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.
Ms Novo also said that no traffic study had been done at the corner of Division/Rt 2 since 2006. Keep in mind that the residents of this development will be EG residents and will travel east on Division, not west towards WG (which has no real town center). While some may use Center of New England, most all of their services will be in EG. Residents in the same area who live on the WG side already use EG for much of their services. The developer’s traffic study only looked at 2 locations, Division/New London Tpke and Division/Westfield Dr.
While the original development at the NEIT site was to be a MUPD development, NEIT is also done in phases and is no where close to being built out. They own quite a bit of that corner that extends right up to Stone Ridge and along Division.
Finally the residents on the main roads, Division/Shippeetown/Moosehorn/Crompton, are dealing with an ever increasing number of vehicles, which travel much faster on narrow roads. The state has done very little to help calm traffic down as they own most of our main roads. Even though the developer’s atty, William Landry, claims that no one will be cutting through neighborhoods or other small roads, he clearly isn’t aware that is already occurring and will only increase.
A reduction in size for this project, while increasing the affordable units, would be a much better fit for EG and keep it in the rural character the town envisioned through its comp plan. Mr Landry himself noted while representing another large project in our town that to meet the mandate, a project would need more affordable units than market rate units but he and the developer have chosen not to go that route.
I’m pretty sure they said 3300 more car trips a day in and out of the development.
I’m curious how many towns/cities in the state have hit the 10% low/moderate income housing. Seems EG has been on their hit list more than others.
Emma, according to this piece in GoLocalProv, “The majority of Rhode Island’s cities and towns are presently failing to meet the ten percent federal and state Affordable Housing Mandate. Only six of Rhode Island’s thirty-nine municipalities have currently met the required standard.” HousingWorks RI (housingworksri.org) has stats listed by town.
Before and after school traffic across Moosehorn, Middle, Tillinghast backing up at the intersections with Frenchtown, and then straining the small school entry and lot (if this development comes online prior to school upgrades) should be considered in the equation. It’s busy now, every school day on these narrow single lane suburban roads
If this and the other project for the town are put in, there will be NO rural character to worry about up at that end of town. When is this madness going to stop ? There is too much development in East Greenwich already. It seems condos and buildings are going up wherever there is a sliver of space. I will probably not be around to see it, but the people who live here will reap the problems that are going to come with these projects, no matter what the experts say.