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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.