2013-04-25 / Front Page

New Simpatico restaurant will have capacity for 190

Owner comes to terms with local businesses to share downtown parking
By Margo Sullivan

Simpatico Jamestown, the new restaurant coming to 13 Narragansett Ave. in the same spot as the former Trattoria Simpatico, can open with seating for 190 patrons, the Zoning Board of Review decided Tuesday.

In a unanimous 5-0 decision, the panel agreed to grant a special-use permit to the restaurant’s two entities, ESJ Inc., which was identified in the zoning application as the tenant, and JTN LLC, identified as the owner. The approval effectively allows the establishment to use shared parking agreements, in addition to its own property and available street parking, to meet the number of spaces required.

Attorney John Murphy, who represented the restaurant, said the planning board recently approved the restaurant renovations, but with seating arrangements based on the existing capacity for 120 patrons. However, the new owner wants to increase the seating to 190.

Trattoria Simpatico was sold last year to Newport resident Ben Brayton. He closed the premises while renovations were underway. The work was scheduled to be completed by the end of April.

“The Planning Commission lacked the authority to approve 190 seats,” Murphy told the Zoning Board. “Only you have the authority.”

Murphy said the planning board was aware of the new restaurant owner’s intention to increase capacity. He noted the change did not amount to an expansion of the restaurant because the seating layout would stay the same.

Most recently, capacity at the restaurant was 120, but the garden restaurant used to seat 190. The new establishment could do so comfortably again, according to Amy Barclay de Tolly, the new restaurant manager.

The Zoning Board approval was subject to two conditions. The conditions called on restaurant owners to notify the building inspector if the number of parking spaces should change. It also said Simpatico Jamestown would forego any valet parking.

Zoning Board members Richard Boren, Joseph Logan, Dean Wagner, Richard Cribb and David Nardolillo voted. Richard Allphin and Judith Bell were alternates and did not participate in the vote. Chairman Thomas Ginnerty did not attend the meeting. In his absence, Boren presided over the hearing.

According to the ordinance, Murphy said, the restaurant would need to provide 38 spaces, including parking on the street, to seat 190 customers. However, the management has arranged for more than enough parking, and 45 spaces have become available, he said.

With parking at a premium downtown, a number of businesses have used both formal and informal shared parking agreements to comply with the zoning regulation. Ideally, Murphy said, the town would abandon the ordinance. But in the meantime, the shared parking agreements have become a popular solution.

For example, he said, St. Matthew’s Church has allowed the senior center, which is housed in the Conanicut Grange on West Street, to use its parking lot.

Trattoria Simpatico had used shared parking agreements in the past, Murphy said.

But according to Murphy, Simpatico Jamestown’s shared parking arrangements will differ from other similar agreements because the parties have formalized the terms in writing and recorded them.

Barclay de Tolly, a 20-year employee at Trattoria Simpatico who now works for the new restaurant, testified about the number of parking spaces. The restaurant has 13 parking spaces available in its own lot, she said. The lot actually included 17 spaces, but four are not available, due to the so-called Hunt Block easement, a long-term deal with a neighboring condominium association.

The restaurant is also entitled to use six spaces on the street. The formal agreements are with Jamestown Hardware for three spaces; Janney Law for two spaces; Central Garage for 11 spaces; and the Chemical Company at 19 Narragansett Ave. for five spaces and on Howland Avenue for five spaces.

Allphin pointed out any of these shared parking agreements could be ended by either party. He questioned how the town would be assured the restaurant actually had the required parking at any given time.

Murphy invited the Zoning Board to make it a condition so the restaurant would have to notify the building inspector if the number of parking spaces changed.

If the number of spaces fell below 38, he said, the capacity would have to be reduced.

Expert witness Bob Bailey testified he walked the property and also surveyed the shared parking spaces. Bailey is manager of the Lila Delman Real Estate office in Jamestown. In his opinion, the arrangements would not cause any safety problems or create any nuisances.

In other business, the panel approved a special-use permit and a dimensional variance for Martha Harris and Richard Lee. The couple wants to build an addition at 209 Beacon Ave. Harris said the house has about 700 square feet of living space and is too small for two people.

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