The Providence Zoning Board of Review refused to grant a variance to build a second driveway at a house at 170-174 Fourth Street on August 22. SNA argued against the variance, the second parking-related variance requested and refused for this property in the last year. Former SNA Board member Bonnie Robison mobilized neighbors to oppose the variance. Two neighbors spoke at the hearing and 14 more expressed opposition by letter or petition.
While lying in an area zoned for one and two-family, this house obtained a variance to offer three rental units in 1982 and has been a rental property since then. The current owner bought the property with the intention of selling all three units as condominiums and has already sold two. He contended that he needed a second driveway to provide adequate parking for the third condominium.
The requested variance would have enabled the owner to add two parking spaces and create three separately accessible parking areas. At the hearing, Zoning Board members asserted that this lot already has five or six parking spaces: a 2-car garage, two spaces in the back and spaces in the driveway. Board members suggested that it is not too much to ask condo owners in an urban area to coordinate their parking.
Board members also noted that the owner had chosen to sell the first two condos with two spaces each, thus creating his own problem. SNA members introduced a petition signed by eight neighbors and six letters opposing the variance from nearby residents. SNA members testified that the driveway would back directly into an already busy and congested parking and traffic situation along this end of Fourth Street between 7 Stars Bakery and BankAmerica. We urged the Board not to pre-judge a citywide parking strategy with individual exceptions. Evidently the Zoning Board shared our views.
SNA generally opposes exceptions to the zoning regulation that houses have only one paved side driveway and the regulation that limits the percentage of a lot that may be paved. Excessive paving contributes to stormwater runoff, which damages our streets, pollutes Narragansett Bay and ultimately leads to higher bills from Narragansett Bay Commission. We believe that our urban neighborhood can and should make room for many more people, but that we cannot sacrifice the character of the neighborhood to accomodate suburban standards of parking. We will explore creative responses to the issues of transportation and parking in the upcoming neighborhood planning process.