Planning Board Votes Down 410-Unit Division Road Project

by | Aug 3, 2023

Developer could appeal or simply resubmit after Jan. 1

The Planning Board Wednesday night voted 4-1 against the 410-unit “Division Road Neighborhood” proposal first put forward by developer Ned Capozzi in August 2020. The master plan denial represents a victory for homeowners who opposed the project and hired a lawyer and outside experts to buttress their concerns. The nay votes were Chairman Ben Lupowitz and members Greg deGroot, Tara Wood, and Andrew Shartenberg; voting in favor of the project was Matt Renninger.

But this may just be one chapter of a longer story. Capozzi had no comment after the meeting Wednesday; he has 20 days to appeal the ruling. Traditionally, for communities that have not yet reached 10 percent affordable housing units, such an appeal has had a very strong chance of success. New legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed into law in June makes the future of this project less predictable. For one, the state Housing Appeal Board (aka SHAB) is to be reconfigured in 2024 and, because of that, is not taking on new appeals, which would extend the process for the developer.

Another new law abolishes the master plan step completely – in other words, making this very application just ruled on moot starting in 2024. Until this law was passed, a developer needed three approvals: first, master plan; second, preliminary plan; third, final plan. With the new law in place, Capozzi could resubmit his application, making no changes whatsoever, for preliminary plan approval on or after Jan. 1, 2024. 

The Planning Board cited three reasons for their denial, including two points raised in testimony from experts (in land use and traffic) hired by the opposing homeowners:

  • Failure to conform with the town’s Comprehensive Plan, including that the developer did not go through the procedural steps to change the 82-acre property from F-2 (requiring 2 acres per house) to MUPD (mixed use planned developments). The Planning Board decided the developer’s decision to not include any commercial elements (a coffee shop, dry cleaners, deli, etc.) meant the proposal was not in line with the Comprehensive Plan. Essentially, the denial said, this would not be creating a village-like development but rather was just more suburban sprawl.
  • The town is significantly on its way to meeting the state-mandated 10 percent affordable units, with an additional 114 deed-restricted affordable units under construction now (they cannot be counted in the town’s percentage until they are completed), so the 102 or 103 units represented in the Division Road Neighborhood proposal, coupled with the 300+ market rate units, would not appreciably move the needle for EG.

  • Concerns for the environment and the health and safety of current and future residents were not adequately addressed by the developer. In particular, the board said the developer did not adequately address the future traffic impacts to the surrounding roadway system. In coming to that conclusion, the board said even though the project’s traffic expert and the town’s traffic expert both agreed additional traffic from the new development would not represent a public safety concern, a comprehensive traffic study of this western section of town had not been done in nearly 20 years and a lot has changed in that time period. The board found more credible the testimony of a third traffic engineer, one hired by some of the nearby residents, who said traffic should be evaluated for “existing, future no-build and future build conditions.” The board said the “extensive lay testimony by residents” and board members’ own knowledge of the area supported that third point of view.

After the meeting, Denise Shapiro, a resident of the Westfield Farms development across the street from the proposed plan, said she and others were “estatic” with the decision but that their happiness was muted. “We know he’ll probably appeal.”

“I think the Planning Board heard what we were trying to say,” said Sallyanne Lund, another Westfield Farms resident. 

Shapiro said the opposition to the project was not to affordable housing but rather to the size of the project. “We’re not against affordable housing,” she said. “We just need to spread it out.”

Read all of our coverage on this project HERE.

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Chris r.
Chris r.
August 3, 2023 9:57 pm

Best news I’ve heard all week, maybe all month.

August 4, 2023 7:13 am

Great job planning board. Affordable housing is desirable, but should not be deployed in such a way that it actually changes the characteristics of the communities they are placed in. This was too much and any belief surrounding family homes would not be negatively impacted is unrealistic. High density housing does not blend in with the neighborhood. The impact on schools , fire , police , roads, etc would have been substantial. EG should remain open to affordable housing but not in this mega , high density style option. This was all about greed and I doubt the developers actually cared about East Greenwich.

