NORTH PROVIDENCE – Neighbors of a planned redevelopment project at the town’s old public safety complex at 1967 Mineral Spring Ave. expressed a number of concerns about the project to the Planning Board last week, even as the board gave an initial nod to the plan.
The project calls for a three-story self-storage building at the back of the property, plus a drive-thru bank and drive-thru restaurant.
A representative for the developer said the 2,250-square-foot footprint for the restaurant is typical of a Starbucks restaurant, including seating for only up to about eight people inside.
The board, at its Nov. 10 meeting, approved a master plan with conditions and recommended that the Town Council approve a zone change to all commercial general use for the property that would make the drive-thru use allowed without a special use permit.
Answering residents about their concerns, members said many of them are related to more detailed specifics of the plan at the next stage, or the preliminary plan phase.
John Restivo, attorney representing applicant Nicholas Durgarian, of Smithfield, told members that there’s a purchase and sale agreement with the town that’s contingent on approvals going through.
Concerns from residents included issues with having a three-story building right next to their homes, entrances and exits being on McGuire Road instead of the more commercial sides of the property, the planned restaurant attracting rats, among others.
Board member Shane Piche said he doesn’t like the idea of a “giant storage facility” on “such a valuable piece” of property, with few open spots for business left in town.
He said it’s often said that North Providence has to live with the sins of the past when it comes to planning practices of old, and in his experience, storage facilities tend to create depressed areas.
Attorney Kelley Morris Salvatore reminded Piche that the Planning Board decides on the plans for buildings, not on specific uses.
Durgarian and Restivo emphasized the increasing importance of such facilities in high-density neighborhoods, where people often don’t have enough space to keep all of their items in their home. Restivo said such facilities are very important and valuable to such areas, which is why people are seeing so many new ones open in the area.
Durgarian said storage units from Life Storage are not your typical metal box building, but softer structures that are respectful to the neighborhood. Anything, particularly landscape buffers, will be an improvement on what was here with the old municipal gas pumps and parking lot, he said.
Describing fencing for the project, he said, it would be more of the ornamental black variety than chain-link or barbed wire.
All storage will be contained inside the building, he said.
Piche and others also expressed concerns about a specific bank use for a building if it’s later decided that another bank isn’t feasible on Mineral Spring Avenue. Some residents also offered objections to the idea of a potential second fast-food restaurant.
In the end, the Planning Board’s recommendation to the Town Council was conditional on one drive-thru bank and one drive-thru restaurant being approved in plans. There were a number of other conditions imposed on the approval as well.
Members also discussed the amount of parking proposed, suggesting, among other things, that the parking for the bank and restaurant could be switched, with the restaurant expected to need more.
Vincent Tomassi, of 220 Central Ave., said his main concern is related to traffic, saying this traditionally quieter end of Mienral Spring Avenue is getting far too busy. He said he’s worried about himself and neighbors as new developments spring up here.
Dennis Gorder, of 19 McGuire Road, said he knew this project was going to come about, but he’s concerned about the placement of the restaurant next to a residential area and what that might do in terms of light encroachment and encouraging the spread of rats. Gorder also said the neighborhood deserves better than a three-story building and entrances and exits onto the residential side street.
George Leger, of 21 McGuire Road, said he also wasn’t aware the storage building was going to be three stories. “No fence is high enough” to block the view, he said, and he doesn’t relish the thought of having to look at that wall next door as he grills his burgers.
Planning Board members said many of these concerns will be addressed at the preliminary plan stage. They also noted that no tenants have been announced as of yet for the bank space or restaurant building.