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Board OKs Bear Hill condos, new plan for Nate Whipple complex

By ETHAN SHOREY, Valley Breeze Managing Editor

CUMBERLAND – The Cumberland Planning Board last Wednesday unanimously approved plans for two projects: a condo proposal on Bear Hill Road and a mixed-use complex on Nate Whipple Highway.

The board approved a preliminary plan for a major land development at 80 Bear Hill Road, where applicant Waterman Homestead and Irene Schmitt, wife of Town Councilor Scott Schmitt, will build 14 new condos to replace a single home.

Jonathan Stevens, director of planning and community development, said neighbors on Standring Street seemed to appreciate how the developer listened to their concerns, especially on landscaping buffers and traffic/pedestrian safety.

Representatives for the developer made a “noble gesture” by agreeing to install a sidewalk along the front of the property abutting the road, said Stevens, a step they did not have to take.

Neighborhood residents have repeatedly asked for sidewalks on the dangerous Bear Hill Road, noted Stevens, and the section at 80 Bear Hill could be a first step.

“It may be the first of others,” said Stevens.

The condo proposal has been a controversial one due to the fact that it’s surrounded by single-family homes.

Also approved last Wednesday was a second master plan from developer Jim McKee and Terrapin Development for a mixed-use commercial and residential complex at 10 Nate Whipple Highway, the McLaughlin & Moran property.

The plan, unlike the first one approved by the board in June, calls for maintaining and renovating four of the buildings on the property instead of razing them, as well as erecting two new buildings, one for commercial use and another for residential.

The first master plan approved in June was conditional on the Zoning Board of Review granting relief to allow commercial and residential uses in separate buildings. Since the matter is still tied up in court, the original master plan hasn’t taken effect. With the new plan now approved, and if McKee is granted the necessary relief in court, the developer will have to choose which of the plans to move forward with, since “you can’t have two master plans,” said Stevens.

Town officials are also now working “to create another avenue” for McKee if he ends up losing in court, a possible comprehensive plan amendment stimulating redevelopment of this property and others suffering from neglect or incomplete development.

Read the full article on The Valley Breeze website.

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Court orders Poirier to pay attorney fees

By Jackie Roman, Valley Breeze & Observer Staff Writer

SMITHFIELD – Concluding a lengthy legal battle over former Town Council member Richard Poirier’s Stillwater Road property, a judge has ordered Poirier to pay nearly $30,000 of attorneys’ fees.

The initial complaint was filed by CVDDI LLC, an abutter of Poirier’s property, in October of 2014.

The company claimed that “Poirier maintains a junkyard” and the plaintiff’s property has sustained damage and diminished in value “as a direct result of the Poirier’s continued operation of the junkyard.”

At the time of the filing, Poirier was running for re-election to the Town Council and filed a counterclaim in December 2015.

In that document, Poirier argued “the complaint was filed with and for an ulterior motive and was shared with (local press) where a story appeared placing defendant Richard Poirier in a negative light just days before the election.”

Poirier requested a judgment for damages against him and an award for costs and attorney fees.

In November 2016, after the company had already sold its property at a reduced sale price, CVDDI filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that Poirier’s counterclaim is barred by Rhode Island’s anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) statute, which protects the right to exercise petition or free speech.

“Poirier undeniably filed his counterclaim in an effort to chill plaintiff’s efforts to exercise its constitutional right to file suit against Poirier,” the document reads.

In June, Superior Court Judge Maureen Keough sided with CVDDI and eliminated Poirier’s counterclaim as a violation of the anti-SLAPP statute.

And on Sept. 29, Keough granted the plaintiffs’ motion for award of attorneys’ fees, totaling $30,000.

Poirier’s Stillwater Road property was also the subject of a Municipal Court case.

The town first alleged in 2014 that Poirier’s property was in violation of several Rhode Island housing maintenance and occupancy codes.

Poirier was cited by building and zoning officials for storing numerous inoperative or unlicensed cars, boats, equipment, and trailers, along with various debris, including scrap wood, metal, and auto parts.

The case concluded on July 20 when Poirier was issued a $500 fine.

Read the full article on The Valley Breeze website.

