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Planning Board Considers Application for Storage Building


By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA


RICHMOND — Welcoming a development proposal as a potential benefit to the town, members of the Planning Board considered a pre-application by Michael and Kathryn Colasante for a storage facility for their millwork business. The 6,000-square foot structure would be located on a two-acre parcel at 71 Buttonwoods Road, in an industrial zone where millwork is permitted by right.

After members asked several questions about erosion control, lighting and underground utilities, board Chairman Philip Damicis said he believed the proposed project would be a good fit for the town.

“To me, this is a value added to the town,” he said. “We’ve got this vacant site that is not attractive and we’re going to allow commercial development on it.”

The board requested a bond, the amount of which was not specified, that would cover landscaping and erosion control. In addition, because the property is located within 100 feet of a residential property, the developers must screen the building with a buffer consisting of either vegetation or a solid, six-foot fence.

The proposal will now move forward to the formal development review process.


Medical marijuana


The board declined to act on a request from the Town Council to recommend an amendment to a zoning ordinance pertaining to the cultivation of medical marijuana.

At the July 20 council meeting, business owner Karl Wadensten, who was also representing several other local business owners, cited the strong odor that such a facility would generate and asked the council to keep new medical marijuana growing operations from opening in the town.

Town Planner Shaun Lacey said he had been contacted by an individual who wanted to explore the possibility of opening a growing facility on Stilson Road, where Wadensten’s company and others are located. The property is in an industrial zone, where marijuana cultivation is permitted.

“An abutting property owner learned about the possibility of the facility moving onto Stilson Road and made a presentation to the Town Council opposing the nature of the use and imploring the council to revisit the overall use code,” Lacey said.

Board members had received the draft zoning amendments, prepared by Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth, but Damicis was skeptical.

“So an adjacent land owner adjacent to the property where somebody was going to renovate a building for a commercial use that is permitted and we have spent a lot of time going through our land use maps and zoning, somebody was opposed to it for some reason and the Town Council wants us to change it? I just don’t understand why,” he said.

Ellsworth explained that the concerns Wadensten had expressed were issues that are already regulated by the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation.

“All of the things that he mentioned are things that are regulated and controlled by the DBR regulations concerning the cultivation of medical marijuana,” she said.

Damicis said he didn’t feel the board should revisit the issue, since the town had already prohibited marijuana cultivation in all zones except industrial.

“I thought we were almost overstepping our bounds to some extent way back when when we zoned commercial cultivation of marijuana out of the residential areas, because as I think you had advised us, Karen, [Ellsworth] was that it’s a permitted use by state law in every zoning district in the state and we’re kind of riding the very edge and saying ‘yeah, we understand that. Technically we can’t zone it out but you know what? We’re going to say we don’t think it’s a compatible use to residential properties.’”…Correct me if I’m wrong, it sounds like this would not be consistent with Rhode Island state law if we were to make this recommendation,” he said.

Board member Daniel Madnick proposed that the discussion be tabled to a meeting when the full board would be present. Several members did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

“I feel like only having four of the board members, we do ourselves a disservice, so if you may, I would prefer to make a motion to table this discussion to a subsequent meeting when we have more of the board available,” he said.

The board agreed to table the item until the September meeting.

“I’m good with deferring this, and lastly, request some more information from council as to why they think this is necessary,” Damicis said. …”I think our ordinances are written in such a way that cultivation of marijuana right now, we’ve already protected the town and the abutters from any negative impacts that they may be concerned about.”

In other business, board members discussed a review of the zoning ordinance related to land use in the Aquifer Protection Overlay District.

In a memo to the board, Lacey described the district as covering two areas in the town.

“The first area extends from the northwest portion of town to the Charlestown town boundary,” Lacey’s memo reads. “ This area covers the villages of Arcadia, Wyoming, Alton and Wood River Junction, while also extending through portions of Interstate 95 and Route 3. The second area is located towards the east side of town, extending along portions of Route 138, and covering the villages of Haygarden, Usquepaug, Shannock and Kenyon.”

Many current uses in the district, especially in the commercial center of Wyoming, would not be permitted if the chapters pertaining to  regulations and uses in the aquifer protection district were to be applied today.

Lacey asked the board to look at existing uses in the district and determine whether some uses should require special use permits while others might be prohibited altogether.

Damicis said protecting the aquifer was the board’s highest priority.

“It’s probably one of the most` critical aspects of planning we have,” he said. “…I will say, in our use tables, we were very conservative. If there was any question whatsoever, we said ‘no,’ and then we could change it.”

The board agreed to schedule a workshop, the date of which is to be determined, to further consider the matter.




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Cynthia Drummond


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