New conditions set for development of Hope Mill

New conditions set for development of Hope Mill

SMITHFIELD – After presenters for the 175-unit residential development at the Hope Mill gave three hours of testimony tackling several stipulations placed on the project, the Planning Commission last week decided to push back a decision on master plan approval and public comments to the next meeting.

During a meeting last Wednesday, April 3, Planning Commission Chairman Jeffrey Hanson said he and board members will need time to review the updated plans from the developer, Paramount Development Group.

Though the decision deadline on this project is not until June 4, Hanson said the commission will most likely make a decision on master plans for the Hope Mill during its next meeting at the Scituate High School auditorium on Wednesday, April 24, at 7 p.m.

“We do have until June, but I’m not looking to push it any further than we have to,” Hanson said.

Hanson assured the audience of approximately 20 people that their comments will be heard at the April 24 meeting.

The Planning Commission voiced concerns on the potential environmental impacts of the project, which proposes to renovate the historic Hope Mill into a residential housing complex converting the two main and sawtooth buildings into apartments, and construction of two new four-story residential building in back, on a 38-acre peninsula.

For the April 24 meeting, the Commission requested the developer supply a timeline for the permits to be issued by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, including those already received and the ones remaining.

Paramount’s environmental expert, Bill Chapman of ESS Group, said the project will have no significant impact on the site, and will instead improve deforested areas necessary for wetland stabilization.

Attorney Christian Capizzo, representing Paramount, said the planned public walkway on the site, one of the commission’s stipulations, was moved away from the river due to the previous owner’s notice of violation.

“The applicant was not the one to clear out the property, but we’ll be resolving the issue with the project,” Capizzo said.

The river side of the property will be reforested to provide wetland stabilization, and the walking path, estimated at “several thousand feet,” will be located on the northern end of the site will have public access on Mill Street.

Other stipulations addressed included the possibility of adding roundabout to the intersections of Routes 116 and 115, and Route 116 and Hope Furnace Road. Traffic expert Elizabeth Lavoie of Bryant Associates said with the associated costs, including land acquisition, construction costs, and maintenance, she would not recommend a roundabout at either intersection.

“It’s going to cost more than the benefits are worth,” Lavoie said.

Commission member Nicholas Piampiano said the key benefit for Scituate is safety concerns for drivers and pedestrians.

Lavoie responded that she believed there is “sufficient stopping sight distance” for a vehicle traveling along Route 116 to see crossing pedestrians.

Speaking about safety issues, developers looked at the two Main Street bridges in front of the mill, finding both to be structurally sound and in fairly good condition. Structural Engineer David Titus said though they’re 90 years old, there are no concerns with the physical condition of the smaller of the two bridges located closer to the mill. Titus said the larger bridge is rated for more capacity than it’s being used for, and he has “no concerns whatsoever” for its future use.

“This is a fairly rural road, and it does not get the wear and tear of certain highway bridges,” Titus said.

He added that the Rhode Island Department of Transportation has upcoming repair projects for both bridges.

Other stipulations addressed included:

• Plans to reconstruct a cupola on the main building to historical specifications;

• Use of down-casting historic lighting fixtures for safety and ease of getting around on the site;

• Window design be more consistent with existing buildings;

• And that the facade of new buildings match the existing ones.

Preliminary plan approval for the Hope Mill was given on Oct. 17 after Paramount presented the project with significant changes consisting of removing the top floor of two new buildings, thus reducing the number of units from 193 to 175, and lowering the height of the buildings by 12 feet.

Despite the Town Council’s appeal of the project’s master plan approval, Hanson said the commission was advised to continue with the preliminary plan hearing during the April 3 meeting.

On Jan. 28, Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Brian Stern denied the town the right to appeal the commission’s decision, citing a lack of evidence that the town was an “aggrieved party,” finding the development is not a threat to public safety.

The Town Council appealed the Superior Court decision to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.

Comments

It should be noted that the Town Council's denied appeal decision has been appealed and accepted by the court, and is currently in process.

The Agenda for this meeting was sent via email to residents on April 1st, however was known and posted on March 19th on the Secretary of State web site https://opengov.sos.ri.gov/OpenMeetingsPublic/OpenMeetingDashboard?subto...

This short notice accounts for the limited attendance for the public to attend, giving only TWO days notice to make arrangements to attend. Why weren't the residents notified in March with ample time to plan to attend? The developer's purchase and sales agreement expires May 31st and was submitted to the court for extension, and they want preliminary approval from the Planning Board on April 24th? This would have been a FULL HOUSE had the residents received sufficient notice!