NORTH PROVIDENCE – Initial questions from the Town Council last week showed that redevelopment plans for the old public safety complex on Mineral Spring Avenue may have a tougher go of it than at the Planning Board.
Council members seemed to concur with residents of McGuire Road that a three-story self-storage facility abutting their residential neighborhood might pose a significant nuisance to their quality of life.
Councilor Ron Baccala also flatly said that he and others are not fans of self-storage as a commercial use, despite efforts by the developer and his attorney to highlight the low impact of such round-the-clock facilities.
The council ultimately gets the final say on whether to go along with the Planning Board’s recommendation to approve an application from Douglas Construction Company to amend the town’s zoning ordinance to change lots targeted for redevelopment from commercial general and residential general (shared), to just commercial general.
The self-storage idea had also taken some heat at the Planning Board level, but attorney Kelley Morris Salvatore reminded members that their task is to decide on plans for buildings, not on specific uses.
Attorney John Restivo and developer Nicholas Durgarian, at the Dec. 7 Town Council meeting, repeatedly emphasized how little daily activity there is at a storage facility, with most people dropping off their stuff and then leaving for a long time. The property at 1967 Mineral Spring Ave. is still owned by the town, and the sale to Durgarian’s company is contingent on approvals.
The back portion of the lot would have the storage facility, while the front would have two smaller commercial buildings, including a fast food restaurant with drive-thru and a bank.
Town Council President Dino Autiello said council members were just receiving information on the project for the first time after it was negotiated by others and would need time to review it, so the council delayed further consideration until its January meeting.
Because storage is not permitted as a use here, the developer must receive a special exception and relief from the requirement to obtain a special use permit. Restivo noted that there is still a significant amount of process and oversight left with the Planning Board, including more detailed preliminary and final plans. All is subject to change, he said.
Asked about concerns expressed at the Planning Board level, Restivo said there were questions about moving the big building, which the developer is open to as one way to soften its impact, questions about circulation on side streets, and lighting. The company has engaged a traffic engineer to determine the least impactful way to circulate traffic, he said, and is also committed to dark sky-rated lights to minimize light spillage in the surrounding neighborhood.
All existing buildings, including the safety complex and adjoining buildings, are proposed to come down as part of the project.
Durgarian emphasized that someone passing one of their other storage facilities would be hard-pressed to find two or three cars in the lot at any one time. There is neither a lot of traffic nor a lot of activity, he said.
But Baccala didn’t budge, saying he’s a fan of development in general, just not of self-storage. He said he’s no expert, “but things happen,” and neighbors are concerned that activity at the facility will impact them.
Council members, including Ken Amoriggi, said they’d like to see actual renderings of the project before considering its merits, saying they’ve only seen the very conceptual one previously featured in The Breeze.
Resident Ruth Bucci said she was struck, in previously reading about the plans, with the three stories of height. If she was one of the residents living in one-level homes around it, she would find such a towering facility quite excessive, she said.
George and Julie Leger, of 21 McGuire Road, said three stories of self-storage here is both ridiculous and crazy. They said they were first told that it wouldn’t be a 24-hour operation, but now that it will be, and they don’t want to look out their window at a giant wall and regular activity throughout the night.
Dennis and Terri Gorder, of 19 McGuire Road, had similar concerns, referring to the building as a monstrosity to look at. Terri said they can’t seem to catch a break in simply wanting to enjoy their neighborhood, citing the previous impacts of the town gas tanks and police and fire services located a stone’s throw away.
Dennis Gorder noted that the front of Town Hall is only two stories and is very tall, and this would be one more story on top of that. He and his wife also expressed concerns about increased traffic in a neighborhood where residents like to walk to CVS or the nearby bakery, and also about having the proposed restaurant on the residential side of the project, despite the fact that it would likely be open much later than the bank.
Tina Palumbo, of 17 McGuire Road, said she too is concerned about the traffic, particularly as it’s worsened since police and fire headquarters were moved. She said she can picture drivers of U-Hauls entering and exiting onto McGuire, as well as obstructing residents’ driveways.
Councilor Steve DiLorenzo asked about the number of units per floor, and Durgarian said it would likely be between 50 and 75 units apiece, but the building hasn’t been designed yet. Access to second and third floors would be internal by elevator, said the developer.