2013-10-10 / News

Planners try to determine definition of buildings of value

By Nick Pereira

With no clear definition of “buildings of value,” the Planning Commission last week worked to better describe what constitutes such a structure.

According to the commissioners, the zoning ordinance loosely defines what a building of value is, they said at their Oct. 2 meeting.

“I think we should start with what our intent is,” said Town Planner Lisa Bryer.

“We all agree that there are buildings of value,” said Chairman Mike Swistak. “We should go forward and do something to protect them.”

There are wide implications around the building-of-value ordinance, Swistak said. It essentially acts as another layer of control over properties in an attempt to preserve certain structures.

“The comprehensive plan sets out what we want the town to be,” said Commissioner Duncan Pendlebury. “That should be our foundation.”

At least one commissioner worried that the panel was putting the wagon before the horse. With the Town Council currently considering whether to implement Lower Shoreby Hill as a historic district, Commissioner Mike Smith wondered about the two ordinances. Regulations governing the historic district, if passed, might make the zoning ordinance redundant, he said.

“Is there going to be a historic district commission?” asked Smith. “Would this be its purview? I think we need more guidance from the Town Council.”

However, some of the commissioners argued that a buildingsof value ordinance should protect more than just historic homes.

“Buildings of value has a wider definition than buildings with historical value,” said Pendlebury.

Those sediments were echoed by commission member Rosemary Enright. “If we keep at this long enough,” she said, “everything will be historic.”

Conceivably, a building of value could be one with architectural significance or other noteworthy features that are not tied to the age of the building.

“You need standards,” said Town Councilor Mary Meagher, who was in attendance. “I think we are trying to protect buildings or landscapes that if we lose we would regret it.”

Several Jamestowners weighed in during public comment.

“Why do people value their homes?” asked Jim Burgess. He went on to explain that the value of his home was in its location, not its architecture. He worried the town was pushing the idea.

Several Shoreby Hills residents argued that buildings-of-value ordinance was preferable to the proposed historic zone.

“I’m against the historic district,” said Shelby Wittoff.

Since an ordinance about buildings of value is already on the books, Wittoff said, the town should just enforce the ordinance and drop the proposed historic district all together.

However, according to Pendlebury, the commissioners were just trying to decide where the ordinance fits into the town’s zoning scheme.

“I think what we are trying to do is decide whether this ordinance stays a code,” he said. “We don’t have any buildings of value yet.”

The matter was continued.

The Planning Commission also heard a brief application from Anthony Cofone to build a home on Catamaran Street. This was Cofone’s second appearance. The commissioners originally turned down the proposal because of concerns with runoff from rainwater.

“What we did was expand the numbers to the 10-, 25- and 100- year storms,” said Joshua Rosen, an engineer representing the applicant.

In essence, the plans for the home include provisions to deal with rain from storms of such intensity that they only appear once a century. There would be minor flooding during the 100-year storm.

“Is there any intention to use this home as a summer rental?” asked Commissioner Mick Cochran.

“No,” replied Cofone. “The home is being built as a home for my family.”

The application was approved.

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