Above: The 410-unit development area is outlined in red.
The hearing will resume June 21
At the third night of a public hearing before the Planning Board on a 410-unit residential development proposed for Division Road, members heard from a planning consultant hired by nearby residents and the town’s traffic engineer consultant defended her finding that the new development would not over-burden Division Road.
Planning consultant Doug McLean, who works for Cranston and was hired by residents of the Westfield Farms neighborhood, said the town’s comprehensive plan – a blueprint for the town that gets updated every 10 years – did not foresee this level of density when this 80-acre parcel in the far northwest corner of East Greenwich was identified as appropriate for higher density.
McLean said the Town Council should have put this parcel through the rezoning process, which would have allowed for more input from residents and potential leverage from the town.
Developer Ned Capozzi has applied for a comprehensive permit, which offers one-stop shopping through the town’s regulatory process as well as a density bonus in exchange for at least 25 percent of the project being deed-restricted affordable. This is a mechanism put into law at the state level to get more affordable housing built.
Planning Board Chair Ben Lupowitz asked Andrew Blais, lawyer for the residents, what his clients objected to.
Blais said the residents had chosen that area of East Greenwich because of its rural character and that 410 new residential units (202 single-family houses, 4 larger apartment buildings containing 136 units in total, and 12 smaller apartment buildings with a total of 72 units) would change that. He cited other concerns as well, including traffic and stormwater runoff on Division Road.
“They are concerned about how this will affect their quality of life in every aspect. They hired my firm to represent their interests. This application goes for it all,” he said, referring to the density. “This is not a NIMBY situation. This is asking for a cooperative, nonconfrontational discussion about what is fair.”
“They’re not opposed to some type of development there?” Lupowitz said.
“Something reasonable, yes,” Blais said.
“I think I’m hearing some possibility about some compromise about something,” Lupowitz said.
“The message to both you and Mr. Landry [lawyer for the developer] is what, if anything, is willing to be discussed?”
Landry noted his client could have sought even higher density.
Referring to the state law requiring municipalities to get to 10 percent affordable housing stock – East Greenwich is at around 6 percent now – Lupowitz said, “We have a mandate on the one hand. On the other hand, we can all understand this might not be desirable.”
Regarding traffic issues, the town’s longtime traffic consultant, Anna Novo, spoke in defense of her assessment that the proposal would not overburden Division Road. In particular, she addressed the difference between her assessment in a 2007 report and today after Town Council member Renu Englehart raised that earlier report at the May 3 meeting, saying Novo at that time had said the intersection of Division Road and Route 2 could be maxed out by 2020. At the May 17 meeting, Novo (speaking on Zoom) said back in 2007 there was a very different development planned for where New England Tech now stands, one with a hotel, a restaurant, offices and more than 500 residences. That would have resulted in 7,000 additional cars a day, she said.
At that time, they looked at improvements for the roads that were carried forward to the NEIT plan, including a roundabout and road widening between NEIT and Route 2.
“I have in my office all of these studies … I have been reviewing traffic studies for the Town of East Greenwich since 1995,” Novo said. “I didn’t take these numbers out of my head.”
After the meeting, developer Capozzi said he wished residents would focus on how nice the development will look. When asked if he would reconsider the density, he said he would have to talk with his lawyer.
Find our previous reporting on this proposal HERE.