For years, the former Fleet Bank building on Phillips Street in Wickford Village sported a boating dock behind the building. Now, the new owner of the building is looking to rebuild the ramp – but not without controversy and concern from residents and some North Kingstown municipal boards.
Charles Phillips, owner of Gold Lady Jewelers, has owned the building at 30Phillips Street for about three years and now wants to put in a dock for his boat behind the building, on the shore of Wickford Cove. Though a dock had been there in the past, it was not grandfathered in under new laws from the Coastal Recourse Management Council, resulting in the need for Phillips to apply for a special exemption and variance in order to build his 30-by-5-foot dock.
North Kingstown’s Harbor Management Commission voted 6-1 to oppose the change – a recommendation that went before the North Kingstown Town Council Monday night and will go on to the CRMC for review. In its decision, the Harbor Management Commission stated that the dock would have to “serve a compelling public purpose which provides a benefit to the public as a whole rather than private interests.” The commission stated that the dock did not meet the requirement.
At the commission’s meeting regarding the change, many members of the public came out in opposition of the proposal, presenting a five-page oppositional letter to the commission. Commission and community members also questioned when the dock would be accessible to the public – i.e. 24/7 or just during Gold Lady store hours.
Additionally, the North Kingstown Conservation Commission voted 4-0 to object the variance as well, citing the impact on water quality.
“I keep being told, ‘This is not personal, Charlie,’” said Phillips at Monday’s council meeting. “But with the complaints and community members making reference to things that have nothing to do with the application, it makes me think otherwise.”
The unique zoning parameters in Wickford Village, however, are now complicating the matter. The lot is zoned both residential and commercial. Under commercial zoning, Phillips needs to seek a variance from CRMC. If it’s deemed that the lot is actually considered residential, then he would not need the variance. That determination would need to be made by CRMC.
Council Member Kerry McKay stated he felt that CRMC’s regulations were discriminatory, allowing residents to install docks but not commercial lots.
“He pays waterfront taxes just like everyone else,” said McKay.
For Council Member Richard Welch, the matter should be determined by CRMC regarding the commercial vs. residential zoning debate.
“I don’t know why we’re fighting CRMC’s battle,” said Council Member Richard Welch. “Let CRMC enforce its regulations. We should be focusing on what’s best for our town.”
The council unanimously decided to send the application to CRMC with no recommendation, pending clarification on whether or not the lot was considered residential or commercial.