Planning Board Votes Down 13-Unit So. Pierce Road Proposal

The historic farmhouse on the McKenna property.

The decision comes after six hearings on the plan; abutters are pleased but developer says he will appeal to state housing board.

By Elizabeth F. McNamara

In the end, developer Tom Primeau wouldn’t further drop the number of units for his proposed “Coggeshall Preserve” on South Pierce Road so after months of hearings, the Planning Board Wednesday night denied the project, saying the project was too dense, not compatible with the neighborhood, had unknown environmental impacts and crowded the historic – if dilapidated – farmhouse on the property.

Primeau said Thursday he will appeal the decision to the State Housing Appeals Board (SHAB).

“A project of such a small magnitude, it’s going to be hard for the state housing board to deny it, especially after we show the lengths we went to,” he said, noting the drop in the number of units, his willingness to clean up what had been used as a private dump and the decision to save the exterior of the historic house.

“At the end of the day, it comes down to your typical NIMBY-ism.”

Neighbors had, in fact, fought the development from the beginning. Many attended all six of the hearings on the project, staying even until midnight on a couple of occasions. After the Planning Board’s vote Wednesday, several expressed satisfaction with the outcome.

“I’m very pleased and I’m glad that the whole board seemed to see it that way too,” said Wayne Savageau, whose house on Taylor Circle abuts the McKenna property. Two buildings in the proposal were sited very close to his property line.

“We think the board has done an excellent job of due diligence,” said Pam Savageau, Wayne’s wife.

“They listened to a lot of the points we made,” added Wayne. “Whichever way it went, they have been very thorough.”

“We’re hopeful but we’re sure that he’s going to appeal it, and that’s going to just drag everything out a lot longer,” said Mallory Walsh, who lives on nearby Power Street.

Primeau had originally sought to build 21 units in duplexes and triplexes on what’s known as the McKenna property on the corner of South Pierce Road and Cora Street, in a neighborhood of largely modest, one-story houses. Over the course of the hearings, he dropped that number to 13 units but that was still well beyond the 8 units deemed appropriate for the lot under residential zoning guidelines (which would be a density bonus of 5 units since the property “by right” would allow only 3 units).

The developer came to the Planning Board looking for a “comprehensive permit,” which can be sought when a development includes a higher number of affordable units than the mandated 10 percent. It fast-tracks the process to encourage developers to build more affordable housing, allowing a project to bypass the Zoning Board and the Town Council and, in this case, the Historic District Commission, with final approval resting with the Planning Board alone.

This property does have challenges when it comes to development.

First, the house on the property is in extremely bad shape but, as one of the oldest houses in Kent County, it retains historic significance. Primeau originally proposed tearing it down and building a structure that would look similar. When the HDC gave an advisory opinion in opposition to that plan, Primeau came back with a new plan that would essentially gut the interior of the building but would retain as much of the exterior of the building as possible, as well as rebuild the chimney, which is of singular historic importance.

In addition, the McKennas had operated a private dump on the 4.6 acre property for decades and it’s unclear what environmental hazards will be found on the site. And, finally, there is a pond on the site and much of the property sits in the floodplain. In his proposal, Primeau said he would work with state agencies to mitigate the environmental issues, including raising the grade in spots if necessary.

He said Thursday all of that work would be costly and awarding a density bonus for the project was appropriate.

“To ask for a few units more for all of that is an incredibly reasonable request,” he said.

“We feel like we followed the law,” said Planning Board Chairman Mike Donegan. “That’s what we tried very hard to do. We had many hearings on this, we took a lot of evidence. We think that we considered all the statutory and local requirements and presented a decision that follows all of that.”

Town officials acknowledge that SHAB usually rules in favor of the developer – the board was designed to favor affordable housing. That’s because most municipalities do not have the requisite 10 percent of their housing stock deemed affordable (*for explanation about affordable, see footnote). East Greenwich’s affordable housing percentage sits at 4.6, which could give Primeau leverage in the appeal.

But Donegan said the town’s Comprehensive Plan (a formal document that acts like a blueprint for the town in terms of future development and was approved by the state) outlines other areas in town for affordable housing and that the McKenna property was not on that map.

