Neighbors raise issues with Breakneck Hollow proposal

Neighbors raise issues with Breakneck Hollow proposal

Michael Conway points toward Route 146 through the wetlands that surround his property in Lincoln. Women’s Development Corp. hopes to build affordable housing in the area. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod)

LINCOLN – Neighbors to a potential housing development across from the MacColl YMCA raised a laundry list of concerns during last week’s Planning Board meeting, calling on the board to deny the project next month.
The Breakneck Hollow project being proposed by Women’s Development Corp. calls for two buildings containing 44 units of affordable housing. It would be accessed via an existing road located just off the Route 146 ramp on Breakneck Hill Road.

The major concern for public officials and neighbors of the proposed development is traffic and safety, they said.

James Cronin, a traffic engineer hired by WDC, said there were 11 accidents on Breakneck Hill at the 146 intersection in 2017, 15 accidents in 2018, and eight last year. Most vehicles travel nine to 10 mph over the posted 30 mph speed limit.

Most accidents, Cronin said, would be eliminated when the Rhode Island Department of Transportation installs a traffic signal at the intersection, which is scheduled to be advertised in 2022. 

Town Planner Al Ranaldi warned against relying on promised improvements by RIDOT, noting that improvements to School Street have been sitting on the shelf for more than a decade, pushed back every year. He said Lincoln’s Chief of Police, Brian Sullivan, penned a letter citing his own concerns with traffic. 

Planning Board Chairman Ken Bostic noted that the driveway to the proposed development is only 175 feet from the highway ramp. “If someone is hanging out of your project, which they would be because no one will let you out, someone coming off 146 will wipe them out. You’re going to have all kinds of accidents.”

Dean Harrison, WDC’s director of real estate, said they’ve provided plans for a left-turn lane to help mitigate the traffic problem. “Every development has traffic issues. We could debate this all night.”

“When we go to make a comment and now we have to shut up … that’s not the way this meeting is going to work,” Bostic countered. “If we have a question, we’re going to ask it, and we don’t need a referee from you.”

Those living on the narrow roadway off Breakneck Hill where the development is being proposed agreed with Bostic’s concerns.

Melissa Rancourt said pulling out of the driveway in either direction is a challenge. 

“You have to be quick. People pull off 146 and punch it, so you have to do the same. It’s tricky,” she said, adding that a left-turn lane would make it “almost impossible for us to turn out of the driveway most hours of the day.”

She and several other neighbors said they sometimes exit onto Breakneck to the right and later turn around somewhere else instead of attempting a left turn.

Rancourt said traffic reports don’t include the number of “close calls” or near-accidents. “The sound of angry horns and tires screeching is incessant,” she said. She only crosses the road to her mailbox on weekends before 9 a.m.

“The YMCA is a lure across this incredibly dangerous road,” she added. 

The project would bring roughly 29 school-aged children to the area. 

David Bowman said, “Children will be injured if not killed” if the development is approved. “Imagine a kid walking across Breakneck Hill to that YMCA that they can’t wait to get to and they get hit, or a car gets slammed pulling out and someone is killed. People’s lives are at risk.”

Other issues raised during the more than three-hour Zoom meeting included the project’s proposed density increase of 1,367 percent. The development team said they cannot reduce the number of units and still market them affordably.

Abutter Jonathan Unaka, an engineer, architect and educator, said the project plans show a “complete disregard for the wetlands” surrounding the site and the soil in the area, which he said is susceptible to sinking and moisture buildup. Installing hard surfaces would further threaten the wetlands, he said, and increase drainage issues in the area.

Project engineer Timothy Behan said the development would have “minimal impact on the wetlands” and that there would be a 50-foot perimeter around the wetlands.

Kathy Hartley said Breakneck Hill down to Great Road was deemed a “scenic roadway” by the state in 2003, one of only eight across Rhode Island selected for its views and historic significance. “This historic gateway begins with the fields and brush-lands adjacent to the 146 interchange,” she said. “I do hope someone has put these plans before RIDOT’s Scenic Highway board. Certainly a three-story high-rise is out of character with this historic district. It’s very special and I implore the town to protect it.”

Frank Lombardi, representing the residents at Stone Creek, said the condo association would be negotiating with the developer and YMCA “with respect to the sewer line we have crossing over into YMCA land, the shared pumping station and utility line.”

He said that an agreement must be a condition of approval for the project, ensuring there is no adverse impact to Stone Creek residents.

“What happens if there’s no agreement? Then what?” asked Town Solicitor Tony DeSisto, who said the town can’t legally enforce that kind of condition. 

“Then we oppose this project,” Lombardi said.

Ranaldi said the Breakneck Hollow application “has been sitting around for 18 months and this issue hasn’t been resolved. I haven’t spoken about this issue because it’s a private matter but you still have no letter of intent from the residents … it’s very disheartening.”

Bostic said the developer would need to supply “something better than what you have now to make the board feel comfortable moving forward on the sewer alone.”

Approaching 11 p.m., Bostic made the call to continue the discussion to next month, giving WDC a chance to respond to the issues raised.


Was there also discussion of the Boulevard Ave project at this Planning Board meeting? Thanks.

There is no way this should ever be approved. The traffic situation is already horrible there.
Speaking of horrible, take a look at the new development on Cobble Hill Rd. It us the worst eyesore I’ve ever seen, with houses right on top of each other. I guess the good news is, you can pass your neighbor some milk or sugar without either of you leaving your house.

Far to many concerns and far to many concessions needed to move this project forward another inch. The use of the in name only, just my opinion, Women's Development Corporation is appalling.