GLOCESTER – Overlook Ridge, LLC has received final approval to build a 34-unit residential condo on Victory Highway following a nearly two year-long battle that included two negative recommendations from the Glocester Planning Board and concerns from residents in a neighboring development built by the contractor.
The town’s Technical Review Committee approved a master plan this month that will see 17 duplex units for residents age 55 and older built on an 11.54-acre lot adjacent to Crystal Lake Golf Course and Glocester’s border with Burrillville.
The decision, filed in a TRC report on Friday, August 19, brings an end to a battle for approval of the project that saw many hours of testimony, changes to zoning, and multiple visits before various town boards.
Planners first took up a proposal in March of 2021 after the owner of the project, Bella Sand, LLC, filed an application to designate the property Planned District Residential with the Town Council to authorize three units per acre, rather than the lesser 2.95 density permitted on the property. Bella Sand also requested an amendment to the town’s land use map and Comprehensive Plan that would support the project.
The application was sent to the Planning Board for recommendation, and at a hearing that April, members unanimously found the project inconsistent with the town’s comprehensive plan and incompatible with zoning, also recommending denial of the changes requested in the developer’s application.
But in May of 2021, the Glocester Town Council, the final authority on that application, granted the requests despite the recommendation of planners, conditional on creation of five affordable residential housing units. The decision meant that Bella Sand would again have a hearing with the Planning Board in light of the new rules governing their decisions, this time also under the applicant moniker “Overlook Realty, LLC.”
That hearing took place in March of this year, in a four hour meeting where the proposal was the sole focus. In a 64-page transcript of the meeting, discussion from the board addressed plans prepared by Nicholas Piampiano of Advanced Civil Designs, Inc.
Attorney John Mancini, on behalf of the applicants, laid out details: the development would have a single access point for residents, along with two gated emergency access points. The two-bedroom units would be serviced by six private wells and seven individual septic systems.
Planner David Calderara was among the first to state he was unswayed by the recent council changes.
“As you’re familiar with throughout the discussions from the first time we heard this plan, the board has consistently objected to the level of density,” said Calderara at the March 2022 hearing. “The objection remains.”
Planners also heard from residents at Bella Vista, a neighboring retirement community built by the same contractor. Residents discussed concerns with how they new wells might affect their water, along with other environmental concerns related to the abutting development, planned as a separate entity from the existing complex.
Ken Plante spoke on behalf of the Bella Vista Association Board with concerns about water drainage problems at his complex, noting that nine or ten of the units there have had water in the basement. Contractor DeGregorio Construction, Plante said, had been unresponsive to the owners’ issues.
“Our goal is not to stop Overlook Ridge. Our goal is just to get our issues taken care of prior to them moving on to their next development,” Plante says in the transcript.
Zoning Official Ken Johnson said he had spoken to the building superintendent about issues caused by using plastic duct on the buildings’ dryer vents, and that the contractor had not followed code for the grading of foundations. Solicitor David Igliozzi noted it was unclear if the issues were the result of design flaws or improper implementation by the contractor.
Mancini emphasized that Overlook is a separate project owner by a different LLC than Bella Vista, also noting to the board, “It’s not your job to have to babysit developments or to ensure that plans have been properly executed.”
Planning Board Chairwoman Janine Pitocco responded, “It’s also not our job to have to talk to our neighbors who are suffering because of a poorly-done job, but we’re here doing that.”
Member Lynn Furney said that in design plans, the proposed buildings looked like storage units.
“This is not something I want to see in the town of Glocester where we find that, and we pride ourselves in trying to create and keep a rural aspect of the town,” said Furney.
Calderara noted that part of what made Bella Vista more appropriate to the town’s rural landscape was that the development is hidden from the roadway. By comparision, at Overlook, “You’re going to see a whole row of units stacked on top of one another,” said Calderara, noting he found the project inconsistent with land use goals in the town’s comprehensive plan and the town’s land regulations.
Others agreed, with the board again voting unanimously in favor of denial.
Overlook filed an appeal of the decision and in May, Glocester’s Board of Appeals overturned the Planning Board’s denial of the project’s master plan.
This month, planners voted to accept that decision, and delegate final review of the development plans to the TRC.
The TRC approval, filed with the Town Clerk, lists conditions for the development including approval from the town’s Safety Commission and a letter from the developer’s engineer certifying that everything has been built in accordance with the approved final plans.