Former compost maker proposes 12-unit condo-style subdivision on Buxton Street in N.S.

David Russo of DiPrete Engineering speaks before planners.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – The owner of a 25.8 acre Buxton Street property, who previously found himself in a dispute with the town and neighbors over the smell from his composting operation, has new plans for the lot, with an application for a 12-unit subdivision.

Frank Jacques has proposed six three-bedroom residential duplexes for the mostly wooded, vacant lot at 300 Buxton Street, in an application submitted on his behalf by DiPrete Engineering. Plans envision the structures clustered near the center of the lot to avoid wetlands, with the northern half of the property to remain vacant for as an open space/recreational area.

“The duplexes are to be located on a P-loop with sufficient distance away from the wetlands so the natural ecosystems can be preserved,” noted Project Manager Jenna Shea in a letter to Planning Director Mark Carruolo.

“We’re trying to keep this a compact development in that central area,” explained David Russo of DiPrete Engineering. “From the road, it would be really hard to see.”

The development would be accessed via a private roadway off of Buxton Street, and managed by a homeowners’ association, which would be responsible for maintenance of the road, along with the septic system and wells. In keeping with town regulations, 50 percent of the units would be dedicated to affordable housing.

The plan will require zoning approval of a special use permit for the duplexes, proposed in a rural agricultural zone, as well as a sign off from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

The Planning Board held an informational meeting on a master plan for the lot on Thursday, April 27, and neighbors expressed several concerns regarding elements such as traffic.

“I’m actually in favor of this development,” said abutter Scott Lentz. “It’s a really challenging site for residential development.”

Lentz pointed to the presence of a stone wall on the property, a potential need for two means of access and the odor that once came from compost materials still located on the property, which will now have to be removed.

“It was awful,” Lentz said of the smell. “When that compost pile is disturbed that’s going to be right back. Get it out of there fast so we don’t have to endure that stench for more than a day.”

Lentz also pointed to the presence of Japanese knotweed on the lot.

“It needs to be dug up and carried away, and it has to be incinerated,” Lentz said.

Resident Stacy Murphy pointed to traffic problems already on the road.

“That street has already gotten so busy,” Murphy said. “It’s now turned into the Indy 500.”

Planners discussed the plan’s lack of proposed sidewalks, and allowing public access to open space on the property.

“We need some thought about how that space is going to be benefitting the town,” said Planner Jeffrey Porter.

“I don’t think putting curbs on rural streets is maintaining a rural character,” said Planner Richard Keene, noting that he supported the idea of interior sidewalks.

Keene added that while he hates to see such open space developed, “We do have to consider the rights of property owners.”

Planner unanimously approved a master plan for the property with 19 stipulations including the addition of interior sidewalks, a plan for invasive species, a conservation easement and establishment of a public access easement, along with a small parking area.

Final plans will still need to come before the board, and planners also scheduled a site visit to take a look at the land.

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