet the on-site parking requirements, houses along Narragansett Avenue would have to be demolished and replaced by parking lots, he said.

“The only choice that leaders of the Zoning Board have would be to grant the variances,” he said, because “99 percent of the town dies” if the board insisted the businesses had to meet the parking requirement. But admittedly, people who live and work in the downtown are inconvenienced.

“It’s a complicated situation,” Ginnerty said.

Richard Allphin, Zoning Board alternate, asked the landlord, Jeff McDonough, if he had applied for a parking variance when he used the building as the Jamestown Press office. McDonough said he had not.

“We were grandfathered,” he said.

Board member Joseph Logan said approving this variance would not change the parking situation much, but he urged Bartley and Steele to tell their customers to park legally.

Steele said they also hoped clients and staff would use bicycles as transportation.

Bartley and Steele, both of Narragansett, are renting the property, which is owned by McDonough, the Jamestown Press publisher, and his wife, doing business as Hoosier Legacy Partnership. The lot includes one on-site parking space, and the Zoning Board’s decision also means Island Heron customers will be allowed to leave their cars on the western end of Narragansett Avenue, in the municipal lot next to the fire station, and in the public lot by the marina.

The Planning Commission sent the application to the Zoning Board with a recommendation for approval, Ginnerty also said.

In other business, the Zoning Board of Review continued a hearing on Riven Rock’s request for a special-use permit and variance. Applicant John A. Murphy is seeking a special-use permit and variance to build a second story on a second house at 113 Melrose Ave.

Both houses are residences situated on a 74,500-square-foot lot.

But the Zoning Board asked Murphy to agree to postpone the hearing after Boren questioned the legality of hearing Murphy’s application. Boren said he researched state statutes and found the only renovations allowed would be to repair and maintain the building, but not expand it.

Murphy disagreed and wanted the panel to hear the application, but Ginnerty said he did not think that was the “prudent” decision.

Ginnerty also said the panel was left without legal advice when Wyatt Brochu, town solicitor, recused himself. Brochu said he stepped aside because he had a conflict of interest.

The hearing will be rescheduled for Dec.13.

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