Zoning Board denies Payne’s appeal

Of Planning Board’s approval of Thomas Property project
Thu, 03/28/2019 - 7:00pm

The New Shoreham Zoning Board of Appeal unanimously (6-0) denied Cathy Payne’s appeal of the Planning Board’s approval of the Thomas Property project on Wednesday. In her application to appeal, Payne noted that she was an abutter to the Thomas Property, which the Town of New Shoreham is developing as a $1.5 million voter authorized town employee housing project.

After hearing arguments from Payne’s attorney, Thomas Tarro III, and Town Solicitor Katherine Merolla, who represented the Planning Board, the Zoning Board quickly arrived at its decision to deny the appeal. Chair Elizabeth Connor, guided by attorney Stephen Sypole, serving as legal counsel for the Zoning Board of Appeal, said the board denied Payne’s appeal due to a “lack of standing” and “no errors” found in the Planning Board’s approval. Connor noted that Payne’s eight reasons for appeal “do not give grounds for reversal of the Planning Board’s decision.”

In her appeal, Payne said the town did not have the legal authority to develop the property without an order from the Superior Court, and approval from the Attorney General’s office. She also argued that the Planning Board did not disclose its attorney’s legal opinion during a public hearing regarding the project, and final approval was granted without written comments by town officials and commissions.

In response to the decision, Payne said, “I am disappointed in the Zoning Board of Appeal’s that they did not address the legal right of the town to develop this property. There are restrictions on the property with regards to development placed by a Superior Court order and requires approval of the court, and Rhode Island Attorney General’s office.” 

The town is planning on constructing a three-bedroom single-family modular home on the southeast corner of the Thomas Property for a senior town employee, and converting the existing duplex into a four-unit rental dwelling for town employee housing. At the March 18, fiscal year 2020 budget hearing, Town Manager Ed Roberge said Payne’s appeal could lead to costly delays and a possible vacating of the project.

In other news from the meeting, the Zoning Board said farewell to Land-Use Solicitor Don Packer, who retired at year’s end after serving as solicitor for 30 years. He served as a legal consultant at Wednesday’s Zoning Board meeting. A collection of town boards, including the Zoning Board, Planning Board, and Town Council, as well as town personnel pitched in and presented Packer with a photo of a sailboat that was taken by island photographer Malcolm Greenaway. Packer is fond of sailing.

Packer told The Times that he was “definitely going to miss” working as solicitor for the town. “It’s been a regular routine for me,” he said, noting that returning as solicitor “was not an option. After 30 years I decided it was time to step down. So, it’s bitter sweet.”