Stevenson-inspired library railing gets the OK

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 6:30pm
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The Island Free Library’s Board of Trustees has been given the green light to install a new, decorative steel railing at its side entrance.

The railing, which will be comprised of galvanized steel and feature artwork by the late Jim Stevenson, was granted final approval (4-1) by the Historic District Commission on Monday night. The motion was made by Dennis Riordan and seconded by Mike Ballard, with Arlene Tunney dissenting and Claire McQueeny and Mark Vaillancourt absent.

The Trustees were asked by the HDC on Oct. 4 to return for final approval to address the commission’s concerns regarding safety and durability of the railing project. The HDC was seeking assurances from the Trustees, since the commission felt galvanized steel would rust, and be susceptible to bending, making it unsafe for children and the public. Some on the commission also felt that the artwork, in the shape of medallions, were too sharp at the edges and could be hazardous.

The Trustees, represented at the meeting by Chair Shirlyne Gobern, Lisa Nolan, Tracy Heinz, and Treasurer William Feuer, presented the HDC with supporting communications. One letter was from Gobern; one was from The Steel Yard, the Providence-based nonprofit company that is manufacturing and installing the railing; and the other was from New Shoreham Facilities Manager Sam Bird.

Nolan read excerpts from the email from Bird that was sent to the Trustees, which noted that galvanized steel was a “good choice” for the railing project. She said Bird agreed with The Steel Yard “that galvanizing is a very stable material for use on Block Island. Galvanizing is an attempt to ward off the rust.”

“That’s it precisely; it’s an attempt,” said commissioner Mike Ballard. “Most people use stainless steel.” Tunney agreed with Ballard, and noted that galvanized steel is susceptible to rusting.

“You know, quite frankly, I don’t think that’s an issue that we should be addressing,” said HDC Chair Bill Penn. “The letter from Shirlyne says the board is willing to accept the issues of material, and the issues of safety for the children. I think that’s all we can deal with.”

Penn said, “On the other side of the coin, the library is totally modern and not a historic building. So any additions to the building could very well be new elements to the historic district.”

“I think it’s fine,” said Riordan. “I think both letters pretty well cover our concerns.”

“The other thing we requested was a statement from the Building Official,” said Tunney.

Vice Chair Martha Ball said, “I think that they covered that. These are not architectural drawings,” she said, referencing the library’s proposal.

Gobern said that Building Official Marc Tillson reviewed the proposal and did not have an issue with the project.

“Where do we stand?” asked Penn. “I don’t think we can debate the design. And we don’t have purview over material for safety.” Penn said the Trustees “were willing to accept any potential liability with the durability of the material, and the safety issue.” He added: “I think the design is whimsical.”

“While I think it’s a lovely, whimsical design I don’t feel comfortable from an architectural point of view,” said Tunney.

The new railing will replace the wooden railing located at the library’s side entrance, which is in a state of disrepair. The Trustees unanimously approved the project’s funding, in the amount of $12,870, during its April 10 meeting.

In other news, the HDC granted unanimous final approval to Melanie and Christian Reeves for constructing a single-family dwelling on their property at plat 6, lot 6. After questions were answered regarding the proposed windows for the building, Ballard made the motion for final approval that was seconded by Tunney. The HDC had asked Reeves at a meeting in August to return to provide more details regarding the project.

Ballard made the motion to approve the application with the following conditions: that the windows on the house are installed with a one-by-four casing, and grills, inside and out, having depth and not being flat, along with installation of handrails on the front stairs.

Enforcement issues

Land Use Assistant Hillary Stewart told the commission that Tigerfish co-owner Brenna Audino acknowledged that the lattice screening around an outside cooler has not been performed as requested. Stewart said Audino will be providing Land Use with a timeline for the work. Tigerfish is located on Corn Neck Road across from Winfield’s restaurant. 

Contractor Allan MacKay said he would return to the commission’s next meeting with drawings for screening the air conditioning compressor located on the north side of the home his crew is constructing on Beach Avenue. The single-family dwelling is owned by the Bernier family. MacKay said, “It was our intention to screen the unit.”

“We would like to see screening on these compressors, especially on the ground level,” said Penn. “I mean this whole idea of air conditioning on Block Island is becoming challenging and an issue for us.”

As for sign violations, Stewart said the Gustafson family has a sign on their front yard advertising a fishing business on Ocean Avenue. “The sign was reported to us, so we sent (the Gustafsons) a letter letting them know the sign has not been approved.” Stewart said if there is no compliance within 10 days the matter will be brought to the attention of Building Official Marc Tillson.

Penn said it’s a “classic situation” at the end of the summer season regarding signs that are in violation. “That’s when all of those signs disappear, and then next season they blossom again.”  

The next HDC meeting is scheduled for Monday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m.