WESTERLY — A traffic study is needed, but a proposed third-floor restaurant at the Sandy Shore Motel is unlikely to have much effect on the adjacent residential neighborhood, Planning Board members said Tuesday.
The board plans to encapsulate those observations and others in a memorandum that will serve as a supplement to its original advisory opinion to the Zoning Board of Review on Gene Properties LLC.’s plans for the 150-seat restaurant planned for the Atlantic Avenue motel. Planning Board members acknowledged a problem last summer with beach goers parking on residential streets in violation of no-parking zones but said the problem should be addressed by the police department not the board.
The zoning board had asked the Planning Board for additional input on potential effects of the proposed change from a motel that opens seasonally and has a Class C liquor license limited to guests only to a motel with a 150-seat, year-round restaurant and a Class B victualler license, which would allow for the sale of alcohol to restaurant customers and motel guests. The zoning board has also asked the Planning Board for input on Arganese's plans for the ground floor of his Atlantic Avenue facility and current uses of the ground floor and whether Planning Board members favor requiring Arganese to use a portion of the ground floor area for parking to reduce his request for a 19-space variance to the town's parking requirements.
Planning Board members said they would not recommend using a portion of the ground level for parking after Gene Arganese, the principal member of Gene Properties LLC., said the fire marshal had advised against it for safety reasons.
On Tuesday Zoning Officer Nathan Reichart said approval of Arganese’s plans will hinge on his hope to maintain laundry facilities and an office on the ground floor and whether those uses constitute “habitable space.” A finding that they are habitable space could throw the plans into jeopardy since Arganese wants to make use of a town regulation that allows for construction to start three feet above base flood elevation. The regulation ties in with incentives offered by the National Flood Insurance Program, which prohibits habitable space on the ground floor for new construction in certain flood prone areas. Jack Armstrong, Planning Board chairman, said the determination on habitable space will come from Reichart and is not a topic the board must weigh.
William Nardone, Arganese’s lawyer, and Christopher Duhamel, a civil engineer hired as a consultant on the project, both said the laundry facilities and office do not constitute habitable space.
The restaurant would add very little additional traffic to the area, Nardone said. Instead, he said, most of its patrons would be people who had already driven to the area to go to the beach.
The Planning Board had previously offered unanimous approval to conceptual plans for the restaurant and issued a favorable opinion on the property owner's anticipated need for a variance to the town's parking ordinance