Controversial Belvedere project clears another Bristol hurdle

After lengthy appeal and review process, Bristol Zoning Board of Appeal upholds HDC decision on controversial downtown development

By Kristen Ray
Posted 3/27/19

The wait was long, the project in a perpetual state of uncertainty, yet after nearly six months of zero movement for Jim Roiter’s “Belvedere at Thames St” application, the Bristol …

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Controversial Belvedere project clears another Bristol hurdle

After lengthy appeal and review process, Bristol Zoning Board of Appeal upholds HDC decision on controversial downtown development

Posted

The wait was long, the project in a perpetual state of uncertainty, yet after nearly six months of zero movement for Jim Roiter’s “Belvedere at Thames St” application, the Bristol Zoning Board of Appeal rendered a verdict Tuesday night. In front a crowded Town Hall, board members voted unanimously to affirm the Bristol Historic District Commission’s July 12 decision to grant Mr. Roiter’s mixed-use development proposal a certificate of appropriateness.

Tasked with determining whether or not the HDC’s approval involved clear error, prejudicial procedural error or lacked support by the weight of the evidence, the Zoning Board had originally remanded the decision back down to commission members during their Oct. 1 hearing in order for them to establish clearer findings of fact. After meeting to rehash the record over the holiday season, the HDC ultimately voted in January, 4-2, to uphold their original motion.

The attorney representing the objectors, Stephen MacGillivray, argued on Tuesday night that HDC members — some of whom were sitting in the audience — had actively engaged in prejudicial procedural error throughout that December debate by relying on their past, personal experiences with the project’s architect, Douglas Kallfelz. Board members failed to see that as expanding the record.

“That happens quite frequently, so I don’t think that’s expansion of the record at all,” reasoned Chairman Joseph Asciola.

While board member Charlie Burke and Vice Chairman Bruce Kogan would have preferred to have seen a more involved discussion between HDC members over their treatment of the opposition group’s expert testimony, they conceded it was not their place to evaluate their findings of fact.

“We may not have reached the same conclusion, but that is not our job,” said Mr. Kogan.

Members David Simoes and Tony Brum agreed, knowing fully well that their time to pass judgement on Mr. Roiter’s construction plans will come once they return to sitting as a Board of Review — which they have not done yet on this application. The zoning board will be asked to approve more than a dozen variances for this project. For now, though, acting as the Board of Appeal, all five members felt it appropriate to affirm the HDC’s decision.

The project, which would complete Mr. Roiter’s rehabilitation of properties situated in the block between Hope, State, Thames and John streets, calls for a large, three-story building that would house a restaurant, 20 apartments, a parking garage and a rooftop deck with pool and amenities.

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