Cherry Hill Lane approved

Fri, 04/14/2017 - 10:30am

After more than two years of discussion and development, The Planning Board approved the Cherry Hill Lane affordable housing development this week.

Cherry Hill Lane will be the first significant affordable housing development on Block Island in years. After little to no discussion — the project had already gone through a lengthy public hearing process — Planning Board Chair Margie Comings read a motion that listed a set of zoning guidelines and requirements the Cherry Hill Lane development must adhere to in order to receive final approval from the New Shoreham Zoning Board.

The vote came 5 to 0 in favor of the motion to approve, with member John Spier recusing himself because he is a member of the Housing Board. 

About four or five abutters, all of whom have spoken out against the development, sat and listened to the vote and left without comment. The abutters have had a long list of complaints about the project. The development will include three three-bedroom homes and two two-bedroom homes that will be priced under $250,000.

Among the series of requirements the five-home development must adhere to, according to the town’s zoning ordinances, are compliance with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, compliant with zoning standards, maintaining 50 percent open space, no significant environmental impact, maintenance of existing vegetation, creating safe circulation of pedestrians and traffic, adequate control of surface water run-off, the preservation of natural or cultural historic features, no impairment to scenic views and no alterations to existing stone walls.

Thumbs down for solar array

The proposed 115-panel solar array for the Block Island School did not receive a favorable poll from the members of the Planning Board. When polled by Chair Margie Comings, the opinions expressed sat at 5 to 1 against the project, with Spier voicing what he called a “reluctant yes.” His primary concern, along with other members, was the proposed location of the array, which members felt presented a safety hazard and would also have an impact on the neighborhood.

What the members of the Board had to contend with was a requirement in the zoning ordinances that state, in essence, the impact on the neighborhood must be minimized by the project being proposed. Members felt that this specific standard was not met by the location of the solar array. When the conversation turned philosophical, Planning Board attorney Don Packer cautioned the members that the only standards that were applicable was whether the project met the town’s zoning requirements or not.

“I think they attempted to minimize the impact,” said member Sven Risom, “but there could have been a way to do it better.” Like the other members, Risom said that he “was in favor of solar on that property, but not the way it has been presented.”

The solar array is projected to save the school in the neighborhood of $400,000 in electric bills over the next 25 years.

When polled, member Mary Anderson said that the solar array was “not designed to minimize the impact on the neighborhood.” Comings said she “had the same concerns.” Spier registered his qualified yes, and member Socha Cohen said a flat, “no.” Risom also voiced a negative vote.

GIS Specialist/Town Planner Alison Ring will craft a motion for the Board to vote on at its next meeting.

In other news, the long-debated Hammarskjold development at Champlin’s Farm also received a unanimous favorable poll from the members, and also with a long list of zoning covenants that must be adhered to. 

The Planning Board will be meeting on April 19 at 11:30 a.m. to discuss the Corn Neck Road planning study.