Frustration mounts over Breakneck Hollow

Frustration mounts over Breakneck Hollow

LINCOLN – Last week’s Planning Board meeting turned tense within minutes of representatives from Women’s Development Corp. rising to speak about their plans to build two apartment buildings off Breakneck Hill Road.

An attorney for WDC, Ken McGunagle, began to introduce the plans for Breakneck Hollow, which calls for 44 low-income and moderate-income housing units on a 12-acre parcel.

He was interrupted by Planning Board member Gerald Olean, who said the Technical Review Committee hadn’t been given enough time to review the matter. He added that the board needed a letter from Lincoln public safety officials, and said he had concerns about a Rhode Island Department of Transportation letter from 2018.

“I need more time to digest this,” he said. “You got the book to us on Friday and the book creates more questions than answers. You’re trying to get our backs to the wall over here.”

“We’re really not there yet,” McGunagle said.

“We’re trying to be diligent, we don’t just rush things through,” Olean countered.

“You’re giving us new things tonight and we’ll provide them,” McGunagle said. “Everything is in the book, we added new tabs or I asked the team to address them in the presentation, so can we stop? If there are errors pointed out, we’re here to fix them.”

Olean said, “When we get something, we want it right.”

Chairman Ken Bostic agreed with Olean that the two-year-old letter from RIDOT would need to be followed up with in writing. He noted the danger of the Breakneck Hill/Route 146 intersection as it is configured.

“Wouldn’t it make sense to hear from our traffic engineer and ask questions as you see fit?” McGunagle asked.

Board member Jeffrey DelGrande said members needed a concrete commitment from RIDOT on the project, while the developer’s attorney argued that it’s too early in the process for such details. “It’s master plan, you can only ask so much,” McGunagle said.

“You’re swinging around some of these major issues,” said DelGrande.

“Why are you not willing to discuss these issues with the engineer here to address them?” McGunagle asked.

Town Solicitor Tony DeSisto stepped in, urging the board to allow them to give their presentation.

Engineer Tim Meehan explained that they hope to make road improvements to Breakneck Hill, widening it and adding a center turning lane into the two-building development.

They’re asking for a total of 15 waivers from the town, including permission to have 20 fewer parking spaces than the required amount, to build sidewalks that are 4 feet wide instead of the required 5, and to build 41 feet high, 6 six feet taller than the town’s limit.

Bostic said the number of waivers was “a little much. The subdivision rules and regulations are there for a reason.”

WDC will need a physical alteration permit from RIDOT at the preliminary plan stage to install a bus shelter and water meter in the state’s right-of-way. They hope to buy the land, but RIDOT hasn’t formally agreed.

“What happens when the DOT refuses to sell, when they say no?” Bostic asked. “It’s kind of a nonstarter if you can’t drive into the place.”

“They’re on board so far,” Meehan said, but said RIDOT needs fully engineered plans to make a decision on whether to sell or offer an easement to use the land.

Dean Harris, WDC’s director for real estate development, said, “Do you not understand the state process for approval? We’ve done enough of these to know we’ll get one or the other. If you do not want to continue tonight and keep raising new issues, we’ll stop the hearing and come back to the TRC.”

“There’s no backs against the wall …” Olean began.

“Can I finish here, please?” Harris asked. He said from the time their plan was first introduced to the board, they spent sixmonths negotiating with the Narragansett Bay Commission over a pipe, worked with the YMCA on sewage, appeared before the TRC, and offered pro forma.

“You didn’t ask for letters from any public officials regarding traffic, safety, curbing, never raised in three times – excuse me, I’m not finished – we asked for guidance from your legal counsel, we’re working in good faith here. If you do not want this project, deny us and we can move on,” Harris said.

DeSisto rose again from his seat on the chamber floor.

“Can you let me speak?” he asked.

“Yes,” Harris said.

“OK, thank you,” DeSisto continued. “This is not a public informational hearing. When you say ‘deny us now,’ that’s not happening. This isn’t the TRC, it’s the Planning Board. They raise issues and make a recommendation, and that doesn’t preclude them from asking questions to properly review the project and vote on it.”

He again urged the board to let the team give their presentation and follow up next month with a public informational hearing.

The presentation continued with a traffic engineering study, which revealed that roughly 1,700 cars traveled on Breakneck Hill in a day, and another 1,300 used the Route 146 ramps. They projected traffic will increase by 1 percent three years into the future.

The left turn off the 146 ramp was deemed to be “level of service F,” but the traffic engineer said the project “wouldn’t have detrimental impact on adjacent roadway” and that “the existing left turn is poor level of service but this development won’t add movement to that left turn.”

RIDOT has indicated its intentions to install a turn signal at the end of the ramp in 2022. Based on the state’s record in deferring projects, Olean said, “It’s not cut in stone that traffic light’s going in in 2022,” but it “is that you’re going to make that situation worse.”

Comments

URBAN CREEP. Will Lincoln lose it's identity.

This is a HORRIBLE idea. The traffic in that area is already a clustermuck! To rely on the state to reconfigure the area is ABSURD!
PUMP THE BRAKES on development in Lincoln. Just look what’s happening in Cumberland.

This “project” should have been stamped DENIED from day one! The developer is not looking for ONE waiver, they are looking for FIFTEEN WAIVERS! Clearly this project does not belong in Lincoln, a community known for insisting that developers follow zoning regulations, planning board parameters and construction requirements. Take a look at our neighboring towns and Lincoln’s practice becomes readily apparent. Please, stop this project in its tracks and save the town from future countless visits to court. Uphold the remarkable reputation that our Town of Lincoln has and do not award a SINGLE waiver to this disorganized, unprepared and obviously hack developer!