2012-01-12 / Front Page

Planning panel looks at parking

Businesses are forced to meet ‘impossible standards’

The Jamestown Comprehensive Community Plan has almost neared its completion after the Planning Commission updated stipulations under land use on the island at its Jan. 4 meeting.

The comprehensive plan is updated every five years as required by state law. It takes into account the maximum potential future population under current rules and regulations of a community and environmental conditions. The plan allows the community to plan long-range goals and policies to protect natural resources and pro- vide services and facilities.

Differences between development land use and commercial land use became the biggest concern among commission members. Commissioners questioned the strict parking guidelines developers have to follow.

According to the ordinance, all future developments must meet the parking requirements in the zoning ordinance, although many businesses currently are unable to meet them.

“Maybe we can put in how they can meet the standards. We’ve given them impossible standards to meet,” Commissioner Rosemary Enright said. “What we’re trying to do is we want them to have frontage on the street and we want them to purchase land behind them to tear down the house that’s there.”

Commissioner Michael Smith said the ordinance is not impossible to change. He explained that the current parking requirements for developments derived from the 1980s when there were no such rules and businesses could develop spaces with double parking or even no parking.

The commission questioned why the town still did not have a municipal parking lot.

“Perhaps we should be looking at whether or not we should be recommending more municipal parking,” Enright said.

Commissioner Duncan Pendlebury explained that this issue comes up often, but the reason the town does not add parking spaces is because it does not want to take away from its village character. Enright stated she felt the commission should look into whether the development plan should be extended into the commercial district.

Commissioner Chairman Michael Swistak also questioned why the amount of open space to acreage had changed from year to year. Town Planner Lisa Bryer explained that it changes based on what is reporting it. Last year the acreage and open space was based on reports from the tax assessor. This year it is based on statistics from the geographic information system.

Looking forward, Bryer said the three biggest challenges the town faces include affordable housing, water supply and land use. The state-mandated goal for affordable housing is 10 percent. Bryer said by 2035 Jamestown will meet that goal. The approval of the Bridges Inc. project on Clinton Avenue last month helped contribute to the amount of affordable homes Jamestown offers the community.

Smith suggested relaxing the zoning duplex rules to allow affordable housing duplexes in the village district to help meet the 10 percent goal. Bryer said the town does encourage duplexes in the village district, but that they must also think of lot size to encourage affordable housing.

“As a town we need to be more proactive,” Smith said.

In finalizing the comprehensive plan, Bryer said all that is left is summarizing the community surveys, making them user-friendly, and compiling the plan together to be submitted to the Planning Commission for approval.

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