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By BENJAMIN BRANCHAUD
SOUTH KINGSTOWN - Residents of Green Hill are once again dealing with the possibility that their pond-front view and natural landscape will be tarnished by the development of a two-bedroom house - this time one that appears to be being built on the wrong lot.
The lots in question are the "Briggs Lots" on Green Hill Beach Road, which, explained Planning Director Vincent Murray, have a file in the town planning office "wider than a Manhattan phone book." According to town maps and building plans, the CRMC permitted the construction of a two-bedroom house on lot 171 (formerly lots 171, 172 and 173). Currently, an area on lot 170 is clear-cut and marked for building.
"One thing is clear: if you look at the town plat maps, lot 170 had been subsumed with 169 and 168," said Dan Latona, president of the Green Hill Civic Association. "If that plat map is accurate, the clearing is clearly wrong. It's inappropriate - it's there on the wrong lot. Briggs' survey apparently shows that 168 is only partially on the original 170. I usually would have said, 'jeez, okay, there was a survey done. That's probably legal.' But after the issue with the Nulman property in Narragansett, you think, 'why should I trust a survey? They screw up.'"
Lot 171 is the only lot available for development on that side of Green Hill Beach Road, according to a town memo from 2008 that reads, "development of four of the subject eight lots (Lots 169-170, 172-173) is prohibited as a result of executed conservation easements between the property owners and CRMC. Those legal documents are in perpetuity. As such the four subject lots under those easements and restrictions shall not be developed in the future."
The neighboring residents expected construction to begin on lot 171 at some point, as the owner of the lot has made his wishes to do so clear. What the residents weren't expecting was to wake up one morning and find lot 170, which abuts Green Hill Pond, to be almost completely clear-cut.
"It happened without our knowledge, and we're the (nearby) property owners," said Russ Campbell, who lives across the street from the clearing, on Monday. "We're supposed to know these things before they happen. They claim they surveyed it and they're clearing the right lot. I don't think they are. As far as we contend, they shouldn't be constructing this at all."
Campbell sat in a beach chair over the weekend for one hour and collected nearly 100 signatures of neighbors petitioning the construction. During The Narragansett Times' survey of the site, neighbors stopped in their vehicles and expressed their concern over the land-clearing that used to be animal habitat.
"Protect the 'Green' in Green Hill," reads the petition.
The residents of Green Hill are mostly concerned because they believe the town reconfigured the lots in question to allow for construction on lot 170. According to town maps, such a reconfiguration never occurred. The construction site is simply on the wrong lot.
The only reconfiguration of the lots occurred in 2008, when lots 171, 172 and 173 were combined and named lot 171. Lots 168, 169 and 170 were combined at the same time and named lot 168. This re-zoning, while it expanded lot 171 westward and allowed for more construction in that direction, does not allow construction on the easterly lot 170, where the clearing currently sits.
The town, in fact, showed interest in purchasing the lots for the purpose of wildlife preservation in 2008, but could not find the funding to undertake such a task.
"The asking price and the appraised value were too far off," said Director of Planning Vincent Murray, who was not active in the town at the time but has studied the case file.
While the town has not yet received an application for a building permit, they expect one soon. The planning department has requested the survey conducted by the building company that shows that their construction is on the correct lot.
"There are a lot of unexplained inconsistencies," said Campbell while pointing out deer tracks that run through the back of the clearing site. "How did this happen?"