“We have recited in the decision all the applications, the number of units we have so far, our record of approving all the comp permits [up to now]. We think we’ll hit our numbers anyway, without approving something that isn’t otherwise approvable,” he said.

Primeau said he was confident in winning the appeal because the Planning Board’s decision “is not supported by the weight of evidence in the record.”

Andrew Teitz, the lawyer for the Planning Board, disagreed with that analysis, noting that typically in cases like this, the developer puts forth a lot of evidence and those in opposition (usually abutters) don’t put up any.

In this case, he said, “you had several of the experts put forth by the neighbors at their own expertise.”

He added, “I think there is much more information in this case in support of the denial then there usually is.”

This would be the first such comprehensive permit appeal for the town. That’s because it’s the first time the Planning Board has denied a comp permit. In his experience, Teitz said, the appeal process could take between one and two years.

  • By state law, municipalities are supposed to have 10 percent of their housing stock in the affordable category. East Greenwich’s affordable percentage is 4.6 percent. To reach 10 percent, East Greenwich would need to add 290 units, according to HousingWorksRI. (Affordable housing is not the same as low- to moderate-income housing. Rather, for home ownership, it is calculated to serve people who make less than 120 percent of the median income for, in this case, Kent County.) The state created the Comprehensive Permit application to help fast-track developments that include affordable housing units since so many communities fall short of the 10 percent goal.

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Planning Board Weighs 16-Unit So. Pierce Development, Including 1700s House Demo

The Planning Board is in the middle of reviewing a proposal from East Greenwich developer Tom Primeau, who wants to build 16 condominiums (a collection of duplexes and triplexes) on the 5.4 acre site at 62 South Pierce Road at Cora Street.

The development, called Coggeshall Preserve, is hotly contested by neighbors. The initial public hearing on Primeau’s Comprehensive Permit application, on Aug. 2, was filled with abutting and nearby residents. After Primeau’s development team made its presentation, the public was allowed to comment. The meeting went four hours before the Planning Board finally called a halt just after 11 p.m. because there were several more people who wanted to comment on the development. The board will take up the hearing again at its meeting Sept. 20.

A Comprehensive Permit is allowed when a developer includes units deemed “affordable.” Coggeshall Preserve would include four affordable units. That enables the proposal to bypass the Zoning Board, the Town Council and, in this case, the Historic District Commission, with final approval coming from the Planning Board alone (but a Planning Board imbued with the powers of the other boards).

By state law, municipalities are supposed to have 10 percent of their housing stock in the affordable category. East Greenwich’s affordable percentage is 4.6 percent. To reach 10 percent, East Greenwich would need to add 290 units, according to HousingWorksRI. (Affordable housing is not the same as low- to moderate-income housing. Rather, for home ownership, it is calculated to serve people who make less than 120 percent of the median income for, in this case, Kent County.) The state created the Comprehensive Permit application to help fast-track developments that include affordable housing units since so many communities fall short of the 10 percent goal.

The town’s Staff Report (find it here: Planning Dept. Staff Report – 62South Pierce) notes that several of the planned residences are on federally designated floodplain areas and that “local regulations call for all lands designated as floodplain or other flood hazard area to remain in an open space or undeveloped state.” Primeau’s team is seeking a floodplain map amendment through FEMA but the staff report recommends the developer be prepared to reduce the number of units if he does not get a map amendment.

In addition, the Department of Public Works has concerns about stormwater retention structures in the flood zone. Those too would need to be relocated, the report said.

“Granting this waiver is not recommended at this time,” the report reads.

Project engineer Nicole Reilly of DiPrete Engineering said the site had different elevations and that the developer planned to raise the elevation of the site to above-floodplain levels.

The chimney is perhaps the most distinctive characteristic of this house built circe 1705.

A sticking point for neighbors of 62 South Pierce is the planned demolition of the main house on the property, which was built around 1705, making it one of the oldest structures in East Greenwich. The house has a distinctive chimney that Primeau said he will replicate in a new building near the site of the original house and the plan calls for useable materials to be salvaged from the original building and used if possible in the new building.

