Panel approves variances for shores proposal
The Zoning Board of Review at a July 24 public hearing approved the application of Bartholomew and Marjorie Catanzaro of Johnston to construct a three-bedroom, 1,961-square-foot house plus garage on a 22,000-square-foot lot abutting wetlands on Beach Avenue in the Jamestown Shores.
The board on a 4-1 vote approved a special-use permit under subdistrict A of the groundwater ordinance. The board granted dimensional zoning relief, permitting a reduction of the front setback to 30 feet when 40 feet is required, and allowing the property’s septic system to be located 115 feet from the wetland when 150 feet is required.
The Conservation and Planning commissions both had previously recommended approval of the Catanzaro variance requests. The vote was taken after the board heard from two shores residents who voiced concerns about the proposed construction.
Alex Bronovitsky says he has lived at 77 Riptide St. since 1983. He told the Zoning Board he was not specifically objecting to this project, but wanted the board to know about problems plaguing his neighborhood.
“We’re talking about extremely environmentally sensitive areas,” said Bronovitsky. “In 1983, 1984 and 1985, I could run my sprinkler all day long. Now I can’t keep my hose on for two hours without my well running dry. ... Everything I see around me is getting approved through variances. When the sprinkler works 20-something years ago for all day, [but only] works for two hours now, the ground’s telling you something. Part of [the problem], I believe, is going from one-bedroom structures to threebedroom structures.”
Deb D’Agostino of 108 Steamboat St. says she hadn’t attended a Zoning Board meeting in years but felt compelled to speak out.
“Today brought me out for the wetlands because that area is a very touchy little area,” she said. “I can’t tell you what we all went through at the storm in 2010. I don’t care what you have and what protection, you run out of water. Some of us have little houses. They were built in 1971. We don’t abuse our water in any sense, but you see a three bedroom-house – how many bathrooms? How much water is running in that house?”
Nikki Schultz, owner of Island Engineering, the project’s septic system designer, told board members that the planned bioretention system and pervious driveway on the property will mitigate storm runoff.
“Basically, we’re bringing the site back to as it is now as far as rainwater’s concerned,” she said. “Any raindrop that would fall on that site as it is vacant right now would similarly go into the groundwater table, even after the house is built, so there will be no increase in peak drainage whether it be off-site, to the roads, to the neighbors, or to that wetland. It’s basically going to function as similar as possible to, as it is right now, in its natural state.”
Chairman Thomas Ginnerty questioned property owner Bart Catanazaro about the need for a variance from the front setback requirement to accommodate a garage positioned closer to the front of the property line than the house.
“We brought the garage forward of the house to have a 6-foot entrance porch, so we wouldn’t be entering as the same plane as the garage, so we set it back 6 feet,” Catanazaro said.
It was Ginnerty who voted against the application, citing his objection, not to the special-use permit or to the variance request for the wetlands setback, but to the request for the dimensional variance for the front setback.
“This applicant gave no substantive reason other than personal choice for front setback relief,” Ginnerty said. “There are many, many houses in Jamestown that have small lots and to grant relief for garages can have a very significant impact on the community.”
He said it could set a bad precedent.
Board member Dean Wagner also went on the record about the final vote. “I just want to comment that this is not a small lot at all, and it’s been through planning and conservation with full approvals – unanimous approvals. That’s why I’m voting in favor.”
The Zoning Board required that Planning Commission conditions be met as part of its approval. Those conditions include that the bioretention area be installed in accordance with state Department of Environmental Management freshwater-wetlands approval, and that maintenance plans for the stormwater-mitigation system be recorded in Jamestown landevidence records.