NORTH SMITHFIELD – The developer that recently finished building bathrooms and a concession stand by the North Smithfield High School athletic fields has a new project in mind, and plans to present a proposal that could potentially see the school’s parking lot doubled in size free of charge.
Green Development, LLC has reportedly asked if town and school officials would be open to adding solar canopies to a portion of the lot, a plan that could mark the second collaboration between North Smithfield and the commercial solar developer.
Town Council President John Beauregard brought the idea to members of the board this week, noting that dangers resulting from the undersized lot have been the subject of recent discussion.
“Every time there’s an event, we have parking on the street, and it’s causing a big issue,” he said, pointing to the busy area along Route 5. “We even had somebody that got hit by a car crossing the street because they parked on the other side.”
Beauregard said that shortly after a recent council conversation about the need to expand parking by the school, he was approached by a representative from Green about the possibility of solar canopies. He asked if the company would be open to doubling the size of the current lot in exchange and adding 50-60 new spaces, a project he noted would likely cost several hundred thousand dollars.
“I would like to hear the presentation they have on this,” he said. “It doesn’t cost us anything but time to listen to what they have to say. I think it’s worth looking into.”
If the project gains support, it would mark the second unique arrangement for school infrastructure projects between Green founder Marc DePasquale and the town of North Smithfield. The solar company just finished construction of a new building by the football field that will provide long-hoped-for bathrooms and concessions – as well as a press box – for student athletes and their fans.
The work was completed in place of a one-time $286,000 tax payment to the town, agreed to as part of the approval of Green’s 49.3-megawatt solar array on Iron Mine Hill Road, an arrangement that Beauregard first suggested to the board when he was not serving as a member of the council in 2018.
At the school parking lot, he said the company could potentially double the size of the existing space, adding solar canopies over the center row.
Green representatives hope to present the project at a joint meeting with town and school officials, and in a vote on Monday, August 15, councilors unanimously agreed to hear them out.
“We would have to make another entrance,” Beauregard said. “The devil is in the details. If it’s not a win for the town, it’s a ‘no.'”
The council president said board can also obtain a separate estimate on the cost to expand the lot from another contractor.
“We would know exactly where we stand and what we’re getting,” he said.
Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski commended Beauregard for looking into the idea, noting that when it comes to solar, “Most people would like to see it over parking lots, where the trees are already gone.”
Zwolenski noted that the expanded parking lot would likely need two new entrances, and the the town planner should also be involved.
“Those are things that would have to be ironed out,” he said.