Zoning Board gives setback to restaurant project

Fri, 10/06/2017 - 8:45am
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The Gaffett family was delivered a somewhat expected setback in their pursuit of constructing a new two-story commercial restaurant building on Ocean Avenue. At its Sept. 27 meeting, the Zoning Board of Review denied the Gaffetts’ appeal of a memo drafted by Building Official Marc Tillson, and also heard their request for a variance.

The Zoning Board denied the Gaffett family’s appeal of Tillson’s two memorandums, which were sent to the Planning Board in July, and asserted that the sand filter and retaining walls included in the Gaffetts’ building plans are structures that require a dimensional variance within a 25-foot setback. Zoning Board member Christine Grele read the board’s decision, citing a dozen findings of fact.

After the meeting, Grele told The Block Island Times that the footing for one of the retaining walls abuts the neighboring property along the western lot line — providing zero setback. 

While reading her findings, Grele said the Zoning Board “upholds the decision of the Building Official,” and deems the elements “structures,” and the project requires a zoning variance. Gaffett family attorney William Landry had argued that the elements were “infrastructure” at the Aug. 23 Zoning Board meeting.

The decision means the Gaffetts will need a dimensional variance to construct the building at the base of Calico Hill, adjacent to the Poor People’s Pub, to relocate their Old Island Pub restaurant, which vacated the building that Tigerfish occupies on Corn Neck Road. 

Sensing the appeal would be denied, Landry filed for a variance with the board, seeking dimensional relief. The variance hearing lasted over an hour with Landry noting prior approvals and explaining the value of the sand filter; a device he said is designed to accommodate storm-water runoff from a large drainage area, including the roof, and the sloping hillside.

The sand filter was incorporated into the building plans per recommendation of Town Engineer Jim Geremia and Highways Supervisor Mike Shea. 

While the board appeared to agree with Landry about the drainage device, Chair Elizabeth Connor expressed concerns regarding the retaining wall’s footing, which abuts the property’s western lot-line. “That gives me some concern,” she said. “We’ve never approved anything with a zero setback. There is no wiggle room — and human error happens.” Connor noted that if an error were to occur construction could encroach on a neighboring property.

In the end, to assuage the Zoning Board’s concerns, the Gaffetts agreed that a class one survey of the site would be provided to the board. Zoning Board member Susan Bush will be rendering a decision on the application at the board’s Oct. 25 meeting.

In other news, the Zoning Board granted Jessica Wronowski’s Island Marine Corp. a special use permit and variance to construct the addition of a second floor on an existing cottage for employee housing on her Ocean Avenue property in New Harbor. The housing provided by the addition will be used to accommodate seasonal staff employed at Wronowski’s Dead Eye Dick’s restaurant during the summer season.