“The site itself and the home are in derelict condition,” said William Landry, lawyer for Primeau, at the hearing Aug. 2. “We are proposing to deconstruct it, move it and rebuild it using new materials … and retaining the chimney structure.”

“The hope is the historic reconstruction will read like a structure that has always been on the street and the realigning residences will look like a neighborhood that’s developed through time around the ‘old’ house,” said project architect David Okerlund.

The McKenna family has owned the property for decades.
The back of the house includes additions that are in particularly bad shape, according to an engineer working for the developer.

Structural and civil engineer Craig Carrigan inspected the building for Primeau in March. He said the house had seen too much damage and deferred maintenance through the years to be saved.

“This is one of four structures I’ve seen in my career that you can’t save,” he said. “There’s too much gone at this point to actually bring it back. I can’t figure out how to fix this one. There’s too much damage.”

But one neighbor, during public comment, took issue with those assertions.

Stephen Tyson, who lives a block away and is president of Architectural Preservation Group, said he had restored many structures in similar shape to 62 South Pierce Road.

“The structural problems that were testified to earlier, they are something I do in my sleep,” said Tyson, who has served on EG’s Historic District Commission. “To say this building is falling down is a mischaracterization. It is definitely savable and I think for a reasonable price.”

While the Historic District Commission has no purview over this project since it is applying under Comprehensive Permit guidelines, the Planning Board voted Aug. 2 to refer the project to the HDC for an advisory opinion.

Another issue for nearby residents was the lack of single-family houses and the proximity of two of the structures to houses on Taylor Circle. In particular, a driveway would be within 50 feet of Pam and Wayne Savage’s house and only a few feet from their property line (seen in the photo below, marked with string). The couple have lived in their house, which abuts the McKenna property, for 40 years.

Wayne and Pam Savageau have lived in this house on Taylor Circle for 40 years, but the property line sits within feet of the back of the house.

“It was our starter house that ended up being our last house,” Wayne joked during the Planning Board’s visit to the site Aug. 5. “We took care of this part,”  he said gesturing to the area beyond the staked property line. “We wanted to buy another 30 to 40 feet but they wouldn’t sell,” he said of the McKenna family. “We didn’t know this was coming.”

Most of the McKenna property is overgrown. A pond on the site is completely obscured by vegetation. Donald McKenna, who was a janitor at Meadowbrook Farm school for many years, lived in the house with his brother but recently moved to Coventry to live with his daughter after his brother’s death. The land has been in the McKenna family for decades. Some in the neighborhood remember skating on the pond in winter. And everyone knew that the McKennas allowed dumping on the site. Primeau plans extensive remediation of the property, but the state Department of Environmental Management will have to evaluate the condition of the property since there are complaints about dumping dating to the 1970s.

The property has been on the market on and off for years, with the price tag as high as $1 million at one point, according to neighbors. Primeau is buying it for $250,000. His company, Philip Ryan Homes Ltd., is also behind a proposed 43-unit development on Middle Road just east of South County Trail (across from Pine Glen) as well as Fry Brook, a condominium complex off Middle Road just west of South County Trail. Fry Brook was largely completed in 2009 but Primeau still has not built a culvert that was part of the plan. He was before the Town Council in July seeking another extension – finishing the culvert has been tied to permission to build the 43 units on Middle Road. Primeau said the culvert would be done by the end of September and the council granted him an extension.

In an interview, Primeau blamed the poor economy for his failure to complete the Fry Brook culvert, but also placed responsibility with the town.

“The development was done. The houses were built, the roads were paved, the people were happy,” he said. “It wasn’t the right time to take care of it. If the town wanted to do it so bad, they could have pulled the performance bond,” he said. “Now, they have a culvert that’s going to be 10 years newer.”

Primeau said he’s not building single family homes on the South Pierce Road site because the market isn’t calling for single family homes in that area.

“We don’t think that’s the market. We think the market’s more for young professionals and that type of buyer more than single family homes,” he said, noting that the land was “on the cusp, on the outlying edges of a single family neighborhood…. It’s in a transitional area.”

As for neighbor complaints, Primeau said that’s part of the process when you’re a developer.