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Solar array proposal moves to public hearing

Undeveloped land on George Washington Highway could become home to 11,000 solar panels

By BRITTANY BALLANTYNE, Valley Breeze Staff Writer

LINCOLN – Lincoln Planning Board members gave the go-ahead for a public hearing later this month on an 11,000-panel solar array proposed for a site off Route 116.

At the hearing, which had not yet been scheduled as of press time, representatives from Green Development LLC are expected to address any concerns about noise, solar panel function, safety and buffers around the lot at 600 George Washington Highway, which is currently an undeveloped, wooded area.

At the Sept. 27 Planning Board meeting, Town Planner Albert Ranaldi said the plans call for development of 9.8 acres of land on a 15-acre parcel behind a commercial complex that houses Enn Japanese Restaurant & Sushi Bar on Route 116, by the Smithfield town line.

Michelle Carpenter, chief operating officer at Green Development, said that through tangible taxes, the solar array would yield $12,500 for the town in its first year of operation, and over 25 years, would bring in a total of more than $300,000 in tax revenue.

She said the development requires no use of town water, and would not burden the town with funds needed to accommodate additional students in Lincoln Public Schools, as opposed to residential developments.

After the meeting, Carpenter told The Breeze that Green Development had not yet reached out to any municipalities or organizations about partnering for energy credits.

Last year, the Town Council voted to approve a 25-year net metering finance agreement between Quality Drive LLC and Lincoln, allowing the town to receive money from energy credits from another solar farm that saw approval last year on commercial land near Quality Drive, off New England Drive in the industrial park.

The move was expected to bring in $10,000 annually, in addition to energy credits, which are worth roughly $55,000.

At last week’s meeting, Carpenter told board members the developers would enter a lease with the land owner for at least 25 years, for a “temporary use of property,” and said developers are obligated to restore the land to its original state once the lease ends, by leveling and seeding the area.

Planning Board members advised the developers to come prepared at the public hearing ready to explain what level of noise would be produced from 11,000 solar panels and associated systems, discuss fencing around the area and prove with written correspondence that the development was considered safe by Lincoln public safety officials. Carpenter said Green Development has created noise maps.

Nicholas Goodier, the attorney representing the project, said given the property’s close proximity to Route 295 and Route 116, “I’d err on the side of being able to easily confirm ambient noise from those two highways would be higher” than the noise produced by the solar array.

He also told Planning Board members the developers would come to the public hearing later this month with information explaining that.

Asked by member Jeffrey DelGrande if the company would monitor the noise level, Carpenter said the company would conduct site visits if high levels of noise were reported. If this were the case, she said, it would mean solar array components weren’t working properly.

The tempered glass panels, Carpenter said, can continue to perform if they are cracked, hence one of the reasons Green Development conducts visual inspections each year. The company remotely monitors the system, she said, and automated alerts are sent to Green Development if there be any problems with the system’s performance.

Since there is little to no maintenance needed at the site, she said, the property would be visited once or twice a year for snow removal and cutting grass at the site. At that time, she explained, company employees would check to ensure all panels, tilted and less than 12 feet off the ground at the highest point, were in good condition.

Wednesday, Oct. 3, the Zoning Board of Review was expected to hear a proposal for a special use permit for the solar farm, and later this month, the Planning Board will meet once more to review the project and hear from residents at the public hearing.

Read the full article on The Valley Breeze website.

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560,000 Pound Truck Stopped in Rhode Island Since June Gets Permit to Leave

Monday, July 10, 2017
GoLocalProv News Team and Kate Nagle

A truck stuck on Route 4 in Rhode Island since the end of June, that was stopped for carrying an oversized load, has finally been issued a permit to resume travel, according to the truck company’s attorney Michael Kelly.

Kelly represents Bay Crane Northeast, who was operating the truck that was carrying a load weighing 560,000 pounds from Quonset to be delivered in Massachusetts — which Kelly said the company believed had the proper permits to travel.

“The permit was finally issued at 4 p.m. [on Monday] after a bit of negotiation since Friday. It is leaving tonight at 7 with permit and a revised route,” said Kelly. “In fact, we executed an agreement with the [Rhode Island Department of Transportation] applicable to not just this trip but other loads they have leaving from Quonset. They have substantial loads they have to transport.”

