The Block Island Times

Conservation Commission updates Comprehensive Plan

Spring House winter restaurant okay’d
By Renée Meyer | Dec 23, 2013

Conservation Commission members worked quickly through their agenda on Tuesday, Dec. 10.

The majority of the brief meeting was spent on affirming decisions made at a Nov. 19 work session that the commission had held to discuss any changes they would like seen to the town’s Comprehensive Plan, which is currently up for its regular 10 year review. In that meeting, commissioners voted to suggest minor changes to the plan, such as changing the term “forest land” to “shrub forest land.”

Some of the other minor changes included sentence revisions. Members suggested that “A Natural Resources Map(s) will identify all of the major bodies, wetland areas, soils, floodplains, habitat areas, forest, agricultural land,” be replaced with “RhodeMap RI ongoing project with better maps.”

On page 3, they suggested deleting the sentence: “As a result, a major portion of the Island is assured of continuing to have a substantial tree cover.”

More significantly, under the section “Planning Board initial comments,” the commissioners proposed adding “Plan for control of pesticides” and “Introduction of invasive species: animal and vegetation.” At the regular meeting, acting chair Fred Leeder suggested expanding the language on pesticides to include herbicides and fertilizers.

Leeder noted that the Comprehensive Plan should take into account rising sea levels and how “it’s important to get ahead of this.” He made reference to the maps created by Beach Special Area Management Plan, which earlier in the fall made a presentation to the community of its projections on how various sea-level rises would affect the island. Those maps showed significant impacts on such areas as the beach pavilion, the ferry parking lot, Corn Neck Road, and changes to wetlands. Both additions were approved.

The commission also voted to send favorable opinions on two advisories to the Zoning Board. One was for an application for a special use permit to create a 20-seat restaurant that would be open in the winter months in a recently renovated barn behind the Spring House. Although John Hopf did ask what would be on the menu, the Commission found no reason to object. Representing the applicant, Island Enterprises Inc., David Houseman replied that the employees were currently planning on changing the menu every night. “We have employees who are here year round who want to work,” Houseman said.

The second advisory drew more scrutiny. Charles and Tobee McMellon, who had no representative at the meeting, were applying for a special use permit for spatial relief to make an addition to an existing single family dwelling that would house a master bedroom and mudroom. After discussing elevations and whether there were wetlands on the property, Hopf concluded, “I don’t see how we could object.”

The Commission recognized the receipt of correspondence from Chris Warfel regarding the use of burlap instead of snow fencing for dune renewal. Included were some before and after pictures of the results of this technique. Commissioners felt there might be some aesthetic issues, but that it might work in some areas and agreed to look into it further.

Also regarding snow fencing, the Commission acknowledged receipt of a memorandum from Highways Supervisor Mike Shea that was also sent to the Block Island Residents Association, which has backed the project with fundraising and volunteers. The memorandum set forth areas where Shea had determined the snow fencing needed maintenance, and additions.

Another item included in the correspondence section was an invitation from the RI DEM to apply for its 2014 America the Beautiful-Tree Rhode Island Grants Program. Leeder noted that the two to five thousand dollar grants, which are matching grants, may not be applicable to Block Island due to the language of the grants which reference “Municipal Urban Forestry.”

However, Hopf suggested that the Turnip Farm and Rodman’s Hollow might be applicable areas. Leeder then added that Negus Park may also be an area that would qualify.

It was noted that the grant applications were due by Dec. 31, a deadline that commission members felt was too tight to meet for 2014. They did ask their administrative assistant, Terri Chmiel, to remind them at a later date so that they could research the grants and apply for 2015.

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