2018-01-25 / Front Page

Small Downtown Inn Gets Zoning Go Ahead

By James Merolla

The Newport Zoning Board of Review approved a petition on Jan. 22 to obtain a special-use permit and variance to convert a dilapidated, single-family dwelling at the corner of 46 Church St. into a six-room hotel that is expected to resemble an 18th-century inn.

The petition was approved in a 4-1 vote, but not before Sean Napolitano, owner of A1 Roofing and Construction, came up with a creative parking solution and received preliminary approval for the overall design of the inn from the Historic District Commission.

Robert Buzard, Bert Grimes, Rebecca McSweeney and Heidi Blank voted in favor of the proposal, with Chris Kirwin voting against. Charles Allott recused himself from the vote.

“I have a major issue with the design of this building, in particular, the second- and third-floor deck,” Kirwan said. “This speaks of a party house.”

Kirwan called the area “an already loud neighborhood,” and said he would have approved the plan without the third-floor deck.

“I will echo Mr. Kirwin’s opinion of the deck, but it’s not going to change my opinion,” Grimes said. “Parking is a universal problem here. Mr. Napolitano was very creative in finding the spots. The property right now is an eyesore. I like the idea it is approved by the Historic District Commission. I am OK with this plan.”

Napolitano said he has entered into an agreement with the owner of the Brick Alley Pub for seven parking spaces to be set-aside for guests at his proposed inn. He was also commended for clearing the design with the HDC, which includes the complete reconstruction of the building by stripping it down to its foundation to make it a historic renovation.

“This structure will have a new back addition, and a bathroom for every bedroom to bring it up to 2018 code,” Napolitano said. “The plan is to re-side it with new cedar clapboards [that] were on it as the building was originally constructed in the 1700s.”

But Napolitano’s plan to rent an additional seven parking spac es across from the Brick Alley Pub from a business acquaintance at Long Wharf Mall drew opposition. McSweeney questioned the distance from the inn and considered recusing herself due to sitting on the board at Brick Market Place. Ultimately, just where the spots were was unclear when the application was approved. Napolitano said he could procure other spaces that would not be in conflict with Brick Market.

“I shouldn’t even be hearing this,” McSweeney said. “If I recuse myself, this cannot be heard tonight. I am a bit surprised.”

Napolitano said he did not know if Brick Alley Pub owns the same lot.

“I think it needs to be clarified,” said McSweeney, who added she would be uncomfortable sitting on the petition unless the board made it a condition that the spaces in the second lot were not owned by Brick Market Place.

Although she did not recuse herself, McSweeney expressed concern, as did Blank, about dropping off and loading up guests in the neighborhood.

“I would only rent [the entire inn] to one party at a time for the whole time,” Napolitano said. “That is how I envisioned it.”

“But that would be wedding parties, etcetera, so people would be coming in separate cars,” McSweeney said.

“Counterintuitively, I think it’s a positive more than negative that the parking is not on site,” said James Houle, who was sworn in to testify as a real estate expert for the petitioner. Houle said the distant parking would require guests to bike or walk around town.

Ed Shay, a business owner at 135 Spring St., was the one opponent who spoke. “The property does need to be improved, but parking is a big issue in the neighborhood,” he said. “There is no parking on Church Street at that end. People at his guest house are going to be parking in the street. He has to have something in writing [to guarantee off-site parking] and not just for a year.”

“Parking is an issue,” admitted attorney David Martin, representing the petitioner. “We are certainly willing to provide proof [of off-site parking] on an annual basis.”

In other matters…

Zoning Board Chair Rebecca McSweeney resigned, effective immediately. Kirwan will take over as board chair. McSweeney was thanked for her 17 years of service and given a standing ovation by a packed house in the chamber.

The petition from the owner of The Fifth Element at 105 to 107, 111 Broadway asking for a variance to construct a 40-room hotel with an existing standard restaurant and provide 40 off-street parking spaces was postponed to March 22.

The petition from National Grid to build a sub-station on Connell Highway was continued to Feb. 26.

The petition of New Newport Liquor, LLC for a special-use permit and a variance to demolish a portion of the existing store at 3 Thames St. in order to construct a three-story, two-family home, was continued to Feb. 26.

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