At 560,000 pounds, the trucks weight is seven times heavier than normally allowed to pass over state bridges wihout a permit.

Fee Costs, Administrative Issues

“We also want to have a discussion in regard to how the DOT and [Quonset Development Corporation] can seek to cooperate, with lines of communication open to larger loads like this from Quonset. The state spent a lot of money on [the Quonset] facility, and to use it properly, users have to count on a reliable and speedy way to transport [loads],” said Kelly.

“The truck was stopped June 27 on their way from Quonset. I can’t say exactly where they were, but they did have a State Police escort with them,” said Kelly. “The left under the impression that everything was OK. We followed the normal procedures that we have in the past for large loads — we were under the impression the permit was in order.”

Kelly said that Bay Crane agreed to pay the “usual permit fee,” as well as money to the DOT, who had inspected the bridges the truck had crossed prior to being stopped.

“The company, in an effort to resolve this in an amicable way, agreed to pay money towards the costs DOT incurred in analyzing and checking the bridges before they were stopped,” said Kelly. “The $60,000 is what we agreed to pay the DOT in an effort to resolve the matter — and we were under enormous pressure to get this resolved.”

“We’re just looking for the process to be more user friendly,” said Kelly. “We have an enormous amount of equipment down there. We pay $15,000 down there a month just to store equipment. The company employs 50 people — all union, and are making a substantial investment purchasing a larger property.”

Read the full article on GoLocalProv

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Neighborhood beginning to build up beyond flood waters

July 9, 2017

The Newport Daily News

By Marcia Pobzeznik | Correspondent

TIVERTON — The tomato plants and the wire cages that held them were ripped from the garden in Madeline Dessert’s side yard by the sea churned up by Hurricane Bob in 1991. They ended up in Augusto Desa’s basement across the street.

Dessert’s living room wall that faces the water was knocked down. A boulder that Desa estimates weighed five tons sat in the middle of the room, deposited by the ocean water that rose over the cliff and sent waves crashing over the roof of the cottage Dessert has summered in for decades.

Desa stayed in his house to watch the storm through a hole he had cut in plywood that covered a window that faces the ocean. He was one of a few in the High Hill area of town who stayed put during that damaging hurricane.

Pictures taken by some teens who also stayed behind show waves crashing as high as the telephone pole near her house, said Dessert, who still has a yard facing the ocean because she had a sea wall built there in the late 1970s. A lot next to her’s that doesn’t have a sea wall has eroded at least five feet since 2000.

Residents who have lived in the High Hill area, which is in the extreme south end of town, south of Fogland Beach and just a stone’s throw from the Little Compton line, have felt the brunt of storms over the years.

That’s why some of the newcomers who want to make the area their year-round home are knocking down and building up to comply with Federal Emergency Management Agency construction standards for homes in flood zones.

Residents who have been there for decades know their quaint neighborhood that was once all single-story summer cottages and shacks will change as homeowners who undertake major renovations will have to build higher to comply with FEMA regulations.

Many of them crowded into Town Hall recently for a variance hearing on a neighbor’s request to knock down his cottage and build a two-story, 1,500-square-foot home on the same footprint on a 3,500-square-foot lot at 24 Shore Road. The main floor will be at least 10 feet off the ground, or about 23 feet above the water that on most days is calm. The ground floor will have breakaway walls that will let the water from a storm surge pass through.

“It won’t be quaint little houses anymore,” said Rick Soares who has spent the past 35 summers there. He and many others at the meeting told the board they support the change.

Building Inspector Neil Hall told the board he was one of many inspectors who were called to the Misquamicut area of Westerly after Hurricane Sandy. “Some houses were moved three or four streets away,” Hall said. “The only one left standing looked like this,” he said of the raised house. “It opened up my eyes to how we are susceptible to this. Tiverton is half waterfront.”

“There are a number of other people in town contemplating this,” Hall said. “FEMA is driving it. The building code says it has to be brought up to FEMA standards, no questions,” if it’s in a flood zone and 49 percent or more of the property is going to be renovated.

Hall said the state Emergency Management Agency goes through the town’s building files once a year and pulls out waterfront project applications to ensure the regulations are being followed. “FEMA’s not going to pay you out if you’re not permitted,” said Hall.

