Letter to the Editor: Developer Should Fix Up Historic House

by | May 5, 2023

And a more complete traffic study needs to be done

Some history for those who attended the Planning Board hearing (May 3rd): 1727 Division Road (directly across the entrance to Signal Ridge on Division Road) has been owned by Mr. Ned Capozzi (the developer of the proposed Division Road 400-unit development) since the late 1980s. He has owned it in partnership with former R.I. Governor Noel and another gentleman. They have applied three times to tear down this historic home (which is listed in the National Register as well mentioned in the E.G. Bicentennial book. 

Renu Englehart brought a picture of the 1727 Division Road house to the 5/3/23 Planning Board meeting.

I believe that any condition to approve units for the proposed development should include preservation of this home. When I first moved to EG 23 years ago, that house was occupied. Mr. Capozzi and his group have claimed over and over that this home was beyond repair. They have purposely neglected the house, which is called demolition by neglect. The town cannot compel the developer to preserve this home and the state has no statute to preserve homes such as this. The only thing the town has been able to do is require them to secure the home, which they have. I have contacted the state, the State Preservation Board, Preserve RI (both of which Mr Capozzi and his family were members) etc. 

The developer is waiting for this home to fall down so he can access the 30 acres behind it which are in West Warwick (which he also owns). That would allow him an egress in which (once again) EG would receive all the traffic. I have been at every meeting for years in which Mr Capozzi and his group have tried to take down this home. 

In regards to the developer’s traffic study which was reviewed by Ana Novo (EG’s traffic expert), I sat on the “Route 2 Access Management” study in 2006. At that time the Division and Route 2 intersection was slated to fail (LOS F) by Ms. Novo by the year 2020. She also stated at peak hours that intersection (in 2006) experienced a 67 percent to 74 percent increase in traffic capacity. The RIDOT “Highway Safety Improvement Program – Fiscal Year 2013” study mentions both the entrance to Route 95 off of New London Turnpike and Routes 4 and 95 combo off of Division Road as being of major concern. RIDOT has done minor improvements in these areas but I suspect that the volume of traffic is much higher currently. There is a lot of unanticipated development coming from other towns which affect our capacity and also pedestrian traffic in this area. NEIT students as well as local residents use the Division /Shippeetown/Moosehorn roads. The speeds at which traffic travels on these roads was calculated, both in 2006 and the developer’s more recent traffic study, to be 80 percent over the posted speeds. With a narrow shoulder and no sidewalks, this area has become increasingly dangerous. 

Division Road has four exits on it or nearby that access Routes 95/4. My neighbors who live on main roads and I can attest that at least once per week there is an accident on this stretch of Route 95. The minute that happens, we can tell by the amount of cars that use Division/Shippeetown/Crompton/Moosehorn as cut-throughs. An accident last week in which a truck overturned on Rt 95S backed up traffic for over 2 hours. During the summer months, it is a constant problem during heavy beach traffic days. Division Road is a winding road but those coming off the highway will attempt to travel at highway speeds. It is also a state road (as are Main St/Post Rd, South County Trail, and half of Frenchtown) and I would like to see a comprehensive traffic study as part of this proposal as well.  

I would urge residents to please stay involved as this is the largest development to be proposed in East Greenwich. For those of us who live on Division or other main roads, we are predominantly affected.   

Renu Englehart is a member of the Town Council.

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Claudia Smitj
Claudia Smitj
May 6, 2023 6:19 am

Thank you Ms. Englehart for your pragmatic comments regarding this issue. Developers come into town with no respect for residents of this town, just to turn a coin. Traffic is a BIG issue and will have a huge impact on the infrastructure. What used to be a town of farmers and fishermen taking care of themselves, and others has slowly become nothing but a pecuniary investment for some. All must stop and think. Thank you.

Renu Englehart
Renu Englehart
May 7, 2023 1:11 pm
Reply to  Claudia Smitj

Hi Claudia – I would agree that rural character of the town west of Rt 2, which is mentioned in our town comprehensive plan, has slowly been eroded. The majority of those who bought homes on main roads did not expect the size and the scope of these developments. They overwhelm the town’s capabilities. The town needs affordable housing but it also needs the state to fund the infrastructure and allow us some leverage over developers.

Kelly Mckeon
Kelly Mckeon
May 8, 2023 10:39 am
Reply to  Renu Englehart

So here’s a thought; when they neglect a property such as this, deny requests for future projects based on past practice. They have shown in the past they can’t keep a property of one house in good repair, what makes us think they can keep up multiple homes?
It’s a shame an old house like this isn’t protected better.

May 9, 2023 7:22 am
Reply to  Renu Englehart

Renu: Your presentation was compelling and, I sincerely hope, effective in helping deny this proposed development. I was discouraged to hear that the effect on our school system will not be a consideration, but the safety/traffic concerns should be sufficient to halt this project.

May 6, 2023 7:35 am

Thank you for sharing this information. Does the town not have any sort of blight ordinances to address the crumbling house on division? Perhaps the developer should face the prospect of having the property condemned and seized for letting it sit and rot.

Renu Englehart
Renu Englehart
May 7, 2023 1:06 pm
Reply to  Jim

Hi Jim – I have asked and petitioned for a statute such as what you are proposing for the past 17 years. There has been little appetite from the town admin for it. However perhaps with the proposed development by Mr Capozzi, I am hoping that the rehab of this home could be a condition of approval. This home is listed as historically significant in our town charter. I know that RI towns that have tried to prevent demolition by neglect have had little success in courts. The state has few provisions either other then offering incentives to preserve historical homes. Perhaps if the community at large could join in to prevent this loss esp. since there are few homes like this left in EG west of Rt 2, we could prevail.

May 8, 2023 7:20 am
Reply to  Renu Englehart

It looks like this is a valid ordinance, and the penalty can be 500 per day… How do we get this enforced?

Building exteriors.
All exposed surfaces of dwelling units which have been adversely affected by exposure or other causes shall be repaired and coated, treated or sealed so as to protect them from serious deterioration.

Alan Clarke
Alan Clarke
May 6, 2023 1:31 pm

I agree with everything Ms. Englehart said, of course. The woman who lived in that old house back in the day was Esther Amanda (Spencer) Briggs, “Aunt Mandy.” She was a local historian and assisted James A. Arnold in doing his extensive research of our town cemeteries over 120 years ago. I have a picture of her taken in front of that house and every time I drive by now I think of her. I have formed an attachment for the experience. As I go past, I feel the silence of the past echoing through the rooms and hallways were situations and beliefs open for the listening. We have little to celebrate in 2027. Let’s not!

Elizabeth McNamara
May 7, 2023 10:23 am

A reminder to commenters: Only comments with a valid email address will be posted.

Marie Hennedy
Marie Hennedy
May 8, 2023 7:50 pm

A thoughtful discussion. Thank you, especially Renu and Jim.

Shirley Schofield
Shirley Schofield
May 10, 2023 3:02 pm

As a longtime member of an Historical Commission in another state, I am familiar with what you are experiencing. It is almost impossible these days to keep an Historical Site from being demolished! I would say put it into its own HISTORICAL DISTRICT. Putting it on the National Register of Historic Places is NOT helpful in my state nor town. Good luck!


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