Deepwater transmission station comes to zoning board

Tue, 12/06/2011 - 3:15pm
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Block Island Transmission LLC placed an application before the Zoning Board of Review Monday night for a special use permit to allow Deepwater Wind to construct a substation on BIPCo property.

The property, which is co-owned by the estate of Marjorie McGinnes, is comprised of three lots on plat 17, lots 35, 38 and 40. Lot 35 forms the corner of Beach and Ocean avenues across the street from the Fire Barn and Police Station. Boomerang-shaped lot 40, contiguous with lot 35, is the largest, and is listed on town plat maps as containing the New Meadow Hill Swamp. Lot 38 is a rectangular lot located off the concave middle of lot 40.

Attorney William Landry and Deepwater Project Manager Bryan Wilson submitted the application without a lot of details, but explained they were trying to identify an envelope for a 17,000-square-foot pad within a fenced-in area. The size of the substation has not yet been determined, but Landry said details will be in place shortly. He said the applicants are not asking for setback relief but may need a zoning exception for pole heights, which might go to 40 feet. A list of equipment to be within the substation includes two transformers and 12 or more utility poles.

Thumbing through the paperwork, Town Attorney Don Packer asked the Zoning Board if they were comfortable giving waivers on safety and environmental impact without a study. Board member Claire McElderry remarked that two state agencies, the Coastal Resources Management Council and the Department of Environmental Management, will be looking at the application. Pointing out that there is no information on hazardous waste, Packer again asked, “Are you comfortable doing it first? This may not be a non-controversial application. You may have a roomful of people and have no information if you sign off on waivers.”

Fifty property owners have been identified as abutters.

On further discussion, the applicants revealed they are uncertain of which lots the station will be on and have identified alternate sites. ZBA Administrative Assistant Jen Brady Brown had noted the uncertainty in her preliminary reading of the application, and identified lots 36 and 37 on the same BIPCO site as also involved. As far as hazardous waste, the applicants acknowledged there already is contamination on one of the sites, but did not identify on which.

Poring over the map, Chair Elizabeth Connor asked about the power lines, which are above ground. Connor said the applicants need to address why the poles are not going underground. The application states the underwater cable will make landfall on Block Island at the Town Beach near Beach Avenue on Plat 5 lot 1, but will run underground from the beach to the power station.

The applicants have asked for simultaneous review by the Planning Board. Connor scheduled the Zoning Board hearing for February 1. Kate Butcher, whose landlord is Cliff McGinnes, recused herself from the ZBA review of this application.

Southern beach staircase

An application for a path to the beach with a staircase on Plat 9, lot 66-1, off Mohegan Trail, owned by Shir Shalom, LLC, went to a public hearing with Attorney Joe Priestley representing the owners. Neighbor and ZBA member Bob Lamoureux recused himself for this hearing.

Priestley brought civil engineer Craig Carrigan to testify and answer questions. Carrigan said that CRMC staff had walked the property and suggested changes that he has already incorporated into the plan. Instead of one staircase, they suggested two shorter ones, and moved a section of the pathway further away from a wetland. The project has already received approvals from the Planning Board and Conservation Commission. The hearing was closed and a decision will be forthcoming.

A hearing was set for February 1 on a request for a variance from 307 (C) for construction of a shed on Plat 7, lot 137, owned by the Geer Trust.

Hearings on applications for three lots along Corn Neck Road proposed by Orlando Capital Enterprises and Long Boat Key Tavern were postponed until the Planning Board makes its recommendations.

Ann Law requested not to go forward yet with her application for renovations on the Orange Cat building.

ZBA meetings will start at 5 p.m. from now on, except in July and August when they will begin at 5:30 p.m. The next scheduled meeting will be held February 1, but a work session might be convened sooner.