There were detractors to John and Marcy Scaduto’s request for variances for their project.

Tracie and George Fountas of Andover, Massachusetts, who own a one-story summer cottage at 10 Shore Road, said in a letter to the board that allowing building closer to the road in the already congested neighborhood and razing the old cottage to build a larger one “goes against what drew us to this area in the first place and will allow this area to lose its quaint cottage charm.”

Kimberley Waltz and Elaine Barboza, are co-owners of a three-story home at 18 Shore Road and a one-story summer cottage at 19 Shore Road. Barboza also has a two-story home at 21 Barbara St. and two small vacant lots on Shore Road. They hired attorney Frank Lombardi who tried to dissuade the board from approving the variances.

“It’s just a matter of time before everyone builds buildings this way,” board member David Collins said. “The buildings are getting older,” he said of the cottages that were built in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, and will eventually have to be renovated or replaced.

Board member Wendy Taylor Humphrey said many people are building bigger and better, but the Scadutos “went through all the right hoops and followed the rules.”

One other house in the neighborhood was also built using flood-resistant construction, Hall said.

If Dessert ever has the kind of damage she had from Hurricane Bob, she said she’ll have to do the same. Pieces from board games were scattered on the road after the storm, she said of how the water ripped things apart and carried them away. Two houses just down the road ended up in the creek, she said.

Her family was among the first to buy the small lots in the High Hill neighborhood in the 1940s, when the former Tremaine Estate, known for growing peas, was subdivided into 50-by-50-foot lots and sold for $500 each, she said.

Her house at 35 Shore Road used to be the High Hill Social Club building where the summer residents would gather. They still do on occasion.

Read the full article on The Newport Daily News

Tiverton@NewportRI.com

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Connecticut company subject to contract claim in R.I.

Demolition of restaurant in Foxwoods spurs action

Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly

May 18, 2017

By: Tom Egan

An out-of-state construction company could be sued in Rhode Island after backing out of an agreement to renovate a restaurant at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut, a U.S. magistrate judge has ruled. The plaintiff tenant of the restaurant space contended that the out-of-state defendant’s business presence in Rhode Island was sufficient for the exercise of general jurisdiction.

Read the full article on the Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly website (subscription required)

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Apex Building Targeted For PawSox Stadium Figures In Lawsuit Between Past & Present Owners

Rhode Island Public Radio

April 26. 2017

By Ian Donnis

The former owners of the Apex Building being considered for a new PawSox ballpark in Pawtucket argue in a Superior Court lawsuit that the site’s current owner demanded $6.4 million for unnecessary environmental cleanup costs.

According to the lawsuit, Environmental Land Usage Restrictions in 2014 “resolved all prior issues that the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management had concerning contaminated soils,” and since then, the owner of the Apex Building has “received no notices of violations, demands for cleanup, or demands from any state or federal agency for any further action to be taken at” at the Apex Building site or a nearby tire center “to address contaminated soils.”

Despite that, the former owners of the Apex Building assert in the lawsuit that the current ownership demanded last December a payment of $6.452,363 “for alleged anticipated environmental cleanup costs that have only been roughly estimated by the Defendants.” [italics in original]

“A significant portion of the purported estimates would be for work completely unnecessary pursuant to the ELUR’s, and would require” the former owners “to restore the Apex Building and Tire Center properties to a pristine condition, which they have not been in since, approximately, the latter part of the 18th Century,” according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit was filed in January by Providence lawyer Michael A. Kelly, on behalf of Teknor Apex Company; Pawtucket Financial Corporation; Apex Warwick; and Apex Massachusetts. The defendant is Apex Development Company. Andrew Gates, the owner of the Apex Building, is head of the Apex Companies.

According to a statement released by both sides in the dispute, “The litigation is related to a long-running business dispute that involves multiple properties in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The Apex Companies have been working with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management on the environmental issues that exist on the Pawtucket property, they are publicly documented, and have been discussed with the Pawtucket Red Sox.”

“This litigation is in no way impacting our ongoing negotiations with the Pawtucket Red Sox ownership group about the use of a portion of our property near downtown as a potential location for the team’s new ballpark,” the statement continues. “We look forward to continuing these conversations.”

