November 17, 2012
Rhode Island

Charlestown Zoning Board affirms Whalerock decision

By DAVID PEPIN / Sun Staff Writer | The Westerly Sun | November 16, 2012 |

CHARLESTOWN – The developer of two proposed wind turbines won an important ruling this week from the town’s Zoning Board, but a jurisdictional issue involving the Planning Commission remains unresolved.

Whalerock Renewable Energy LLC received a unanimous endorsement Tuesday from the board, which advanced plans to build two turbines on an 81-acre site north of Route 1 between King’s Factory Road and East Quail Run. The ruling affirmed a decision that had been remanded to the Zoning Board by a Superior Court judge in August. Associate Justice Judith Savage told the board that its 2011 decision needed to be clarified.

The town and a group of adjacent property owners had sued the Zoning Board over its original decision. Confusion over notification to neighboring property owners delayed the Zoning Board’s response to Savage’s order for a month. On Tuesday, a delegation of the landowners filed out of Town Hall without comment, after the board affirmed its previous vote on Whalerock’s proposal.

Nicholas Gorham, lawyer for Whalerock developers Larry Lablanc and Michael Carlino, said he was pleased with the vote, but took issue with a local zoning requirement that requires the developers to seek the blessing of the Planning Commission, which he contends can act only in an advisory role under state law. The final hurdle that the project must clear is to obtain a special use permit from the Zoning Board.

“I don’t think the Planning Commission has the authority to make a decision about a special use permit. Only the Zoning Board can decide that,” Gorham said.

The developers may seek a Superior Court ruling on whether the Planning Commission’s involvement is necessary, he said.

“I can’t go to the Planning Commission until we get this issue straightened out. I would like to (have the special use permit hearing) in front of the Zoning Board if it can be done,” Gorham said. “Legally, we’re in a quandary, as is anyone in Charlestown seeking a special use permit. The ordinance requires us to go to a board that we shouldn’t have to go to under state law.”

The decision Savage kicked back to the board involved its January 2011 rejection of former Building and Zoning Official John Matuza’s ruling that the plans filed by Whalerock were incomplete. Town Planner Ashley Hahn determined in September 2010 that the plans were complete, but two months later, when she was on maternity leave, Interim Town Planner Jane Weidman determined that they weren’t complete.

The board considered several other petitions on Tuesday night.

It continued, until its next meeting on Dec. 18, a petition by Robert and Carol Dupuis for a dimensional variance to replace the main building at their 379 Charlestown Beach Road property on the foundation’s current footprint.

It approved Ray Mott’s petition for a dimensional variance to construct an A-frame roof and new open front deck on his home at 214B Sea Breeze Ave.

It approved Thomas and C. Kathleen McDonnell’s petition for a dimensional variance to construct a two-car garage with a breezeway at their home at 125 Arnolda Round Road.

It continued until Dec. 18 a petition by Angela R. Juliani for a dimensional variance to reconstruct and expand front and side decks on her 11 Fourth St. property.

It approved Robert Thavenius’ petition for a special use variance to construct an accessory family dwelling unit above the existing garage at his home at 26 Hunters Harbor Road. His request for relief from zoning requirements that the unit be attached to or within the principal structure was approved 4-1, with Chairman Michael J. Rzewuski dissenting.

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