Gaffetts facing time crunch

For constructing new Old Island Pub
Sat, 08/05/2017 - 8:45am

“We’re out of time.”

That’s what Lewis Gaffett said at the Planning Board’s special meeting held on Wednesday, July 26 to discuss his application for constructing a two-story commercial restaurant building on Ocean Avenue adjacent to the Poor People’s Pub. The purpose of the building is to relocate the Gaffett family’s restaurant, the Old Island Pub, which vacated the building that Tigerfish now occupies on Corn Neck Road. After an hour-and-a-half of deliberations, the Planning Board asked Gaffett to revise his plans for development plan review and come back on Aug. 9 to discuss the application.  

Relocating the Old Island Pub has proven challenging for the Gaffetts, who have had to revise and scale back their plans that once included a third floor with housing units. The Gaffetts began pursuit of constructing the new property in the fall of 2016. The Planning Board began reviewing the project in July.

During the meeting, the Planning Board noted concerns regarding seating capacity, sidewalk location, landscaping plantings, parking space, a retaining wall, and a sand filter for storm-water management. Attorney, William Landry, and civil engineer C.J. Doyle, represented the Gaffetts at the meeting. 

The inclusion of a sand filter to manage stormwater and a 100-foot long retaining wall along the western property line was a major point of discussion. Town Planner/GIS Specialist Alison Ring stated in her July 25 memo to the Planning Board that the “above grade portions of the retaining wall and concrete walls for the sand filter could negatively impact the aesthetics and historic character of the area.” She wrote that the board “may want to provide the Historic District Commission the opportunity to review and comment on the revised plans.” The HDC approved siting and massing for the project on April 18, and will review the revised plan on Aug. 7.

Ring said Building Official Marc Tillson identified the sand filter and retaining wall as structures located within the 25 foot setback, and require a dimensional variance. She noted that the subject was discussed at the July 12 Planning Board meeting, and a 25-foot side setback is required within the Service Commercial Zoning District.

After listening to the board’s concerns, Lew Gaffett said he felt that the sand filter and retaining wall should not be considered structures. Gaffett said he would like to proceed without having to request dimensional relief. In order to be granted relief Gaffett has submitted an application to the Zoning Board that will be heard on Aug. 23.

The Planning Board’s attorney, Don Packer, said that Tillson, who attended the meeting briefly, is “convinced that (the sand filter) is a structure, and will not issue a building permit.” Packer didn’t think the plan could be approved without a variance.

Landry said Tillson was being unfair concerning the sand filter and retaining wall. “I don’t know if he’s got an issue with my client,” he said, noting that this type of enforcement could lead to “a pile of notices of violation” on the island. “I don’t like my client picked on. I don’t think it’s fair.” 

Ring said the information was noted in the zoning ordinance under the “definition of a structure.” Packer said, “It’s not just a retaining wall. It includes the pumps, etc. It’s not just the concrete wall. So that’s his position.”

“It would be nice if he stuck around if he thought this was important,” said Landry. “He was here a few minutes ago. We’re all here.” Vice Chair Sven Risom quelled that discussion, while Chair Margie Comings said, “We can’t change what is.” 

A portion of the discussion centered on the addition of a sidewalk in the plan. Ring said, “The applicant would need to request a waiver from zoning if they do not include a sidewalk in their plans. They can install the sidewalk in the state right-of-way,” and no variance would be needed. The applicant “would need to apply for a physical alteration permit from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.” Gaffett said he would note the sidewalk in the plans, rather than request the waiver.

As for seating capacity, Ring said the proposed plan calls for 90 seats with 10 parking spaces, which “meets zoning if a restaurant is 100 seats or less. If additional seating is offered outside on the deck and/or patio there would not be enough parking, and parking would not meet zoning. Gaffett agreed to the indoor, 90-seat arrangement.

In regard to landscaping, Ring noted in her memo that plants, like compact perennials, hydrangea, beach rose and ornamental grasses, may not provide significant screening outside of the summer months. Comings said some of the proposed plantings would “die in the winter,” and should consist of year-round plants. Risom echoed Comings’ sentiments, and said that the plan needs to contain “better plantings” for screening needs.

“It would be nice if we could approve this at the Aug. 9 meeting,” said Comings. Packer said that meeting would be for drafting a motion to approve the application at a future meeting.

The Gaffetts will bring their revised plan back to the Planning Board for the continued hearing on Aug. 9 at 7 p.m.