2012-01-26 / Front Page

Downtown parking still top priority for planners

Town wants to promote alternative transportation options like biking, walking
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

Frustrations with traffic and parking continue to dog the village center, but the Planning Commission indicated at its Jan. 18 meeting that a few extra pages will be added to the Jamestown Comprehensive Community Plan.

The additional pages would help find a future solution to the problems. Meanwhile, the panel reviewed and agreed to a fifth policy for the circulation action plan.

That new policy will specify how the town puts out the welcome mat for bicycles, pedestrians and new alternative forms of transportation, like the marina jitney.

Complaints about too much traffi c and too little parking downtown had spurred Town Planner Lisa Bryer to add the fifth policy to the circulation plan.

“It needs to be spelled out as a policy because it seems to be very important to the island,” she said.

Specifically, the policy calls for town officials to “actively promote alternative forms of transportation and insure walkability and bicycle friendliness throughout the island, especially in the commercial village area.”

Other policies in the circulation action plan also deal with bicycle paths and bike routes, which sometimes may be shared with cars.

Some steps on the action plans have already been accomplished, Bryer said, showing the panel a new grid. The grid breaks down each policy into action items and establishes the time frame for completion. The grid also names the agency in charge, shows the town resources to be pressed into service and indicates the project status.

The Planning Commission reviewed the material and changed some of the wording.

Commissioner Michael Smith questioned the point of the first circulation policy, which calls for a “system of bicycle routes throughout the island that retains roads with rural character.”

“What is a road with rural character?” asked Smith.

Bryer said town officials want to encourage bicycles on the roads, even though every road will not have a special lane added for bike traffic.

“So what does that mean?” Smith replied.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean anything,” Bryer said, except that the road could be shared by cars and bikes. “It can mean a number of different things.”

Commissioner Rosemary Enright later suggested the policy should simply speak about establishing the routes.

“The scenic [quality] is not really a policy,” she said, and added the action items could make it clear there is no plan to widen every road for a bike lane.

Enright also suggested a slight change in word placement. She said the policy should be recast to say the community wants to keep the “rural character” of the roads, versus keeping roads with rural character.

Smith said he feels the reason many Jamestown roads have a rural character is due to the stone walls which line both sides, as is the case along North Road.

Moving on to other policies in the circulation action plan, the panel suggested additional revisions.

The Planning Commission also suggested a new section about wind turbines should be slated for the public services and facilities action plan. Bryer has been charged with preparing the new section on wind turbines for the facilities action plan. Chairman Michael Swistak suggested the wind turbine information belongs in the plan.

Up to now, he said, there was no mention at all in the comprehensive plan about “turbine studies and possible installation.” But he added that the Town Council has commissioned studies and established committees on wind turbines.

Bryer said she had planned to include the wind turbine studies in the renewable energy section or a green energy section, but Swistak suggested the material should also go in the public services action plan.

Enright verified Bryer would add a fifth policy to the facilities action plan and enumerate the action steps underway. Bryer said she would bring the new section back to the Planning Commission for comments.

In other business, town officials are meeting with the Parks and Recreation Department to find a solution to its space crunch.

When the recreation department lost its space for yoga classes recently, a plan developed to construct an addition behind the Conanicut Avenue building. The Buildings and Facilities Committee discussed the issues at its Jan. 18 meeting, according to Duncan Pendlebury, member of the Planning Commission and liaison to the Buildings and Facilities Committee.

Pendlebury reported a “good discussion of resources within the town,” and added the members of the facilities committee now “understand the needs of the rec department and are working on finding places for everything.”

Finally, National Grid has already cut down several trees along Narragansett Avenue to avoid electrical outages, and the discussion about future tree demolition plans will go to a public meeting Feb. 21, Commissioner Dick Lynn told the panel. Lynn said town officials had received complaints earlier when National Grid took down several trees along Narragansett Avenue.

The meeting will be at 6:45 p.m. in the library.

“There are people on both sides of it,” he said.

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