Public hearing on development near Great Salt Pond

Thu, 01/14/2021 - 6:00pm
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A virtual public hearing was continued for applicants Nick and Pam Gelsomini on an application off Corn Neck Road (Plat 4, Lot 63) for a Development Plan Review, and an Advisory to the Zoning Board for a Special Use Permit to demolish an existing single-family dwelling and construct a single family dwelling, accessory residential structure, spa and in-ground pool.

At the Planning Board’s Sept. 9 public hearing on the Gelsominis’ application, members of the Planning Board and the Committee for the Great Salt Pond raised concerns about the Great Salt Pond and the wetlands that are on the property. The two boards also expressed concerns with the development appearing large for the lot. The applicants took into consideration the comments and concerns from the two boards, and came back to the Planning Board on Monday, Jan. 11.

Attorney Joe Priestley, representing the Gelsominis, opened the public hearing with his thoughts on the revised application.

“This is essentially a work session to discuss an alternative proposal for the development of a house and an accessory residential structure on the Gelsomini’s six-acre lot on the GSP,” said Priestley.

“The lot abuts the GSP and thus is subject to the jurisdiction of the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council. In connection with this application, the Gelsomini’s have applied to the CRMC for a Preliminary Determination, and have received Preliminary Determination. The CRMC will not act any further on this matter until the Zoning Board has rendered its decision,” added Priestley.

Priestley called on Spring Street Studio architect Greg Yalanis to provide a list of the changes to the application.

“The scale overall of these two structures have been reduced significantly,” said Yalanis.

“We still have the two buildings – the primary and the accessory structure – and they are in similar locations to where they were previously, but a strong effort to pull the buildings back behind the 150- foot building setback, which is a CRMC setback,” said Yalanis.

Yalanis referred to the previous plan and compared it to a revised and current submission to highlight notable reductions on the lot: the total living area of the principal structure was 5,755 square feet, with the revised plans at 4,808 square feet; the total living area of the accessory structure was 1,805 square feet, now presented as 1,263 square feet. The application also listed other notable reductions in the site: 10,286 cubic feet reduced from the original plan; 403 square feet of stone paving reduced; and 3,043 square feet of a clamshell driveway reduced.

“The primary structure is [now] a four bedroom, and the accessory is one bedroom,” said Yalanis, compared to the original plans of six total bedrooms. “The footprint became more compact, smaller and a number of features removed,” added Yalanis, including the removal of an entire space dedicated to a display of artwork; removal of a full bathroom and two half bathrooms; and reductions in decks, the roofline, glass and door openings, and stairways.

Priestley asked for Project Manager Ken Cole of Green Hill Environmental to explain the design of the septic system on the lot.

Cole stated the septic system for the original design was approved in Oct. 2019 by the town and R.I. Department of Environmental Management, and is consistent with CRMC requirements. He also addressed the buffers to the GSP and the wetlands on the lot.

“We felt we wanted to meet the 200-foot buffer to the GSP, versus to the wetland of the east, which has more filtering. We put forth our best effort to put [the septic system] away from the more important resource of the two wetlands,” said Cole. “We will be able to reduce the size of the [septic system] and the stormwater for the roof run-off,” he said.

Representing the Committee for the GSP, Sven Risom joined the call to add his comments on behalf of the committee and from the Wednesday, Sept. 9 meeting.

“First, I know that all of the drawings are looking at a 150-foot setback, and I believe that is preliminary from CRMC. The regular setback is 200 feet. The reason that this 150- foot preliminary was discussed is because there are three sides of the property that require some setback. I don’t think we can support a 150-foot setback from 200 feet,” said Risom.

Cole responded: “One thing I wanted to point out after listening to Sven on the 200- foot buffer – that’s incorrect. The buffer that CRMC sets forth is based on the acreage of the lot. In the Gelsomini case, we were subject to 200 feet,” said Cole.

“It’s because of the size of their lot?” asked Priestley

“Correct,” said Cole.

Risom said: “You talk about the fragility of the GSP and the buffer effects. There is a walkway out there [on the lot] and stairs going down. The setbacks are there for a reason on buffers. The GSP side is as vulnerable, and the wetland side is more vulnerable and impactful. Second, I don’t know if there has been a discussion about water being tested. Third, we talked about the stormwater runoff and the rain gardens. I would strongly ask the Planning Board to not reduce down the raingardens. Lastly, while the CGSP appreciates the reduction and building footprint, this is not a small house. I think it’s important to realize it’s a large house on a small footprint of land.”

Planning Board Member Sam Bird also addressed the proposed driveway on the lot, with its location violating buffer zones on the property.

“What is the view on the installation of the driveway in those two buffer zones? Both the buffer zones are being violated,” said Bird, adding his concern relates to “what the driveway does to the two primary wetlands – the fresh and the salt – and if that creates a dam or a blockage.”

Bird asked for the applicants to have Town Engineer Jim Geremia to take a look at the issue.

Planning Board Chair Margie Comings concluded she felt the application was moving in “the right direction.”

“We certainly want to have more information on several areas. I feel we are moving in the right direction. Anything down the road to make it smaller or close to the lines, we would be more than happy to encourage that,” said Comings.

But applicant Pam Gelsomini felt she had made “significant strides” to address the board’s concerns with reducing and revising the original plan.

“There’s not a lot of room left to do further development. This is our forever house and we have designed it twice. We don’t have any plans to further develop the property,” said Gelsomini. “We probably are not going to make it much smaller. We are happy where we brought it to,” said Gelsomini.

Comings stated the board would review the comments and concerns raised, and ask for the applicants to come back with additional materials on the application. The public hearing was unanimously approved by the board to be continued to Wednesday, Feb. 10.

New members

Comings introduced two new members to the board: Gail Ballard Hall and Bill Rose. Member Bird, who had previously resigned in December 2020, rejoined the board to help with previous items.

“We are very pleased to have you joining us. And Sam, welcome back. [He] will serve a couple of months to finish some of the items that are works in progress,” said Comings.