Residents raise concern as new section of Hope Mill collapses

Residents raise concern as new section of Hope Mill collapses

A section of the roof of the Hope Mill on the Mill Street end collapsed last week, making residents question the safety and progress of development at the property. (Breeze photo by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SCITUATE – A recent collapse of a portion of the Hope Mill has led to questions and concerns among some residents and town officials. At last Thursday’s Town Council meeting, Emergency Management Agency Director John Robinson said the mill poses an “extreme hazard” in its current condition.

Robinson said he is well aware that another portion of the Hope Mill, located at One Main St., collapsed on the night of July 6, and sent over the fire marshal and the building official from West Warwick to do a write-up on new problems associated with the dilapidated mill. Scituate’s building official was out of town at the time of the collapse.

Additionally, Robinson said he was in contact with the new owners of the Hope Mill, the Paramount Group, for the past several weeks and informed them of the worsening problems at the mill.

From a public safety standpoint, Robinson said the town is requiring additional fencing at the site, more security for the building, and to clear brush away from the structure itself.

“We are enforcing everything that we can to try to mitigate any further problems,” Robinson said, adding that a close watch is being kept on the building.

Town Council President Abbie Groves said the council is researching the subject and will soon bring information to residents at a meeting. She said the council is aware of growing concerns, and is glad to get information out as soon as it is available.

Paramount plans to redevelop the mill into a 175-unit residential project, while adding two new buildings that blend in with the existing mill aesthetic. The project was approved in April of 2019.

The contentious decision raised concerns at the time from abutters, who said they felt the development is too large for this small mill town.

The project passed under the low-to-moderate-income-housing plan, potentially adding 70 LMI units to the town.

Progress on the project seems to be moving slowly, Robinson said, due to the new owners experiencing roadblocks from the state regarding removing debris from the site.

Paramount paid $1.3 million for the 38-acre property, which is a peninsula surrounded by the Pawtuxet River.

A receiver was appointed in 2008 when former owner Vincent Coccoli lost the property due to economic hardship. Coccoli fought with the town for several years in court attempting to get Scituate to honor a previous contract with the town to connect sewer and septic to parts of Hope.

Hope Mill has descended into disrepair after years of vacancy and neglect, with several ceilings collapsed and other fallen structures.

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The Scituate Planning Board approved plans to redevelop the mill under several stipulations, including replacing the cupola on the main building, The RIDEM approval of site design for public access to a nature trail, snow and trash removal services provided by developers, dam repairs and improvements completed within the project’s timeframe, and developers issuing a conservation easement to Pawtuxet River Authority for undeveloped land within the RIDEM wetland.

With Planning Board approval, developers will not need to hold a public hearing for final administrative approval on the project if plans meet all of the stipulations, said Town Councilor Michael Marcello.

“There is no more public requirement,” Marcello said.

Di Hopkins, of Hope Mill Concerned Citizens, spoke during last Thursday’s meeting, saying developers are not keeping up with their promise to shore up banks along the Pawtuxet River.

During rainstorms, Hopkins said, water flows off the Hope Mill property and into the river, causing possible contamination, and the site is becoming more dangerous in general.

“It’s not being handled right,” Hopkins said.