June 9, 2009

Zoning dispute roils quaint R.I. town

A Rhode Island knitting shop with loyal customers worldwide and which inspired a best-selling novel is in danger of being run out of business, its owner says.

Sakonnet Purls owner Louisa Silverman has run afoul of zoning regulations limiting the number of signs allowed at businesses in Tiverton. Rosemary Eva, the town's former zoning czar, noticed an extra sign and is pushing the issue.

Sakonnet Purls, which occupies a 200-year-old house in the town's quaint Four Corners neighborhood, is where Ann Hood learned to knit and eventually wrote The Knitting Circle.

Silverman, who has been in business since 1985, was ready to throw in the towel over the sign dispute but decided to dig in her heels when her customers rallied to her defense. Dozens showed up at a zoning meeting last week, the Providence Journal reported Tuesday.

Eva said her only real complaint is that the Sakonnet Purls property is the sign advertising Adam Dale's Back Alley Wood Works, which he runs out of a shed he rents from Silverman. A building inspector permitted him to put up the sign.

But Eva has also suggested Silverman should not have been allowed a non-conforming use because her property was totally residential for two years before she and her husband bought it in 1985 and that Dale should not be able to use the shed for a business because it was empty for a year before he rented it.

The hearing is scheduled to resume in July.