Gina O'Toole
Gina O'Toole
August 4, 2023 7:28 am

As a resident of Moosehorn Road, I’d like to see a traffic impact study for our road if this project moves forward via appeal – we are the closest conduit to Middle Road (from Division Road) to this development site – car traffic on our road with common speeding problems already impact us – it’s a popular road for walkers, etc., but already there are times of day it’s risky.

Peter Carney
Peter Carney
August 4, 2023 8:00 am

Regarding the new law taking effect on Jan 1, 2024 that reduces local control further…how did EG’s State reps vote on that legislation? I think that would be an interesting addition to this article since support for the size of this development is so low around town.

August 4, 2023 8:07 am

Our E.G. Planning Board conducted a very thorough, professional sequence of hearings. It was reassuring to witness polite, civil discourse throughout, regardless of the outcome.

Micheline Nilsen
Micheline Nilsen
August 4, 2023 8:45 am

One factor I have not seen mentioned in the discussions about this project is that the residents of the affordable housing units would need access to public transportation. This would mean busses on Division Road, or some other transit service. The addition of bus service on Division Road should be considered as a factor in the traffic evaluations.

August 5, 2023 11:20 pm

I agree! I’m a north Kingstown resident. We have the same (of course) issues with change. Slowly, housing has become ridiculously unattainable. No people in their 30s, raising kids, has the down payment of $60K and up.

Catherine Rodgers
Catherine Rodgers
August 4, 2023 10:33 am

According to Senate Bill 1052 Sub A, which was signed by the governor, our town should apply for participation in this “Transit-oriented development pilot program – Effective January 1, 2024.
(a) Findings and declarations. The general assembly finds and declares that in order to increase the availability of residential housing near convenient public transportation, alleviate traffic congestion and further the goals of chapter 6.2 of title 42, the Act on Climate, enacted in 2021, there is a need to identify growth centers for higher density housing, considering the capacity for water service, sewer service, transit connections, and employment centers.
(b) Establishment. To fulfill the findings and declarations of this section, a transit-oriented development pilot program is hereby established which shall allow municipalities to apply for funds for residential development.
(c) Applicability. Effective January 1, 2024, in addition to the criteria to be established by the department of housing as set forth in subsection (d) of this section, to qualify for the pilot program, a municipality must have developable land or properties which is within a one-quarter (1/4) mile radius of a regional mobility hub or a one-eighth (1/8) mile radius of a frequent transit stop as such terms are defined in the 2020 Rhode Island transit master plan or its successor document.”

Gregory Dubell
Gregory Dubell
August 5, 2023 7:23 am

Regarding Transit Oriented Design, the EG Comprehensive Plan already establishes a series of parcels that should be targeted for this purpose. These are located along the railroad corridor, off Rocky Hollow Road. Of significant note, the Planning Board will be advancing a process to revise and update the Comprehensive Plan over the next year, which will focus on every aspect of planning within the Town.

August 4, 2023 10:48 am

Thank You to the planning board for your due diligence. Having lived in this rural community for 65 years I m hoping we can keep East Greenwich from becoming blackboard jungle..

D.L. Izzo
D.L. Izzo
August 5, 2023 8:43 pm

This case is still in the jurisdiction of SHAB (State Housing Appeals Board):
45-53-5. Appeals to state housing appeals board — Judicial review. [Effective
January 1, 2023.] Appeals — Judicial review [Effective until January 1, 2024].
(a) Effective July 1, 2023, until January 1, 2024, at which time the provisions of this section
shall sunset and be repealed and replaced by § 45-53-5.1, any and all existing appeals pending
before the state housing appeals board shall continue to be heard and decided in accordance with
this chapter until December 31, 2023. All appeals shall continue to be filed with the state housing
appeals board in accordance with this chapter until December 31, 2023.

Also, please note that the elimination of Master Plan review only applies to applications for comprehensive permit, for projects that include affordable housing.


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