NORTH SMITHFIELD – While it is still early in the planning process, a proposal that could bring two popular fast food chains to town has received an initial green light from the North Smithfield Planning Board.
Members unanimously approved a master plan for a project, submitted by Alrig USA, that would see a Chipotle Mexican Grill and a Starbucks built on land currently owned by Landmark Medical Center.
Josh Kline from Stonefield Engineering, speaking on behalf of the applicant, noted at a meeting on Thursday, Sept. 28 that the visit, which included a public hearing on the project, was just the first step in a three-step process. Developers must return before the board for preliminary approval and ultimately obtain final planning approval. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation must also weigh in with the needed permitting.
“At this time, we’re really excited just to sort of introduce the project,” Kline said.
If plans move forward, five lots along Eddie Dowling Highway totaling 6.24 acres will be merged into a single lot – then divided into two, with Landmark to retain a portion. The restaurants, at 82 and 88 Eddie Dowling Highway respectively, will offer drive through service, potentially via a single driveway coming off the highway.
“They have been designed to sort of work in tandem and avoid any kind of conflict,” explained Kline of the drive throughs.
But first, two currently vacant single story brick buildings situated there must be demolished, as well as wing previously used by the hospital.
Planner Mark Carrulo noted that the developer is still working to negotiate various easements with the property owner.
“We do have enough parking on the site to support both uses,” said Kline.
The two 2,380 square foot businesses would be situated in a business highway zone and have a combined total of 98 seats, with 36 corresponding parking spaces. No zoning relief would be required for the initial iteration presented last week.
Planner Jeffrey Porter expressed concerns about cars entering from the opposite side of the highway, noting it might be better to have them access the businesses through the hospital parking lot.
“Knowing that area, it gets quite congested sometimes,” Porter said. “I would encourage you to look at that.”
Attorney Michael Resnick of Kelly, Souza & Parmenter representing Alrig USA noted that further details regarding traffic and other concerns will be available once the group returns with a preliminary plan. The restaurants, he said, are expected to have, “typical,” hours, but specifics are still in discussion.
“Those are details we’ll be prepared to discuss in greater detail,” Resnick said.
The attorney said the group hopes to be back, “expeditiously,” with a preliminary plan.