Second hearing set for Sand Trace tonight

Second hearing set for Sand Trace tonight

Public officials and members of the Planning Board visited the Sand Trace development site with landowner and developer, Frank Simonelli, in advance of the Thursday, Nov. 15 hearing at 7 p.m. at the Senior Center. (Breeze photo by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SMITHFIELD – The Smithfield Planning Board will hear the second round of presentation and public testimony regarding the Sand Trace development, 8 Mann School Road, tonight, Nov. 15 starting at 7 p.m. at the Smithfield Senior Center, 1 William J Hawkins Jr. Trail.

The developer and landowner, Frank Simonelli, is proposing to build 180 units in three phases at the 55-acre site, including 78 duplex and triplex buildings and 45 units of low and moderate income housing.

During a site visit last Saturday, town officials, members of the Planning Board, and Smithfield residents met with Simonelli to explore the site. The lower, phase one portion of the site is center on a former sand and gravel pit, while the upper areas of phase two and three are forested, undeveloped land.

Simonelli’s engineers propose that 35.4 acres on the site are developable.

During the visit, Simonelli said he was considering removing the proposed entrance across from Williams Road, and moving it to another location on the property.

Located at the halfway point on a steep hill, residents said motorists speed up the hill on Mann School Road despite a stop sign across from Williams Road.

Abutter Loreen Francazio lives at 1 Williams Road, and said she and neighbors are often nervous entering Mann School Road.

As of Tuesday, Town Planner Michael Phillips had not received any updates to the Sand Trace development plan.

“We try and get out of our street and we see people speeding up the hill. Everyone is worried about traffic, but traffic experts always tell you not to worry,” Francazio said.

Francazio said she and her husband, Steven, moved to the neighborhood more than 40 years ago to escape traffic and city populations. The couple moved to Smithfield’s R-80 district allowing for one house per two acres of land.

The Town Planning and Zoning office identified the Sand Trace site, along with 32 other plots in the comprehensive plan, as a location for low and moderate income development. This would allow up to five units per acre with 25 to 34 percent low and moderate income (LMI) construction.

Sand Trace proposes 25 percent LMI, or 45 units. Phillips said the town is midway to meeting the state-mandated 10 percent LMI housing at around five percent, or 398 according to a June 2017 record from Rhode Island Housing Tabulation.

Table H-25 in the comprehensive plan lists all of the town’s acceptable sites for LMI development, which are allowed enhanced densities. Sand Trace’s development falls under the lowest density, but other developments can have up to 12 units per acre if the percentage of LMI development is between 50 and 100 percent.

“We understand it’s his land and he has a right to develop it. To go from two-acre zoning to all those little units, everyone is upset. They don’t understand why the town threw us under the bus,” Francazio said.

If the Sand Trace develoment passes, Francazio said she doesn’t know she and her husband will stay.

“It’s not what we thought we’d live next to when we bought our home,” she said.