According to the suit, Apex Development build the Apex Building in 1969. It goes on to say, “In 2000, the interests of certain ‘Apex’ entities, and the owners thereof, diverged from one another.”

(Note: Jon Fain, chairman, CEO and principal owner of Teknor Apex, is a board member of Rhode Island Public Radio.)

The PawSox have identified the Apex Building as the team’s preferred location for a new baseball stadium.

The team did not have an immediate comment on the lawsuit.

Earlier this week, the PawSox released a “park within a park” concept for the site, calling for a series of recreation uses beyond baseball. The team has yet to offer any details on what the project might cost, and how it will be paid for, although the PawSox are expected to offer a proposal before the end of the current General Assembly session.

The Raimondo administration, mindful of how a proposal for a taxpayer-funded downtown Providence stadium met with sharp public disapproval in 2015, has signaled support for what has been called a revenue-neutral approach.

Read the article on the Rhode Island Public Radio website.

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Glocester drops lawsuit against resident

The Valley Breeze

April 26, 2017
By Jackie Roman
GLOCESTER – The town of Glocester has dropped its lawsuit against one of its residents for allegedly using a pool permit as a pretext for running an earth removal operation despite several cease and desist notices.

After submitting a consent order on April 21, the two parties are now trying to come to a resolution outside of the courts.

The decision comes after a years-long debate with abutters of Grenga’s Hazelwood Road property, officials of the Glocester Building and Zoning department, and an investigation by the Department of Environmental Management.

Robert Kelman is one of the neighbors who complained about the sounds of heavy construction equipment piercing the air.

He described hearing the sound of hydraulic hammers before 7 a.m. with little rest until nightfall.

According to Kelman and Town Solicitor Timothy Kane, several abutters in the area submitted complaints about what they suspected was an illegal gravel operation.

The Valley Breeze & Observer tried to obtain records of these complaints from the Glocester Police Department, DEM, and various town officials but did not receive any documentation before press time.
On Sept. 23, 2016 Grenga received a cease and desist letter signed by building inspector Ken Johnson, according to court records.

The noise continued.

On Oct. 13 of that year, Grenga obtained a building permit from the town to remove soil and excavate for an in-ground 20 x 40 pool.

When Grenga wasn’t done building his pool by Jan. 31, 2017, he was issued another cease and desist letter by Johnson.

By Feb. 13 of this year town officials felt they had exhausted all other options – the town of Glocester filed a complaint against Robert and Shana Grenga, as well as a motion for the temporary abatement of earth removal.

In the counterclaim put together by the Grenga’s lawyer, it is argued that “counterclaim plaintiffs have, weather permitting, been removing soil and excavating in order to install their in-ground pool.” In the document filed Feb. 20, it also claims there is still “substantial work to be done.”

The Grengas also argued that the town’s zoning ordinance happens to allow “certain types of earth work, extraction, quarrying, removal of any soil.” And because of the town’s actions, they asked for damages in an unnamed amount.

According to records obtained from the Providence County Courthouse, the town acknowledged that Glocester residents are allowed to remove soil for the installation of an in-ground pool. However, the town still believes “that counterclaim plaintiffs have exceeded limits of excavation necessary to construct an in-ground pool.”

Now Grenga’s attorney, John Mancini of Mancini & Kelly, said Grenga is ready to move forward and comply with the conditions of his new soil and erosion plan.

“It’s our position that we don’t believe there’s been any violation here,” Mancini said.

The new plan went before the Conservation Commission on April 6 and the Planning Board on April 10.

The planning board passed a motion that approved Grenga’s plan under eight conditions: A wetlands permit must be obtained from the DEM; the plan must follow principals outlined in the town’s erosion and sediment control ordinance; the work is not to exceed 90 consecutive days; all deficiencies in the plan identified by the town engineer and planning board must be addressed; size of trucks is limited to tri-axle; hydraulic hammer use is limited; work is limited to completion of pool area; and there must be a defined maximum number of truck trips.

Now it is up to the town engineer to review this information and provide a final recommendation.

Read the article on The Valley Breeze website.

