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Council OKs downtown zoning changes

October 6, 2011

PAWTUCKET — With no discussion or debate, the City Council on Wednesday gave final approval to proposed changes in the city’s zoning ordinances that have to do with parking, dimensional requirements and permitting in the downtown.
The zoning amendments, drafted by the Planning Department and based on recommendations from a consultant’s study, are designed to provide more flexibility for developers and business owners who have projects in the commercial downtown district.
Among the key changes are the removal of parking requirements from proposed development projects in the downtown, allowing numerous projects to exist in the downtown “by right” instead of by special use permit, and streamlining the development review criteria.
Also approved was a separate amendment allowing for a zoning change from Residential Multi-family to Commercial Local for three properties on East Avenue and one on Pawtucket Avenue that had been requested by the property owners.
The council had given first passage to both proposed zoning amendments at its last meeting, following a public hearing.
In other matters, the City Council also gave final approval to an ordinance amendment for the Pawtucket Public Library that will allow funds collected from overdue book fines and donations to be used for salaries or other improvements, and established a salary for a part-time, non-union deputy Emergency Management Director at $14,461.
Also on Wednesday, the council heard from recently retired Tree Warden Tom Willett that the trees planted four years ago along Armistice Boulevard that appear to be dead or dying have been affected by a fungus that stems from this year’s cool and rainy spring. The good news, however, is that only one of the trees is actually dead and Willet believes the rest can likely be saved through treatment with a fungicide spray.
Willet told the council that he has sent leaves to the University of Rhode Island’s plant pathology lab to have the fungus analyzed and will then order the proper spray. He said that two sprayings should be adequate in treating the fungus.
Willett added that care has been taken in recent years to plant species that will be hardy while also not having roots that spread out and damage sidewalks or that will grow too large. He added, however, that even the hardier or more common species such as Green Ash or Maple can fall victim to regional insect infestations that occur from time to time.
Willett told the council that tree planting along Columbus Avenue as part of sidewalk and street improvements will take place in November as planned. These trees are being paid for by grant money, he added.
In other matters, City Councilor Mark Wildenhain discussed the high costs of heating the city’s animal shelter, and suggested that alternative systems, such as renewable energy or solar energy, be explored. He suggested that the city purchasing director seek a request for proposals (RFP) from alternative energy vendors to cut down on the heating bills at the facility, which have been coming in at around $56,000 annually. The board approved his request.
Wildenhain told The Times later that despite the newness of the animal shelter, an air exchange system that was mandated by state health regulations at the time of construction has proven to be costly and inefficient, and said he wants to look into ways of cutting the utility bills down.
Prior to the City Council meeting, the Board of License Commissioners voted to fine the owner of Pho Horn’s restaurant, at 50 Ann Mary St., $500 and suspend the liquor license for three days (Oct. 12-14) as punishment for selling alcohol to a minor.
The restaurant’s owner pleaded no contest to the June 24 incident in which an employee sold a beer to an underage female without asking for any identification during an undercover sting operation. It was the restaurant’s second offense, having been cited for a similar violation on June 10, 2010.


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