The North Kingstown Planning Commission got a look at the latest changes to a large-scale development that could potentially bring a significant amount of tax dollars…and negatively impact nearby water sources.
Developers Paul Milhailides of Frenchtown Partners LLC is proposing the 33-acre shopping center, called The Commons at Frenchtown Road, that would be nestled between Frenchtown Road and Route 403 – adjacent to the former Brown & Sharpe property. About 10 acres of the center would be in East Greenwich with the remainder in North Kingstown.
The latest version of the plan calls for a 132,000 sq. ft. big box store, two three-story 48,000 sq. ft. office buildings, a 12,900 sq. ft. pharmacy, an 11,480 sq. ft. building, a 10,450 sq. ft. retail building, a 4,100 sq. ft. bank and a 3,300 sq. ft. fast food restaurant on the North Kingstown side. For East Greenwich, the plan calls for a 10,000 sq. ft. restaurant, a 10,000 sq. ft. retail building and a two-story, 75,000 sq. ft. building labeled as mixed use. Earlier iterations had a residential component and a movie theater in the plans, but both parts have since been scrapped.
If the development is completely built out, it could yield a big economic boost for the area. A fiscal impact study that accompanied the new plans states that the project could create 890 full-time jobs and generate $422,000 in taxes for North Kingstown and $160,000 for East Greenwich.
Though the project could help invigorate growth in the dormant Post Road Corridor nearby, members of the planning commission and other town officials voiced their concerns of the potential environmental impacts of a development this size. The Commons at Frenchtown Road would be situated right on the cusp of the Hunt River Watershed which feeds one of the highest yielding aquifers for both North Kingstown and the Kent County Water Authority (which services East Greenwich).
According to Susan Licardi of the North Kingstown Water Department, this aquifer is already experiencing “significant quality and quantity issues.” In recent years, North Kingstown has worked to be more efficient with its water usage, restricting its watering days and raising water rate fees for those who use too much water. During the hot and dry summer of 2005, NK saw its daily water usage skyrocket from 3.1 million gallons to 8.4 million gallons per day – nearly depleting its water stores and forcing the town to access its backup storage tanks.
“The contaminants [from this project] could impact the drinking water in one to three years because of proximity,” said North Kingstown Planning Director Jon Reiner. “If those areas are further impaired, we could potentially lose those wells.”
Reiner suggested that developers scale back the number of parking spaces and amount impervious surface to mitigate the concerns. According to Reiner, the number of spaces was “excessive” and well over the minimum requirement of both North Kingstown and East Greenwich.
Jack Revens, attorney for the developers, did not find the amount of parking to be “excessive,” arguing that the number of spots was necessary to be able to market the development to potential businesses. Scott Moorehead, one of the project’s engineers, suggested that parking could introduced gradually and added as needed.
The property in question is zoned light industrial. Developers will seek to have it rezoned as commercial highway. Additionally, they are also looking for the town council to make a comprehensive plan amendment to create an ordinance allowing the 132,000 sq. ft. big box store on the North Kingstown side. North Kingstown properties zoned “general business” currently have a 50,000 sq. ft. cap for any one building.
The North Kingstown Planning Commission will discuss the project again and hold a public hearing on May 7 at 7:30 p.m. at North Kingstown Town Hall.