Planning Board Moves Forward Two of Three Development Applications
December 14th 2021
Planning Board Moves Forward Two of Three Development Applications
December 14th 2021
RICHMOND — At a lengthy Dec. 14 meeting involving public hearings three development proposals, Planning Board members deferred a vote on the third application, citing newly-submitted documents that they had not had time to read.
Meadow Brook Acres
The first hearing concluded with the approval of the combined master and preliminary plans for a major housing subdivision on a portion of the Meadow Brook golf course at 163 Kingstown Road.
The applicants, Rolling Green Corp. and Meadow Brook Properties, LLC/KREG Realty, are proposing to divide the property into 12 single family residential lots, all of which would be accessed from Kenyon Hill Road.
The remaining portion of the Meadow Brook golf course would be left intact.
Town Planner Shaun Lacey explained in his staff report that the new subdivision is the third residential project on the property, following the creation of four lots fronting Richmond Townhouse Road and a second four-lot subdivision, Meadow Brook Acres. The new project is known as “Meadow Brook Acres Phase II.”
Attorney John Pagliarini, representing the developers, requested four waivers from the town’s land development regulations, pertaining to the locations of mailboxes, bus waiting areas, street lighting and street trees.
“None of those are really applicable to an existing road,” he said.
The developers intend to pay a fee in lieu of creating the affordable housing units mandated by state law. There was a discussion of the amount to be paid, with board member Nancy Hess noting that the amount of the fee, $198,000 in lieu of three affordable units, was low, considering the selling prices of the units.
“The market report claims to be able to sell these for $550,000 and I think this is why we have an affordable housing problem and why the town has a problem in trying to catch up and build the units that it’s supposed to under state law,” she said. “So, I want to make sure that the town gets the proper amount for that fee in lieu of.”
Lacey noted in his report that the project complies with the town’s comprehensive plan.
“Notwithstanding the waiver requests, the project complies with the Town’s Comprehensive Community Plan, the Land Development and Subdivision Regulations, the Zoning Ordinance and Rhode Island General Laws,” he stated. “Staff therefore recommends that the Board accept the waivers and approve the project subject to the recommended findings and conditions contained in this staff report.”
Several neighbors objected to the project, asking for larger setbacks from thread and citing tree-clearing and the disturbance of wildlife. The project is permitted by right, however, and the board voted to approve the master and preliminary plans.
The second public hearing was proceeding smoothly, until the owner of a neighboring business raised concerns regarding traffic safety.
The applicant, C.T. Narayanan proposes to build a 69-unit housing development, including 18 affordable units at 38 Stilson Road. The 9.8-acre property is in a general business zone.
Lacey recommended the board approve the master plan and several waiver requests.
Testifying on behalf of the developer, traffic engineer Herman Peralta stated that surveys his team conducted had shown that the new neighborhood would not significantly increase traffic in the area.
But Peralta’s report was challenged by Michal D’Ambra, owner of Richmond Sand and Stone, at 33 Stilson Road. D’Ambra first stated that as an abutter, he had not received the notice of the public hearing. He also raised questions about the safety of residents, particularly children, living so close to a gravel and stone crushing operation.
“It’s probably the worst place in the world you could put another 69 homes with children,” he said.
Citing the plans for the development, D’Ambra pointed out the locations of his company’s driveways.
“See where is boulevard entrance is? We have two driveways, one just south of it and one almost directly across from it,” he said. “Out of those driveways, we have approximately 200 trips a day of tractor trailers and big ten-wheelers and tri axles coming in and out of there with stone and gravel and loam that we sell. It’s a real safety concern, with kids.”
D’Ambra also warned that residents of the new development would not be happy about the noise produced by the heavy industry across the road.
“Innocent people are going to buy a home and they‘re going to find out, we’re blasting about four times a year,” he said. “We have a [stone] crushing plant that’s been there for probably 30, 40 years, that’s within 1,000 feet of that subdivision and it’s noise. We keep the noise within the limits that we’re supposed to, but these people are going to get irritated.”
Paul Fortin, who lives in the nearby Fox Run development, questioned the applicant’s traffic study.
“I’ve looked at your data and there’s no way it is accurate,” he said. “I see it, because I live in Building One. I was the first person to move in here, and I can see the traffic on Stilson Road, right out my window, sitting on my sofa and it is non-stop, okay?”
Fortin warned that adding 69 residences would exacerbate existing traffic issues.
“I sit here, I see it every day, and not only is it a lot of traffic, in peak season time, I come from [Interstate] 95, Exit 3 every day, and sometimes it takes me five minutes or more to get from there to here in the summertime.”
Planning Board Chairman Phil Damicis and other board members said that although the project and its affordable housing component were envisioned in the town’s comprehensive plan, the public safety issues raised at the hearing would have to be addressed in more detailed traffic studies.
“If we had evidence in front of us that this was going to create a safety problem and we were convinced of that, we would have to deny this application based on that,” he said.
Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth said the board’s first alternative to denial would be to mitigate the traffic problem.
“If the revised traffic shows a substantially greater volume of traffic, than has been discussed, then the first thing you would want to do is ask the applicant is to suggest mitigating measures to offset that,” she said.
Ellsworth also suggested that, as has been done at Fox Run, a statement regarding the presence of the gravel operation be added to the sales agreement so buyers are made aware of the presence of heavy industry in the neighborhood.
The board approved comprehensive permit on the condition of additional traffic studies.
The Preserve deferred
At the third public hearing of the evening, the board voted to defer a decision on the preliminary plan application of the MTM Development Corporation for Phase IIB of the Preserve at Boulder Hills.
The board approved the master plan as a major land development for Phase II in 2018. In his staff report, Lacey listed the myriad features of the 750-acre development.
“The project will provide 172 dwelling units (including 26 affordable units), 603 parking spaces, an equestrian center, day care facility, health club, private club, clubhouses, outdoor recreation, open space, novelty accessory sleeping structures and a service station,” he wrote. “ The primary point of access to the development is from Route 138 (Kingstown Road).”
Additional elements of Phase II will include a service station, daycare center, 61 units in multi-family buildings, 69 single-family residential dwelling units, clubhouses, two hilltop lodges, several “tiny homes” and a maintenance building.
Board members expressed frustration at receiving architectural renderings right before the hearing.
Hess said, “It’s difficult to look at something the night of the hearing and listen to the testimony being presented at the same time.”
Board Chairman Philip Damicis said he would not vote on the application without having had time to review the new material.
“It’s an absolute mess tonight,” he said. “I can tell you I’m not going to review anything I receive here tonight.”
Preserve Chairman Paul Mihailides argued that the items on the agenda had already been constructed.
“Everything that we’re going to discuss tonight is already built,” he said. “There’s no new nuances and the buildings and structures, you’ve already been through with the exception of the kitchens being eliminated on Hilltop Lodge and the dishwashers being eliminated in the Hilltop Lodges.”
Mihailides added, “I do apologize to the board for the late submission. It was timely, but it came in too late to be printed and for that, we apologize.”
Damicis responded that the board needed to have the written materials at least a week in advance of the hearing.
“Quite honestly, it’s not an easy job to have this thrown at us tonight and expect us to do any kind of review, it’s just not reasonable,” he said.
There was a discussion of the fees that would be paid in lieu of affordable housing units, and Mihailides also noted that he felt that his company should be reimbursed for the cost of the engineering peer review that the board had required.
The board voted to continue the public hearing to the Jan. 11 meeting.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875