Deepwater arrives at Planning Board
Deepwater Wind went before the Planning Board Wednesday night to begin the process of gaining that board’s approvals for construction of a substation on the Block Island Power Company Property, Plat 17, lots 35, 36, 37, 38, and 40. Two applications were submitted, one for a development plan review and another requesting an advisory to the Zoning Board of Review. The company submitted an application to the Zoning Board of review one week earlier.
Not included in the application are the two parallel underground cables Deepwater plans along Beach Avenue, one to bring power into the substation and one to carry it out of the substation to the connection with underwater cables near town beach.
The company originally thought the cables at BIPCo would go underground also, but contaminated ground on the property sent them back to the drawing board and moved those wires overhead. Under the new plan, an estimated dozen poles behind the power company on the rear of the property would connect the underground cables beneath the street with the power station transformers.
Two transformers and an addition to the BIPCo transformer will be located on the property. Deepwater submitted two possible sites for them, as one site is close to wetlands and might not be suitable. Bryan Wilson, Deepwater project manager, said their engineer is assessing the site.
Attorney Scott Spear, representing Deepwater, asked to have the process expedited by combining the two applications into one agenda item at the board’s January meeting. Only after a number of issues and questions were raised was this request addressed. Town land attorney Don Packer suggested the public hearing for the development plan review and the advisory be held the same night, but that if the board determined it necessary, the public hearing would be kept open for another meeting. The board found that amenable and set the public hearing for January 11 at 7 p.m.
First, however, the board had questions on the project and issues with the application. Town planner Jane Weidman asked about the cable coming in at the beach. Spear replied that the company will meet with the Town Council regarding it. Putting it in, he said, will not cause disruption. Attorney Packer noted that they would need approvals from two state agencies, the Coastal Resources Management Council and the Department of Environmental Management, as well as from the town, as the cable is landing in a coastal zone.
Board member Norris Pike requested topography figures for the containment structures; Socha Cohen, a 50 and a 100 year storm flood map; Chair Margie Comings asked the size of the wires on the poles. Wilson said Deepwater will obtain all the data and provide experts to testify and answer questions. Sven Risom had concerns that the screening be adequate and Wilson replied that their plan calls for coniferous plants for early screening with deciduous filling in later.
Cohen then asked about the lifespan of the transmitters. Wilson thought it would be in excess of the windfarm and taht underwater cables last well beyond 20 years.
During public comment, Sean McGarry cautioned the board to request expert testimony independent of Deepwater’s experts, saying that Attorney Spear “has a pressing need to put these [applications] together to expedite them. I do see a pressing need — for our research on what it is going to do to Block Island.” One area calling for experts, he suggested, is the effect of electromagnetic fields emitted from the substation, as well as night-time lighting there. Calling it “premature” to have a public hearing before asking the Town Council to draw up a scope of areas needing investigation, McGarry recalled that Deepwater had once promised to pay for the town to hire experts to address the public’s concerns. Wilson agreed they had, and would be willing to do so, provided it did not cost millions.
On Weidman’s prompting, Comings requested her to do more than the usual review of the site plan.
Barrier beach 3-house development
The board did combine discussion on three applications for special use permits to build houses on Corn Neck Road on Plat 5, Lot 5-3, lot 5-5 and lot 5-6 by Long Boat Key Tavern and Orlando Capital Enterprises. The three houses, on the property known as the Solviken house next to the Beachead, were to have four bedrooms each and would require individual sewage disposal systems, as the properties are not on town sewer.
They are now being submitted as three-bedroom homes subsequent to a review by the University of Rhode Island, which said the plan was not sustainable. The New Shoreham Conservation Commission, and Waste Water Inspector Don Thimble, also objected to the four-bedroom plans. The footprints of the buildings have been reduced as well, from 1,800 square feet to 1,200 square feet on two of them, and 1,350 on the third.
Calling the site a fragile barrier beach, Comings noted the area frequently floods and she is concerned with erosion and the possible breakdown of a sewage system in a major storm. She recommended the plan with three bedrooms be sent back to URI for another review.
Attorney Steven Surdut, representing the clients, brought a chemical engineer who is a project engineer at Chirenzia Associates to discuss the proposed water treatment systems, which he called state of the art denitrification systems utlizing ultra violet lights for purification. The engineer, Gil Brennan, described the system as environmentally sound with watertight tanks and a bottomless sand filter.
A public hearing was set for the January meeting.
Two mylars were signed off without discussion, one for Christopher Gorayeb, Plat 8, lot 59, and the other for Curtis and Linda Doberstein, Lots 79-1 and 79-2.
A request by Robert Rose et al for Plat 8, Lots 98, 106, 257, 260 , 26l and 262 turned out to be more complicated than it originally appeared. Rose told the board he wants to recreate a lot that was merged by the town. Weidman sent him back to his surveyor to show the lots. The request was rolled over to the January meeting.
Cathy Payne was also told her application was incomplete. She requested the board to sign off on a mylar to move a lot line between Plat 7, Lots 153, 154 and 155 of the Frank C. Payne, Jr., Trust. Recalling that the lot in question,155, was just redrawn and made smaller six months ago, Attorney Packer cautioned her that any construction there would have to be within the reduced footprint. There would be no allowance for hardship. Payne explained that an outbuilding was erroneously placed over the lot line into 155 and that is why she is requesting the change.
A checklist needs to be completed, Attorney Packer told her, and she can come back to the Planning Board in January.
Affordable housing ordinance
Zoning ordinance 405, which allows double density for affordable housing, is set to expire this month. The Planning Board decided to meet with the Housing Board, which is recommending it be extended five years (see story, p. 6), in a work session to discuss renewing it.