“They don’t want it developed. Everybody thinks they own it when they don’t. There’s going to be screening and landscaping. We’re providing affordable housing for the community. We’re providing tasteful moderate income housing.”

The Planning Board won’t resume the Coggeshall Homes public hearing until on Wednesday, Sept. 20. The panel meets next on Wednesday, Aug. 16, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall, and on that agenda is Final Plan Review of Tom Primeau’s Middle Road development. Find the agenda here.

– Elizabeth F. McNamara

Showcased Home: 30 Middle Road of “Christmas in the Barn” Fame for Sale

To merely say this custom built home has two bedrooms, and two and a half bathrooms in 3,100 square feet of living space does not do it justice.  The unique property, known to many for its annual “Christmas in the Barn” craft sales, has to be seen to be appreciated. Features in the home include large rooms, an open kitchen, loft space overlooking a family room that has a grand brick fireplace, cathedral ceilings, wood beams, skylights, artist studio, and lots of storage space, including an impressive attic. The backyard of the almost one acre makes you feel like you’re in the country when you’re actually in the heart of East Greenwich, and the property’s historic barn dates back to 1774. The home is connected to town water and sewer, and has gas heat.

There will be an open house on Sunday, April 19, from 12 to 2 p.m.

The price is $685,299. Shawna Scotti of RI Real Estate Services has the listing. For more information, call 401-369-1516.

 

If you would like a home to be showcased on East Greenwich News, please e-mail a high resolution (400×600) exterior photo and details about what makes it unique to patti.depriest@nemoves.com.

Ideally, houses chosen for East Greenwich News’ Showcased Home are newer listings with Open Houses that weekend. The final decision is solely that of the editor.

Patti DePriest is a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in East Greenwich. For questions or comments, please call 401-243-5041.

Just Sold: Three East Greenwich Homes Sold

A property report of the homes purchased in East Greenwich, Cowesett and Potowomut from April 8 to 15, 2015.

279 Grand View Road

279 Grand View Road, EG

Date: 4/8/15
Sale Price: $392,000
Seller: Guy, Jr. and Ann M. Asadorian
Style: Colonial
Approx. Total Living Area: 2,759 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 4
Baths: 2.1

28 Mayflower Drive

28 Mayflower Drive, EG

Date: 4/10/15
Sale Price: $405,000
Seller: Donaldo and Vilma N. Guevara
Style: Colonial
Approx. Total Living Area: 2,052 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 4
Baths: 2.1

137 Peirce Street

137 Peirce Street, EG

Date: 4/14/15
Sale Price: $395,000
Seller: Richard L. and Sheila D. Brush
Style: Colonial
Approx. Total Living Area: 3,398 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 4
Baths: 3

 

Just Sold homes listed on East Greenwich News are arranged by town and closing date as provided by the Rhode Island Multiple Listing Service.

Cover art is solely the decision of the editor.

Patti DePriest is a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in East Greenwich. For questions or comments, please call 401-243-5041.

Showcased Home: New Build at 40 Graham Way

This ranch home has been newly constructed in the Frenchtown/Tillinghast neighborhood. It has four bedrooms, and three and a half bathrooms in 2,600 square feet of living space.  Features in the uniquely styled space include a custom granite and stainless-steel kitchen with a large center island, dining room with coffered ceilings, built-ins, hardwood floors, and custom woodwork. There’s a large deck and full walkout lower level that leads to a beautiful one acre corner lot. The home is connected to town water, and has gas heat and central air conditioning.

There will be an open house on Sunday, April 12, from 1 to 3 p.m.

The price is $749,900. The Storm Team of HomeSmart Professionals RE has the listing. For more information, call 401-921-5001.

 

If you would like a home to be showcased on East Greenwich News, please e-mail a high resolution (400×600) exterior photo and details about what makes it unique to patti.depriest@nemoves.com.

Ideally, houses chosen for East Greenwich News’ Showcased Home are newer listings with Open Houses that weekend. The final decision is solely that of the editor.

Patti DePriest is a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in East Greenwich. For questions or comments, please call 401-243-5041.

