Above: A rendering of what the neighborhood off Division Road would look like, by architectural firm Union Studio.
By Elizabeth F. McNamara
The Planning Board Wednesday night will hear a preliminary application for a 418-unit development off Division Road across from Westfield Drive. The proposal marks the largest development the town has seen in decades, perhaps ever. It is in the conceptual stage, with several steps to complete before a shovel would hit the dirt.
Applicant Ned Capozzi of Modern Industries, a Providence company, is the developer. The project echoes in size and scope a project off Post Road in North Kingstown called Reynolds Farm. *
The Division Road plan includes four 4-story apartment buildings that would contain 34 units per building; 72 2-story “manor houses” – smaller apartment buildings – with 6 units each; and 210 single-family homes. The approximate total number of bedrooms would be 836. Access into and out of the development would be via Division Road.
The plan calls for 136 of the units to be deemed “affordable” allowing the developer to seek a comprehensive permit. Comp permits are faster than regular development permits because everything is done by the Planning Board (one-stop shopping, so to speak). Any developer is required to make 10 percent of the total number of their units deed-restricted affordable; if an applicant bumps up that percentage to 25 percent, they are eligible to apply for a comp permit.
Comp permitting is the state’s way to promote the creation of more affordable housing. Each community is mandated by the state to get to where 10 percent of their housing is affordable. East Greenwich stands at 4.7 percent right now (although there are at least 138 affordable housing units currently under construction in town and those are not included in this percentage).
So, what happens Wednesday night? The applicant will explain what they are planning and Planning Board members will respond and offer comments and guidance to help the applicant with their Master Plan submission. To reiterate, this is a conceptual discussion. Much of the necessary engineering and things like traffic studies are part of the Master Plan submission, not this pre-application process. Also, this is not a public hearing (that comes later), so taking public comment is at the discretion of the Planning Board chair.
Here’s what the town Planning Department staff had to say about potential impacts:
Town residents along Division Road, especially in the Westfield Drive area, have expressed interest in this development and are particularly concerned about traffic impacts. The presentation of a traffic impact analysis at Master Plan will be important. Residents are also concerned about fiscal impacts, especially with some town services, particularly the school system, already being overburdened. As the development concept comes more acutely into view, the town will need to fully understand the total bedroom count here and whether or not any units will be age-restricted so that we can better assess fiscal impacts. The Town will work to refine and clarify the extent of public improvements to infrastructure and utilities, both off-site and on, that will occur as a result of this development. Examples might include roadway, intersection and signalization work, stormwater management system upgrades, etc. The developer’s willingness to provide on-site public amenities like park space or recreation facilities will also be part of that consideration.
* Correction: We mistakenly said applicant Ned Capozzi was the developer of Reynolds Farm in North Kingstown. The Reynolds Farm developer is Kirk Pickell. We regret the error.
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