Conservation Commission lauds plastics-free movement

Fri, 05/11/2018 - 8:30am
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The Conservation Commission weighed in on several projects at its meeting on Tuesday, and even proposed one of its own — installing a water-bottle filling station somewhere in the downtown area.

Commissioner Don Littlefield suggested putting the filling station near the Chamber of Commerce’s Welcome Center in Old Harbor. 

Although water is available at the Center, Commissioner David Roosa noted that “with a conventional sink, you can’t get the bottle under the faucet.” He also asked if water bottle filling stations had a cartridge filter in the back. “It makes the water taste really good,” he said. 

The Commissioners noted that there were renovations being planned for the small park in front of the Harbor Church and that that area might also be considered. 

All agreed that the idea, which was proposed by Vice Chair Fred Leeder, who was unable to attend the meeting, was a good one, and they decided to compose a letter to both the Town Council and Margie Comings (in her role as Chair of the Old Harbor Task Force) requesting that the idea be considered. 

Leeder had also requested another item for the agenda — acknowledging the businesses that have elected to either go “straw free” or to use “alternative” paper straws. The businesses noted were The Mohegan Café, Mahogany Shoals, and Poor Peoples Pub. Other businesses, such as the Tigerfish Restaurant, are also using paper straws.

Roosa, who regularly picks up trash along Block Island’s shores, said: “You’ll find thousands of [straws] around” the perimeter of the Great Salt Pond. As for Ballard’s Beach, “I pick up hundreds of them year-round.” 

As for ongoing projects, the Conservation Commission gave quick approval to Island Enterprises’ request for an advisory to the Zoning Board for a Special Use Permit for approval to operate The Barn restaurant. No one, including David Houseman representing Island Enterprises, seemed to understand why this was necessary, as they had previously been given a favorable advisory by the Conservation Commission. 

“Last time we were here we said we didn’t have a dog in this fight,” said Commissioner John Hopf. 

There were no objections, and the request was approved.

Millie McGinnes appeared representing the Estate of Marjorie McGinnes with a request for a favorable advisory to the Zoning Board on an application from Ballard’s Oil Company for a Special Use Permit for the construction of an above-ground oil tank. Ballard’s Oil used to lease a below-ground tank from the Block Island Power Company to store oil, but those tanks were removed late last fall.

McGinnes said she had previously received a Temporary Special Use permit and was now going through the zoning process to put “a stamp” on the project.

McGinnes already has an above ground tank in a temporary location, but wants to move it. Currently it is in back of the five-car garage on the property. The new location will be one where there is currently “debris and brush.” The tank will be installed on a concrete pad that will have a “lip” on it in order to contain any spill that might occur during loading and unloading.

The Commissioners had some questions as to whether wetlands in the area would be affected, and when told they wouldn’t, approved the request.

Two other items were tabled. One was a request from Alexander and Karen Taylor (Plat 15, Lot 30-1) for a Favorable Advisory to the Zoning Board for a Special Use Permit to expand a single family dwelling on a lot with two single family dwellings. No one was there to represent the Taylors.

Chair Ned Phillips, Jr. noted that the project involved tearing down an existing barn and increasing the building height by eight feet. He asked Jenn Brady, who was the acting clerk for the meeting, if the abutters had been informed of the project yet. 

Brady said that notices had not yet been sent to abutters. 

With that in mind, Phillips called for tabling the item until abutters could weigh in, as he felt the eight-foot height increase may be of concern to some of them. 

Blake and Michelle Phelan would like to reconfigure two lots (Plat 10, lots 19-1 and 23-1) into three lots. This time the request before the Conservation Commission was for an “Advisory/Comments to the Planning Board on a Master Plan Stage Application for a Major Subdivision of land on Payne Road.”

Brady said the request for comments was part on an initial “internal review process,” and that many other parties would need to weigh in. She also told the Commissioners that they would have future opportunities to comment on the project. 

The Commissioners had questions as to the impact on a conservation easement on the property, which is about 250,000 square feet, or about six acres, as noted by Hopf. They were told there would be no impact on the conservation easement.

A survey prepared by Hilbern Land Surveying also shows a Water Works easement going across lot 19-1.

With many questions about the proposal, Phillips suggested tabling the discussion until “answers on intention and process” could be provided by the owners.