Just Sold: New Build One of Six East Greenwich Homes Sold

A property report of the homes purchased in East Greenwich, Cowesett and Potowomut from March 30 to April 8, 2015

110 South Road

110 South Road, EG

Date: 3/30/15
Sale Price: $269,000
Seller: Three Kids LLC
Style: Ranch
Approx. Total Living Area: 1,227 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 2
Baths: 2

2 Cartier Court

2 Cartier Court, EG

Date: 4/2/15
Sale Price: $715,000
Seller: Rossini & Smith Companies, Inc.
Style: Colonial
Approx. Total Living Area: 3,050 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 4
Baths: 3.1

280 Grand View Road

280 Grand View Road, EG

Date: 4/3/15
Sale Price: $377,000
Seller: Irving and Sandra T. Siegel
Style: Contemporary
Approx. Total Living Area: 2,346 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 3
Baths: 3

30 Pricewood Drive

30 Pricewood Drive, EG

Date: 4/6/15
Sale Price: $310,000
Seller: Alison Euston
Style: Ranch, Split Level
Approx. Total Living Area: 2,848 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 4
Baths: 2.1

240 Cooper Lane 

240 Cooper Lane, EG

Date: 4/7/15
Sale Price: $45,000
Seller: Douglas E. Bradley
Style: Manufactured/Mobile
Approx. Total Living Area: 980 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 2
Baths: 1

133 Tanglewood Drive

133 Tanglewood Drive, EG

Date: 4/8/15
Sale Price: $517,500
Seller: Clive G. and Karen Margaret Goodwin
Style: Colonial
Approx. Total Living Area: 2,588 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 4
Baths: 2.1

 

Just Sold homes listed on East Greenwich News are arranged by town and closing date as provided by the Rhode Island Multiple Listing Service.

Cover art is solely the decision of the editor.

Patti DePriest is a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in East Greenwich. For questions or comments, please call 401-243-5041.

Showcased Home: Bright and Open Colonial at 85 Hamilton Drive

This colonial in the River Farm neighborhood is being repainted inside and having new carpets installed for its future owner. It has four bedrooms, two and a half bathrooms in 2,712 square feet of living space.  Features include a granite and stainless-steel kitchen with a large breakfast bar, dining room with a fireplace and French doors, cathedral ceilings, hardwood floors, a partially finished lower-level with its own pub, and a two-car, side-entry garage. The ¾-acre lot is flat and nicely landscaped with mature plantings. The home is minutes from schools, highways and downtown East Greenwich, and is connected to water and sewer, and has gas heat.

There will be an open house on Saturday, April 4, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The price is $448,800. Guy Glennon of RE/MAX Professionals has the listing. For more information, call 401-329-9060.

 

If you would like a home to be showcased on East Greenwich News, please e-mail a high resolution (400×600) exterior photo and details about what makes it unique to patti.depriest@nemoves.com.

Ideally, houses chosen for East Greenwich News’ Showcased Home are newer listings with Open Houses that weekend. The final decision is solely that of the editor.

Patti DePriest is a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in East Greenwich. For questions or comments, please call 401-243-5041.

Just Sold: Five Homes Sold

87 Kent Drive

87 Kent Drive, EG

Date: 3/26/15
Sale Price: $320,000
Seller: Cosmo Properties LLC
Style: Raised Ranch
Approx. Total Living Area: 2,264 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 3
Baths: 2.1

879 Carrs Pond Road

879 Carrs Pond Road, EG

Date: 3/26/15
Sale Price: $260,000
Seller: Estate of Aldean I. Kohlman
Style: Cape Cod
Approx. Total Living Area: 1,728 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 4
Baths: 1.1

360 Diamond Hill Road

360 Diamond Hill Road, Warwick-Cowesett

Date: 3/23/15
Sale Price: $168,000
Seller: Debra A. Savage
Style: Ranch
Approx. Total Living Area: 1,104 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 3
Baths: 1

61 Potowomut Road

61 Potowomut Road, Warwick-Potowomut

Date: 3/27/15
Sale Price: $95,000
Seller: Patrick M. and Susan F. Cahill
Style: Cape Cod
Approx. Total Living Area: 1,243 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 3
Baths: 1

46 Landis Drive 

46 Landis Drive, Warwick- Potowomut

Date: 3/30/15
Sale Price: $172,000
Seller: Paul C. and Wenday Nahrgang
Style: Ranch
Approx. Total Living Area: 1,700 sq. ft.
Bedrooms: 3
Baths: 1.1

 

Just Sold homes listed on East Greenwich News are arranged by town and closing date as provided by the Rhode Island Multiple Listing Service.

