Letter: Small zone change could help Tiverton Yacht Club recover

To the editor:
I appreciated your reporting of the Town Council’s decisions relative to the Tiverton Yacht Club’s request for a small change in the town’s zoning ordinance. I would like,however, to clarify one point. The club, as indicated in the article, owns two pieces of property, one on the waterfront and the other on the opposite (east) side of Riverside Drive. Our  proposed location of the new septic system is on the east side of the road, in the area where our old system was located. That location is 155 feet from high water in the Sakonnet Basin. (DEM regulations require at least 50 feet separation and town regulations require a special use permit for systems within 200 feet of a body of water.)
For almost 10 years we have been trying to re-build our club house which was a pre-existing use on a non-conforming property.We are currently stymied by a “catch 22″ situation.
After the clubhouse burned in June 2003, a truck working to clear up the area crushed our septic tank. As early as December 11,  2003, TYC submitted a plan to repair the system and presented justification for a system capable of handling 525 gallons per day. Our abutters convinced DEM that we needed a much larger system and so we complied by designing a system capable of handling 1,615 gallons per day which was accepted by DEM.
We were awarded a building permit for a two-story clubhouse in 2005 only to have it appealed by our abutters. Among other things they used our enlarged septic system as proof we were planning on expanding a non-conforming use and the court in 2007 agreed with them, stating that for the septic system we needed to get either a special use permit or zoning relief from the town.
Unfortunately in past cases the RI Supreme Court has ruled that it’s illegal to get a special use permit for a non-conforming use, hence our current request for a small change in zoning which would allow replacement of a failed system without a special use permit. Not only will this benefit the yacht club, it will allow replacement of other failed systems in the Town with DEM approved designs without a special use permit.
As he has in the past, Mr. Campbell has indicated a lack of trust in the integrity of town boards when it comes to TYC dealings and has threatened to sue if this zoning change is passed.
John Brady
Fleet captain, Tiverton Yacht Club

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