Planning Board looks over Overlook subdivision

Fri, 06/04/2021 - 8:15am
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The New Shoreham Planning Board held a Special Meeting on Tuesday, May 25, to review the application of Overlook Realty, LLC for a master plan stage review of a major subdivision of the property located off West Side Road, Plat 19, Lot 3. The proposal would subdivide Lot 3 into two lots, A and B. Attorney Brian LaPlante began by stating that they had previously met in July and October regarding this subdivision of the lot, but that there had been “lots of change since then.”

Specifically, on May 3 at the Town Financial Meeting, the voters of Block Island decided that the Town of New Shoreham will purchase one of the new lots, lot B, for $10.5 million, using $6 million from the Block Island Land Trust, The Nature Conservancy, and the Block Island Conservancy, and raising the remaining $4.5 million from taxpayers via a bond issuance. Of course, this is all contingent upon Lot 3 being subdivided.

While there are certainly other questions regarding this property, parking issues took center stage for the Planning Board. The Overlook building, located on what will become Lot A, currently has a special use permit issued in 2020 to use the basement of the building for five additional units of employee housing. At the October 14, 2020 meeting, Town Solicitor Bill Landry expressed concern that the Zoning Board might not have approved the permit if they had known the lot was going to be subdivided, since part of their reasoning to allow the extra development was the size of the lot and the ample parking available. The findings of the Zoning Board in that special use permit application indicated that the development, at that time, included the “required amount of parking.” But with the proposed subdivision that may no longer be the case.
Approximately 19 of the 45 parking spaces for the Overlook, including some of the parking spaces required for the special use basement employee housing, would be located in the newly created Lot B. Town Planner Allison Ring pointed out in her report dated May 6 that this parking situation would trigger a review by the Zoning Board, as the required parking for Lot A would now be located in Lot B. Ring noted that redrawing the property line so that the required parking spaces for Lot A were actually in Lot A would “avoid the need for an additional easement area on the property.” LaPlante mentioned that the sales agreement with the town already includes an easement for parking on Lot B, so Ring’s point may be moot.

LaPlante informed the board that the applicant was making an application to the Zoning Board to amend the special use permit regarding the basement housing in light of the subdivision. He said they were also making an application to the Zoning Board for a special use permit to continue using the parking spaces for Lot A that would now be located in Lot B.
Additionally, the Salt Pond Settlement, located on the adjoining lot, has a verbal agreement with the Overlook to use their property for overflow parking. The Salt Pond Settlement dumpsters also appeared to be located on what will become Lot B, as shown in photos at the meeting.

Overlook owner Steven Filippi joined the meeting to verify that there was no written agreement with the Salt Pond Settlement regarding parking, saying he is “just being a good neighbor.”
LaPlante agreed, referring to the agreement as a “revocable licensing that they can break at any time.”
Landry pointed out that it would have shown up as an easement if it were a formal arrangement, but suggested a provision should be added to the board’s approval verifying that the Salt Pond Settlement has no rights to parking on the Overlook property. Conditions were also added to the master plan approval stipulating that the applicant would receive the new special use permits from Zoning, or abandon the use of the basement and parking spaces.

LaPlatte said that either way it happened, whether the Zoning Board allowed the special use permits or the applicant had to abandon the use, it would not be a “show stopper.”
Landry said that at this stage, the master plan approval is conditioned on the Zoning Board allowing the special use and subdivision to take place. He said: “If they do approve, then it comes back to Planning with the conditions either met or not,” adding, “this is not unusual.”

Member Socha Cohen asked, “If the applicant abandons the special use permits will it create a nonconforming situation?”
Landry said if the special use permits were abandoned, things would “revert to the previous special use permit from the 1980s,” that Landry then described as “not well defined.”

The Planning Board unanimously approved the master plan stage review, with provisions that the applicant will receive new special use permits from Zoning for the basement and the parking, or abandon the current uses. The Planning Board could not offer a recommendation to the Zoning Board regarding the permits as the applicant had not applied for the permits at that time. The application moves on to Zoning Board of Review.