2013-09-12 / Front Page

Planning board approves continuance

By Nick Pereira

The Planning Commission last week approved a continuance for an applicant trying to build a home on Catamaran Street. The proposal currently violates numerous town ordinances, and the planners voted to allow the applicant more time to fix the discrepancies.

Anthony Cofone on Sept. 4 asked the board for permission to build a two-bedroom house on Catamaran Street. The structure would be a two-story home with no basement. However, the plan failed to adequately deal with high groundwater and the proposed structure was larger than the ordinances allows. The plan also calls for fill around the lot.

“The proposed fill significantly alters drainage,” said Justin Jobin, the town’s environmental scientist.

Altered drainage would most likely spill onto Catamaran Street, he said. In the winter, the water could freeze and cause safety issues.

“The regulations as we understood them was to preserve the lot for a 10-year storm,” argued Norman Orrall, a civil engineer from Commonwealth Engineers & Consultants who was representing Cofone. He said the proposed home as planned properly dealt with the possibility of a 10-year storm.

Local ordinance requires new constructions to preserve the plot so rainfall and flooding from a 10- year storm would be dealt with without damage on alteration to water flow. A 10-year storm is one of such intensity that it occurs once every decade.

However, Jamestown has seen more rainfall in recent years.

“Storm events as you know are getting more common,” said Town Planner Lisa Bryer. She countered Orrall by saying 10-year storms are no longer a good gauge for flooding.

The town and applicant also disagreed about the actual height of the groundwater. The town assessed that the groundwater was too shallow to build.

The ordinance requires that a home cover no more than 9 percent of a plot. Even Cofone’s estimates show the home covering more than that.

“I seriously recommend you adhere to the 9 percent,” said Bryer. “Otherwise staff can’t support it.”

“I don’t recommend going forward,” added Jobin.

While the commissioners didn’t recommend the plan to the Zoning Board of Review for final approval, they did motion to give Cofone more time.

“Are you in agreement that continuing this is what you want to do?” asked Chairman Mike Swistak.

“Obviously,” Cofone replied. “My goal is to construct my home. ... It’s my intention to abide by [the ordinance] and do what’s right for Jamestown and especially the people of that area.”

Cofone has owned the lot for 20 years. His parents have owned the property directly to the west since 1975.

In other business, Robert Nunes requested approval to realign two lots near the west end of Watson Avenue.

“All we are asking is you support the motion prepared by the town planner,” said attorney John Murphy, who was representing Nunes.

Currently, the structure on the eastern lot crosses over the boundary line between the two lots. Nunes requested the boundary line be moved west so the offending structure is entirely on one lot. Nunes is in control of both lots as executor of an estate.

The boundary line move is necessary to make the lots marketable, he said. Right now the eastern lot is nonconforming and would be an impediment to sale.

Complicating the matter is that the land bordering the west side of the western lot has an unknown owner. The lot in question is a thin strip of land. The owner is listed as “unknown.”

The Planning Commission approved moving the boundary line with the caveat that the owner of the mystery lot be found. The commissioners want to make sure the “unknown” owner doesn’t object to Nunes’ application.

Murphy said that he already began a title search for the owner.

Before adjourning, the commission heard Town Solicitor Wyatt Brochu give a short address about the recusal process. The issue arose at the board’s last meeting when Commissioner Michael Jacquard recused himself. Jacquard didn’t take part in any discussion or vote pertaining to Spinnakers.

The Rhode Island attorney general puts out procedures for government panels to follow in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, Brochu said. After a brief discussion, it was decided the commission was following proper procedures.

“At this time I don’t see a need to do more than is required,” said Brochu.

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