Town enforcing underground utilities on new subdivision

Town enforcing underground utilities on new subdivision

NORTH SMITHFIELD – A local developer and town resident was disappointed earlier this month when the town denied his request to allow above-ground power and phone lines in a new subdivision.

Philip Godfrin approached the Planning Board on May 7 to request a waiver for his five-house subdivision at the end of Edward Avenue. The project received approval in fall of 2018 and was scheduled to begin construction last week.

The problem, said Godfrin, is that close to a year after he contacted National Grid, the utility company has still not issued a reply regarding plans for underground utilities according to the town’s requirements for new subdivisions. Given the circumstances, Godfrin asked the town to allow above-ground utilities, a solution he said would enable quicker and easier construction.

“At this point, we are going to be hung up terribly if we’re forced to have to wait for any kind of feedback from National Grid,” he said.

Despite Godfrin’s argument that the neighborhood already has above-ground utilities, several board members remained unconvinced a waiver would offer an easy solution. Alternate member Roland Menard pointed out Godfrin’s company would still have to work with National Grid on above-ground utilities, and Chairman Gary Palardy asked if it was really the utility company driving the issues or the “new normal” of the current situation.

“If things were normal, the old normal, and they moved along smoothly according to plan as they always do with National Grid, would we be having this conversation?” said Palardy.

“To answer your question directly, no, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation if not for this new normal and where we are,” replied Godfrin.

It’s not the first time Godfrin has requested a waiver for the project. In 2018, former Planning Board member Lucien Benoit resigned over what he saw as “excessive leniency” on the town’s part after the board approved waivers related to granite curbing and other elements of the project.

The board voted 3-2 to reject the request for above-ground utilities, opting to enforce its regulations. Palardy, Jeffrey Porter and David Punchak voted against the waiver, while Richard Keene and Michael Fournier voted in favor.

The vote echoed a similar discussion about enforcing regulations from the previous week, when board members opposed a solar project on the grounds it didn’t comply with the frontage requirements in the town’s new solar ordinance.

Econox solar project ready to begin construction

A one-megawatt solar farm proposed by Econox Renewables off Greenville Road received its final approval to begin construction during the same meeting. The project had previously received approval from the town Zoning Board and fire marshal along with state permits.

The project will be located on land owned by Grand Banks Commerce Park LLC, a company owned by Town Administrator Gary Ezovski. Last May, Ezovski reached out to the Rhode Island Ethics Commission, which advised his role as town administrator did not constitute a conflict of interest since neither the Planning nor Zoning Boards report to the administrator.

The town is requiring a decommissioning bond of $35,144 prior to the start of construction.