BURRILLVILLE – The owners of a vacant, 6.84-acre lot at the corner of East Avenue and Route 102 are looking to build 20 condos units to accompany a 250-kilowatt solar project, but planners expressed several concerns with the proposal at a meeting on the draft plan Monday night.
Lincoln-based Andromeda Real Estate Partners, LLC also intends to purchase an adjoining 80,000-square-foot lot on the abutting highway from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to create space for the development.
“They have agreed. I’m pretty confident that’s a done deal,” developer Paul Vanasse said of the land purchase.
The proposal would see ten, two-unit structures built on the parcel in a condominium block for residents age 55 and older. Four of the units would have to meet affordability guidelines under state law, and the solar panels, developers said, would not be visible from Route 102.
“There’s going to be people who aren’t happy,” said Vanasse of the project. “No one’s ever happy when you cut trees down next to their homes.”
Vanasse and partner John Somyk said that while they do not yet know how much acreage would need to be cleared, roughly 45 percent of the trees would need to come down to make way for the plan.
“That still leaves a lot of trees,” Somyk said.
And Vanasse noted that a mixed use residential and solar development would be less intrusive to the neighborhood than a full-blown commercial use, such as a fast-food restaurant or gas station.
“That would entail at lot of cars coming in and out of that site every day,” Vanasse said. “We want to work with you to make this the most palatable project possible.”
“Something is going to be there at some point,” Vanasse added. “We’re trying to minimize the impact on the town and on the neighbors.”
Planner John Bonin noted that the condominiums would add traffic to an already busy area.
“I know that’s one of the more accident-prone intersections,” Bonin said. “There’s still going to be quite a bit of cars coming in and out. A development that close to that intersection might not be a good idea.”
Bonin was one of several planners who also noted that a draft plan submitted this week looked “crammed,” as though developers were trying to fit too much into the area.
“It’s just a very odd-looking proposal,” said Planner Michael Lupis. “I’m not comfortable with the way it sits right now. It just doesn’t look right.”
Planner Stephen Foy pointed out that the project as presented would also likely require several zoning exemptions.
“I would be very surprised if the Zoning Board would go along with such extreme variances,” Foy said.
Somyk asked the board if they’d be better off pursuing a commercial use.
“Something is going to go on this parcel of land,” said Vanasse. “What would you like to see there?”
Planner Krista Iacobucci agreed that a mixed solar and residential development would be a better use than the potential alternatives.
“It’s going to be something eventually,” Iacobucci said. “Putting some houses there, with some solar – it’s going to be a good use. This might just be a little too ambitious.”
“The first thing I said when I looked at it was it’s just too packed,” said Planning Board Chairman Bruce Ferreira.
Planners also expressed concerns with potential blasting, connections to water and sewer lines, drainage issues, and the affect on nearby wells, worries echoed by residents of the neighborhood who weighed in on the preliminary proposal this week.
Somyk said that they could reduce the project by a few units but, “not by many.”
“It has to be a minimum of so many units for it to be feasible to do,” said Somyk. “We can still go full-blown commercial.”
The developers will need to come back before the board with an official plan if they intend to pursue the proposal.
“Clearly, we need to understand and see what would go on so we can be fair to both parties – the developer and the town,” said Planning Vice-Chairman Leo Felice. “I think it’s just too much for that given area.