HDC approves Deepwater siting and massing plan
The Historic District Commission voted Monday night to send a favorable advisory on the siting and massing of the Deepwater Wind/BIPCo transmission station to the Zoning Board with a preference for site A, the site closer to the road that is also preferred by Deepwater.
Bryan Wilson, Block Island project manager for Deepwater Wind, presented specifications for two sites, A and B, the first on BIPCO property and the second on property owned by the estate of Marjorie McGinnes, and is pursuing passage of both in case the state Department of Environmental Management or Coastal Resources Management Council denies one of them. They will build on only one, however, Wilson said. Chair Bill Penn pointed out to commission members that if the station is built on BIPCo property, any revenues benefit ratepayers, but if it is built on privately owned site B, ratepayers do not benefit.
The HDC approval came with several conditions. The first is that the preference of the HDC is for the incoming and outgoing lines to be buried wherever possible. But Wilson told the HDC there might be contaminated soils on site A that his company does not want to disturb.
Commissioner Dennis Riordan objected to the height and look of the poles, and requested that the company look into disguising them as has been done with cell towers in some locations. Specifically mentioned was a pine tree appearance. Derek van Lent, who attended to speak about plant buffers on the property, then recalled he had seen modern metal poles sculpted into giant men on the landscape. The HDC approval included a request that the company explore disguises for the poles.
Thus far, native plant buffers for the transmitters and poles have been visualized. Details of the project will be presented separately to the Historic District Commission in a later application.
The first application under the new ordinance allowing a residential property to become designated historic was presented by Chair Bill Penn for his house at Plat 18, lot 66 (he is to recuse himself from voting). The HDC set the public hearing for February 27. Abutters will not be notified for the HDC hearing, but will be for a subsequent one to be held by the Town Council.
The commission tussled with Block Island Grocery co-owner Mary Jane Balser over a sign for the front of the building. The sign that had been there blew off in a storm and shattered, so Balser would like to replace it with a slightly different sign. She presented a plastic letter, a Y, to demonstrate the size of the print, and it was larger than the allowed size in the sign ordinance. The HDC sent her back to the drawing board.
More letters of violation will be going out to sign violators. The previous batch of letters yielded positive discussions with owners over what is allowed under the current ordinance, members said. This led the HDC into a discussion on flags, which now can say only “open.” Several members, including Martha Ball and Mark Vaillancourt, suggested changing the ordinance to allow flags to include words such as “coffee.” Penn told the members if they feel that way the commission can suggest changing the law, but others, like Douglas Gilpin, like the law the way it is, and the HDC moved on with other business.
Gilpin recused himself and then presented an outline of a plan for rebuilding the Spring House pump house, which is slated to be torn down. Volunteers have measured and documented the pump house so it can be replicated, and Gilpin said it will look the same except for the supporting structure. Since the house is a closed structure, he told them, no one knows where the spring originates. This will be revealed when the building comes down.