2013-01-24 / News

Property owner asking for 74-foot variance for boating dock

Planning boards says it has no jurisdiction over issue

The Planning Commission at its Jan. 16 meeting undertook a conversation about a dock variance concerning a lot off East Shore Road, just north of the Newport Pell Bridge.

Lot owners will need to request a variance of 74 feet to put in a fixed timber pier with a “T” head at the end. The pier on Bridgeview Drive would be used for recreational boating.

Conservation Commissioner Kate Smith attended the meeting to voice the conservation panel’s concern about allowing the variance. Over time, the cumulative effect of such variances could result in a distinct change in the seascape of the island, she said.

Piers longer than 50 feet encounter a number of obstacles, the commissioners said. Depending on the slope of the seafloor, the minimum low-tide depth of the pier could be an issue. Also, the farther the pier extends from the shoreline, the more likely the Army Corps of Engineers may take issue with it as interference for boat traffic.

Of primary concern is the impact a variance will have on eelgrass beds. The beds are mapped, the commissioners learned, and the proposed pier may stretch into one. Such an impact is almost certainly prohibited, they said.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer was asked how much say the commission had over the matter. Jamestown only has jurisdiction on land and has little control on objects built on the seafloor, she said. While the town may consent or object to the construction of the pier, there is no veto power over the project. Jurisdiction of the coastline and piers extending into the bay belongs to the state’s Coastal Resources Management Council.

The Planning Commission said they received the correspondence in order to keep the board apprised of the situation. However, the board said, no official action is required.

Pendlebury noted there are rarely objections in matters such as these. Only the abutting property owners receive direct official notice. Statutes do require the town to post notice of matters such as these in areas open to the public, usually Town Hall and the library.

In other news, the Planning Commission also received an update about the Comprehensive Community Plan. According to Bryer, housing will be most affected. Environmental hazards will also need more work before the plan is fully updated.

It was noted that one concern from the state was ways to increase alternative transportation. Additional forms of marine transport, like the Jamestown Ferry, should be added to the plan, but no specifi c recommendations were made.

Finally, the planning board mused about the added benefit of a bike lane on the Jamestown Bridge, but all agreed it was unrealistic.

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