The Washington Town Council took the first steps at its monthly meeting Monday night (Feb. 9) toward bringing a new weekend home and a new gallery to Gay Street.
And, should anyone doubt the accuracy of the modifier “Little” that many people place before “Washington”: In each case, a member of the council recused himself from voting because of a possible conflict of interest.
The home in question is owned by Gay Street Inn co-owner and council member Gary Aichele, and the commercial property up for a subdivision is under negotiation for purchase by The Inn at Little Washington, whose chef and proprietor Patrick O’Connell also serves on the council.
Moreover, the converted garage, across Gay Street from Aichele’s Inn, is the former studio of artist Kevin Adams — who, with his partner Jay Brown, used to own and operate the Gay Street Inn. And it’s Adams and Brown who hope to purchase, and convert to a studio and commercial gallery run by Adams, the other property the council discussed Monday, that being the former Stonyman Gourmet Farmer mercantile store two blocks north.
The council approved a resolution to allow Thomas C. Gardner (who has a contract pending necessary town approvals to purchase the 72-by-90-foot property from Aichele) to connect to the town water system. Gardner also has an application to connect to the town sewer system, which — unlike the initial water tap — is an administrative process and doesn’t require council approval.
Gardner’s architectural plans for enlarging the converted garage — with an addition in the rear that would increase the square footage from 360 to about 800, and would include two amenities the building doesn’t now have, namely a bathroom and kitchen — was to be heard by the town’s Architectural Review Board last night (Wednesday, Feb. 11, too late for today’s edition).
Town zoning administrator John McCarthy said this week that Gardner’s plans did not require a zoning variance; the town’s zoning ordinance allows an existing structure that does not conform to setback requirements — which this building doesn’t — to be enlarged as long as the new part of the structure encroaches no further on the minimum setback, which McCarthy said is the case.
The council also scheduled a joint public hearing, with the town planning commission, for March 9 (at 7 p.m.) on Sunny View LLC’s application to subdivide the property adjacent to the Inn’s Parsonage (formerly Clopton House, renovated and reopened as part of the Inn’s luxury hotel complex last year). The boundary adjustment would add .18 acres — comprising most of the gardens and patios behind the former Stonyman building on Gay Street — to the Parsonage tract, and create a small, freestanding 100-by-72-foot property along the street (which is the property on which the Stonyman mercantile sits).
The Stonyman property would be under the town’s minimum lot size (hence the application to the planning commission and town council), but town attorney John Bennett, responding to questions from Mayor John Sullivan and others on Monday, said the plan “seems consistent” with the town’s stated policies (aired during last year’s revision of its comprehensive plan) to allow “infill” development in the town core, and to allow “reuse and redevelopment of, in this case, an existing structure.”
Sunny View principal Jimmie DeBergh confirmed last spring that the Inn intended to purchase the Stonyman property for $500,000; the sale was delayed by Stonyman owners’ Susan and Alan James’ suit, ultimately unsuccessful, to remain at the property though their written lease had expired. They moved out Jan. 15. Though Adams and Brown have declined to comment on the transaction, they were present at Monday’s council meeting, and their architectural plans for minor modifications to the building were approved at the ARB’s meeting last month.
The application will be considered by the town planning commission at a work-session-only meeting Feb. 23 (7:30 p.m. at town hall); the council on Monday scheduled a joint public hearing — after which the commission will make a recommendation and the council will vote on it — for 7 p.m. March 9, the council’s next regular monthly meeting date.
In other action, the council agreed to Vice Mayor Gary Schwartz’s recommendation that it table consideration of a $6,000 proposal obtained on its behalf by Environmental Systems Service (ESS), the contractor that operates the town’s wastewater treatment plant, to insulate piping at the plant. Instead, Schwartz said (since the freezing-pipe problem has been temporarily fixed with heaters), he asked that the council request a list of “critical priorities” from ESS for repairs and modifications needed at the plant.
Council member Mary Ann Kuhn reported that Joanie Ballard, co-owner of R.H. Ballard Art, Rug and Home on Main Street, had agreed to take on the town’s social-media marketing. She also recommended — and the council unanimously agreed, after a brief discussion — that it authorize the mayor to spend up to $1,500 to town website developer Alisa Moody to update the site’s content management system (to a WordPress-powered site) and to allow its design to work on mobile devices.