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Right of first refusal not assignable

Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly

April 17, 2017

By: Tom Egan

A Superior Court judge has decided that a right of first refusal established in a company’s shareholder agreement could not be enforced after a shareholder conveyed his stock to his wife. The wife argued that she acquired by assignment her husband’s first refusal right because there was no clause in the shareholder agreement preventing such an …

Read the article in full (subscription required).

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Under review: 28-house plan off Diamond Hill Road

The Valley Breeze

April 12, 2017
By SANDY SEOANE, Valley Breeze Staff Writer

WOONSOCKET – A 7.5 acre open field between Diamond Hill Road and Morin Street could soon be converted into a neighborhood with 28 single-family homes according to a proposal that unanimously won master plan approval from the city Planning Board this week.

The proposal for the subdivision, submitted by Woonsocket-based developer John Laquerre, would see the houses lining a new street dubbed “Theresa Marie Avenue,” which would run from Diamond Hill Road to Morin Street. The properties in the new “Sapphire Estates” would be sold for around $400,000 each, according to Planning Director N. David Bouley.

Land for the project abuts homes along Coolidge Avenue, Morin Street, Ruth Street and Morris Street according to a master plan for the project put together for Laquerre by Nyberg and Associates. Bouley noted that abutters have been notified of the proposal, and will receive a second notification before the plan receives final approval.

The project first came before the Planning Board at their Feb. 7 meeting, with a presentation by Joelle Rocha of Kelly and Mancini, PC. Laquerre said his intended market for the homes is retired individuals and working class families, describing the proposed buildings as high end raised ranches with peaks, architectural shingles and sprinkler systems, according to minutes from the meeting. The investor, who lives in a home on St. Louis Avenue, said that utilities for the development would be underground, and stone walls would surround the area, comparing his vision to newer homes along Dike Street.

The majority of vegetation in the area would be cleared, but a small buffer would remain between lots.

In addition to the entrances to Sapphire Estates on Diamond Hill Road and Morin Street, properties could be accessed from the east by Wilcox Street.

During a pre-application review of the plan, two abutters expressed concern about low water pressure in the area. Bouley noted that the developer’s next step is a hydraulic analysis, and that he may need to connect to a high pressure area.

“Much of the area has low water pressure,” Bouley said.

On April 6, the Northern Rhode Island Board of Realtors submitted a letter of support for the project, along with another proposal currently before the planning board, which would see 72 single-level duplex units built just off Mendon Road.

“The Sapphire Estates development of 28 single family units in East Woonsocket will likely fill a needed market in Woonsocket of young professionals or new families,” the letter states. “This project would increase the homeowner to renter ratio, which is currently at 35:65.”

As part of the unanimous approval on April 4, planners asked that the developer increase the size of the proposed Theresa Marie Avenue, and add sidewalks.

Several stages of planning and approval are still required before work on Sapphire Estates can begin. The developer will still need to present more detailed plans, including a wetlands application, and will require a zoning variance for a utility easement.

Half an acre on the westerly side of the property is wetlands, but plans state that the project would be consistent with the rest of the densely populated neighborhood.

Laquerre could not be reached for comment, but property records show that he’s been involved in a number of real estate transactions in the city over the past several decades.

Another developer, meanwhile, hopes to build two to three bedroom, 1,750 square-foot duplexes along with a private 24-foot-wide roadway in a different undeveloped area in East Woonsocket. The project for that 50 acre property, known as Holley Springs, was actually approved by the City Council years ago, according to attorney Michael Kelly, who is representing investor Raymond Bourque, but stalled due to “market issues.” It was revisited in 2000-2003 and has since been revised to include 77, rather than 100 units.

A condo association would be responsible for the maintenance of the private roadway, as well as a road extension to be built on Cheryl Ann Drive, and and the development would include two cul-de-sacs. The units would be priced between $300,000 and $340,000, according to Kelly.

Letters regarding both projects from NRIBR note that 90 percent of housing in Woonsocket was built before 1978, and 50 percent before 1939.

“The projected development will increase property values in East Woonsocket and bring in individuals with disposable income higher than the average income in Woonsocket, to spend in local businesses,” states the communication, signed by former City Councilor Garrett Mancieri, who serves as chairman of the Government Affairs Committee, and Mary Baron, president of NRIBR.

The Holley Springs project will need to come back before the board for master plan approval.

Read the article on The Valley Breeze website.