2014-02-06 / Front Page

Council kills Shoreby Hill’s bid to become historic district

Dickinson: Neighborhood hasn’t found solution in regards to private roads
By Margo Sullivan

The Town Council has struck down the neighborhood association’s request to make Lower Shoreby Hill an historic district because of private roads. 
Photo by Tim Riel The Town Council has struck down the neighborhood association’s request to make Lower Shoreby Hill an historic district because of private roads. Photo by Tim Riel The bid to designate Lower Shoreby Hill as Jamestown’s first historic district is dead, at least for the time being, the Town Council decided on Jan. 3.

The councilors on Monday night followed advice from Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero and withdrew the proposed zoning ordinance amendment, which would have created the Shoreby Hill historic overlay district. The vote was unanimous, although two councilors cited different reasons for the action.

Councilor Blake Dickinson urged the councilors to “get this off our books.” Dickinson said the neighborhood association has failed to come forward with a plan to address the council’s concerns that the private roads would not be open to the public.

The issue about the private roads derailed the plans for the historic district at the initial hearing because the councilors said they could not justify creating an historic district if the public could not view the properties. Rather than vote down the historic district, however, the councilors continued the public hearing and offered the neighborhood association more time to propose a solution that would ensure public access.

“They’ve done nothing, in my opinion, or they can’t,” Dickinson said, allowing the possibility the association was powerless to solve the problem. “We’ve postponed it a couple of times already.”

According to Dickinson, the council should not spend any more time on the historic district.

“We were very forgiving to offer up town resources for what is essentially a private organization,” he said. “I have an appreciation for historic and sentimental places in Jamestown. I believe we acted in good faith.”

Councilor Mary Meagher said she also favored withdrawing, but for “somewhat different reasons.”

Meagher said the council gave the advocates “an action item,” as Dickinson had noted. Although some meetings had been held with Town Administrator Kevin Paicos, Meagher said the sessions had not resulted in any viable option.

After researching some other historic districts with private roads, which had been mentioned as alternatives to an historic district with public access, Meagher said she did not see these examples as models for Jamestown.

For instance, Tuxedo Park, N.Y., had come up as a reference of a historic district with private roads.

“Tuxedo Park is entirely private and has its own police force,” Meagher said. “I think that’s not a good model.”

Closer to home, Ocean Road in Narragansett was also cited as a case of an historic district with private roads. Meagher looked into that situation, she said.

There are private roads, she acknowledged, but the historic district was created because the Narragansett houses are visible from the water. Moreover, only a handful of the 40 or so houses in the historic district are actually on private roads. She counted three small private roads and “maybe seven houses.”

Of the seven homes, only four have an address on the private roads, she said.

According to Meagher, if the council withdrew Lower Shoreby Hill from consideration, it could now participate in the discussion about the best way to protect Jamestown’s historic treasures, something they could not do while the matter was pending.

Meagher said she still believes the historic district is a useful tool, but the Planning Commission is now investigating other options. She appreciates the planning board’s work, she said, and the councilors may ultimately come up with their own alternative proposal.

Ruggiero recommended withdrawing the ordinance, which had been discussed at a public hearing and continued twice.

“See what planning does,” he advised. “Then start from scratch.”

Ruggiero said starting all over, if necessary, would be “the best course.”

In other business, the councilors awarded the bid to replace the emergency generator at the police station to Carlson Construction Corporation for an amount not to exceed $56,380. The vote followed the recommendation of Town Engineer Michael Gray. In a memo to Paicos, Gray said the town received three sealed bids, and Carlson was the “lowest responsive bidder” for the job.

The contract includes the removal of the existing generator and transfer switch, and furnishing and installing a new 60-kilowatt generator, automatic transfer switch and wiring.

The councilors postponed action on handicap parking at the corner of Narragansett and Clinton avenues. Paicos suggested the delay to allow the property owner to be invited to attend the meeting.

Meagher recused herself from the vote to defer the matter because the property is owned by one of her former business clients.

Also, the council voted to advertise a March 3 public hearing for a liquor license for Lucky Ridge Co. LLC, which is doing business as Spinnaker’s Cafe. The hearing will be held at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. The council also voted to advertise hearings to discuss harbor documents on Feb. 18 and March 3.

Finally, the council is requesting an updated list of waterfront assets, indicating which properties are the responsibility of the Harbor Commission and which are under the ownership of the town.

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