Cover art is solely the decision of the editor.

Patti DePriest is a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in East Greenwich. For questions or comments, please call 401-243-5041.

Showcased Home: Tastefully Updated Colonial at 56 Cindyann Drive

This stately colonial in the Cindyann neighborhood has four bedrooms, two full, and two half tiled bathrooms in 4,000 square feet of total living space.  Features include a kitchen with cathedral ceilings, skylights, granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances, sunroom, two fireplaces, hardwoods throughout, and a finished lower-level with bamboo flooring. The lot is just over an acre and has a beautiful in-ground pool surrounded by a paver patio. The home is also connected to water and sewer, and has gas heat and central air conditioning.

There will be an open house on Sunday, March 29, from 1 to 2:30 p.m.

The price is $534,900. Jo-Ann Molinaro of RE/MAX Professionals has the listing. For more information, call 401-529-8228.

 

If you would like a home to be showcased on East Greenwich News, please e-mail a high resolution (400×600) exterior photo and details about what makes it unique to patti.depriest@nemoves.com.

Ideally, houses chosen for East Greenwich News’ Showcased Home are newer listings with Open Houses that weekend. The final decision is solely that of the editor.

Patti DePriest is a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in East Greenwich. For questions or comments, please call 401-243-5041.

Just Sold: Million-Dollar Home One of Seven Sold

A property report of the homes purchased in East Greenwich, Cowesett and Potowomut from March 19 to 25, 2015

 

 

55 Pegwin Drive

55 Pegwin Drive, EG

Date: 3/20/15

Sale Price: $730,000
Seller: Raymond F. Grandchamp Revocable Trust
Style: Colonial

Approx. Total Living Area: 3,593 sq. ft.

Bedrooms: 4

Baths: 2.2

97 2nd Street

97 2nd Street, EG

Date: 3/20/15

Sale Price: $197,500
Seller: David M. Marden
Style: Colonial, Cottage

Approx. Total Living Area: 1,414 sq. ft.

Bedrooms: 3

Baths: 1

30 Lenihan Lane

30 Lenihan Lane, EG

Date: 3/20/15

Sale Price: $1,060,000
Seller: Matthew and Maura Forte
Style: Colonial

Approx. Total Living Area: 7,266 sq. ft.

Bedrooms: 4

Baths: 5.1

7 Maplewood Drive

7 Maplewood Drive, EG

Date: 3/20/15

Sale Price: $295,000
Seller: Joseph Welch and Carmine D’Ellena
Style: Split Level

Approx. Total Living Area: 1,744 sq. ft.

Bedrooms: 3

Baths: 2

79 Saxony Drive

79 Saxony Drive, Warwick-Cowesett

Date: 3/20/15

Sale Price: $236,000
Seller: Andrew J. Longo
Style: Cape Cod

Approx. Total Living Area: 1,414 sq. ft.

Bedrooms: 3

Baths: 2

172 Gilbert Stuart Drive

172 Gilbert Stuart Drive, Warwick-Cowesett

Date: 3/23/15

Sale Price: $368,000
Seller: Robert J. Gauthier
Style: Colonial

Approx. Total Living Area: 2,984 sq. ft.

Bedrooms: 4

Baths: 2.1

281 Boulder View Drive 

281 Boulder View Drive, Warwick-Cowesett

Date: 3/23/15

Sale Price: $249,900
Seller: Federal National Mortgage Association
Style: Colonial

Approx. Total Living Area: 2,600 sq. ft.

Bedrooms: 4

Baths: 2

 

Just Sold homes listed on East Greenwich News are arranged by town and closing date as provided by the Rhode Island Multiple Listing Service.

Cover art is solely the decision of the editor.

Patti DePriest is a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in East Greenwich. For questions or comments, please call 401-243-5041.