WESTERLY — Members of the Zoning Board of Review focused Wednesday on the availability of parking and concerns for the owners of residential properties as they started an analysis of plans for a rooftop restaurant at the Sandy Shore Motel in Misquamicut.
Gene Properties LLC, the owner of the motel at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Winnapaug Road, was before the board seeking a variance from the parking requirements of the municipal zoning ordinance. Zoning Officer Nate Reichert has determined the facility would need 83 parking spaces if the proposed 150-seat third-floor restaurant is approved. The motel currently has 37 parking spaces on site and an existing variance for 27 spaces.
The property owner is also seeking an amendment to its existing special-use permit allowing a restaurant that serves alcohol. Under the current proposal, the number of seats at the existing beach bar and restaurant would be reduced from 75 seats to 24 seats.
The 24,900-square-foot proposed restaurant would be open year-round if market forces make it feasible and would have a retractable roof.
William Nardone, the lawyer who represents Gene Arganese, the principal of Gene Properties LLC, asked the board to consider the abundance of paid parking available along Atlantic Avenue close to the motel. He sighted Misquamicut State Beach, Paddy's Beach Restaurant & Hotel, Anthony’s Fine Food and Spirits, and Maria’s Seaside Cafe as examples.
“There are a number of available pay-to-park lots in Misquamicut available to the applicant and any other business in the area,” Nardone said.
Nardone also asked the board to consider how often parking requirements are essentially waived for downtown businesses that lack dedicated parking for their establishments. Many potential patrons of Arganese’s restaurant will be parked elsewhere and walk to the restaurant, Nardone said.
John Ornberg, a member of the board, disagreed, saying the parking lots at the other establishments are for patrons of the those establishments and that lots are often filled on summer days. Board member Robert Rose questioned the relevance of considering downtown parking and said Arganese should prove that the Misquamicut businesses cited by Nardone have excess parking that his patrons could use.
Board member Albert Clemence said the proposed restaurant will make a congested area even busier.
“My observation is that this particular intersection seems to be intensely used and in a mixed residential and commercial zone. I think we need to consider a balance between the use of residential owners and commercial owners. I think we need to consider whether the intensification of use of this property will tend to abuse the residential aspects of the surrounding properties,” Clemence said.
The board was continuing its public hearing on the application at press time.