Planning Board Skeptical About Division Road Development

by | Jul 23, 2023

They have until mid-August to vote on the 410-unit housing plan 

After several meetings and hours and hours of testimony on the 410-unit “Division Road Neighborhood” proposed for the northwestern corner of East Greenwich, Planning Board members Wednesday (7/19/23) finally expressed their thoughts and, of the five members in attendance, four said they were leaning toward voting against the current plan.  

The project has been submitted as a comprehensive permit, which allows for a fast track through the application process and increased density in return for making 25 percent of the housing units deed-restricted affordable. In this case, that means the developer – Ned Capozzi – is able to have 5 units per acre (the parcel is 80 acres) instead of the 2-acre zoning allowed under its current F2 zoning designation. Capozzi is proposing a mix of single family houses, duplexes, small apartment buildings and larger apartment buildings. Most of the residences in the surrounding area are on one- or two-acre plots, except for a recent 55+ condo development abutting the property in West Greenwich.

Planning Board member Greg deGroot* spoke first Wednesday night, suggesting he would vote against the plan because it was not in compliance with the town’s Comprehensive Plan (a 10-year municipal “blueprint” required by state law). The parcel under consideration is identified in the Comp Plan as a good one for higher-density mixed-use development. The high-density part of that has been one of the arguments put forth by lawyer for the developer Bill Landry in support of 410 units. But the development does not have any commercial elements.

“It is my feeling that we should deny this application at this time because it’s inconsistent with the Comprehensive Plan,” deGroot said. “The verbiage in the Comprehensive Plan clearly calls for mixed use planned development.” 

Nodding to Landry’s account that the previous Town Planner Lisa Bourbonnais suggested not having anything commercial, deGroot added, “I know it’s been indicated they received guidance that commercial uses might not be acceptable. That is not guidance that came from this board. This board is the one that makes that decision.”

Members Tara Wood and Andrew Shartenberg appeared to be swayed by deGroot’s reasoning but Wood also expressed frustration that the developer was not working with residents of the area on a compromise. 

“80 residents want to have housing and yet retain a rural element,” said Wood, referring to a group of nearby residents who have hired a lawyer. “I don’t know what the applicant has shown in trying to meet any of the residents’ concerns.” 

Shartenberg said after all the testimony about traffic – nearby residents are worried but experts have said repeatedly that Division Road could handle the additional traffic – he would not be able to vote against the project based on that concern. But he said he did not think the developer had addressed other safety concerns, specifically the left turn out of Westfield Drive onto Division Road and the failure of any talk about a traffic light at that intersection.

Chair Ben Lupowitz said he too was looking for more collaboration between the developer and nearby residents. 

“I don’t feel as though the applicant has offered up enough concessions on the project given what’s been discussed,” he said. “I would have thought after all these meetings, at this time I would have seen a little more of an attempt to compromise…. I do feel there’s something that’s workable there; I personally haven’t seen it yet.”

Member Matt Renniger said traffic and safety were “valid” concerns but that ultimately he was supportive of the project.

“I’ve been led to believe that this should be likely approved,” he said. “Housing’s obviously a huge issue here, affordable housing’s a huge issue everywhere.”

Regarding deGroot’s comment about the lack of commercial businesses as part of the plan, Renniger wondered if that might not ease traffic since the businesses might attract people from outside the development.

After the meeting, developer Capozzi declined to comment. 

If the panel does indeed vote against the proposal, Capozzi would most likely appeal it to the state Housing Appeal Board (aka SHAB) where he would have a high chance of success because SHAB is the body meant to hold a municipality’s feet to the fire until that municipality’s  housing stock is at least 10 percent affordable. East Greenwich is at 5.67 percent. (Editor’s note: There are 49 affordable units at Brookside Terrace that will come on line soon and there is another all-affordable complex currently under construction on Frenchtown Road near Route 4 which will boost EG’s percentage but it will still be below 10 percent.) 

One factor that has not been discussed is new state laws easing housing regulations that go into effect Jan. 1, 2024. One law is particularly relevant, since it will make it easier for developers to maximize density by providing more affordable units. Developers would get 5 units per acre with 25 percent affordable (like the Division Road project), 9 units per acre with 50 percent affordable and 12 units per acre for 100 percent affordable projects. In other words, if Capozzi were to sell his property to another developer or withdrew his current application and resubmitted it after Jan. 1 as a 50 percent affordable project, he could build 720 units. An all-affordable project could come in at 960 units.

The board needs to vote on the project by Aug. 16 or it be allowed as proposed. They meet again Aug. 2.

Find all of our coverage on the Division Road Neighborhood project HERE.

*deGroot is a board member of East Greenwich News.

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July 24, 2023 7:10 am

The board is right to have concerns. Once this project is approved, the neighbors will find out they no longer live in a peaceful, rural area.
Just go to , Division Street, or, Main, or Rte. 2 at 8am or 4pm.
Should tell you all you ought to know.

July 26, 2023 7:43 am
Reply to  bruce

This idea is a truly bad one. The intersection of Rt2 and Division which is now bad enough, will become horrible.

July 24, 2023 2:13 pm

Even if the board denies it, the state will approve it. If he does sell it, more will be build as stated in the article. I just hope the development looks attractive and tasteful.

Bob D
Bob D
July 25, 2023 8:41 am
Reply to  Heather

Heather just remember you get the government and politicians you vote for. Their silence is deafening! Hope everyone remembers this the next election!

July 25, 2023 10:04 am
Reply to  Heather

The verbiage in the Comprehensive Plan clearly calls for mixed use planned development.”

What a weird hammer to bang over the developer”s head, when residents have voiced concerns over noise and traffic. How will forever commercial development help meet the requirements of the planning board and residents alike?

At least give the developer the chance to provide desperately needed housing so long as they can come to a middle ground with nearby residents

July 25, 2023 12:38 pm
Reply to  Toby

This is because the planning board is trying to weasel out of any accountability for the project. They know this will be appealed to the state and it will be allowed to be built. So they take any excuse they can to vote no, like saying this should be mixed use, which of course would bring even more traffic to the area.

And the notion that this is some peaceful, rural area is nonsense. It abuts I95 which generates plenty of vehicle noise. And across I95 are box stores, fast food chains, and restaurants. And on top of it, you have a high density condo complex abutting the property as well.

It all boils down to unfounded fears and hypocritical NIMBY-ism. “We are all for affordable housing as long as it is over there, not here”.

July 26, 2023 8:37 am
Reply to  Don


I have to disagree here. This isn’t all about “not in my backyard,” it’s about the strain this development will cause the town and still not reach the mandated “affordable” housing requirements. At four people per unit, this development could increase the size of the town by more than 10% – that’s a very large amount.
If we must reach this housing total, then best way to do it is ourselves.

Here is an example from Harding Township NJ…

We can add to the town’s affordable housing without completely overburdening the town. It will take leadership and foresight to get it done though.


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