Zoning amended for dental office expansion
Noise issues and parking concerns.
No, this isn’t a story about the recent debate involving Chelo’s on the Waterfront.
However, like Chelo’s, a compromise was recently met for East Greenwich Dental at 4573-4575 Post Road to expand. The owner of the property, Domocles Realty, LLC, sought a zone change from the City Council last week in order to make improvements to the building and be established as an ADA compliant facility.
As a result, Ward 9 Councilman Steven Merolla sponsored an ordinance that unanimously was approved for first passage.
John C. Revens Jr., of Revens, Revens & St. Pierre, addressed the council representing Domocles Realty.
According to Revens, the property, which has doubled as a three-dentist office and residential area since the 1960s, aims to make improvements so patients can more easily enter the building.
“Many of the patients are treated in the lower level of the building and the only access is by a metal spiral staircase, the type of which you might see in a ski lodge in New Hampshire, not a dental office on the Warwick/East Greenwich line,” said Revens.
He went on to say that in addition to becoming ADA compliant, it’s simply not practical to use the lower level for patient care. The intent is to have all patient treatment rooms on the main floor so the lower level can be used as storage space and a lunch area for staff.
“It needs major physical improvements to bring it into the 21st Century,” Revens said.
But abutting residents at 230 Spencer Avenue, Dr. Richard Barkin and his wife, had concerns about the project.
The Barkins’ lawyer, Thomas Enright, said the office’s representation did not properly inform local residents of the intent of the expansion.
“We get that this property needs to have an office space as well as a residential property and we’ve never disagreed with that proposition, but they are also attempting through this process to have eight zoning remedies involved in the overlay district process,” Enright said at the meeting. “They’re seeking all types of variances by way of overlay districting. The notice was deceiving.”
Further, the Barkins, as well as their neighbor, said they are concerned about parking and noise issues the expansion might create.
As it is, the Barkins said they aren’t happy with the situation. Barkin described the office as an “eyesore” and an “auditory nightmare,” as he and his wife are able to hear conversations between staff members and patients, as well as residents.
“I hear all the noises of people coming, going, car alarms going off, and it goes on six days a week,” Barkin said. “The only day is stops is Sunday, when at times the residents decide to have parties. It’s very disturbing. One day, when I decide to sell my home, what happens when people look at the property and see what’s abutting?”
Barkin continued, “We need to protect our neighborhoods. I live in a historic home and have invested a tremendous amount of money restoring that home and a tremendous amount of money on landscaping to protect ourselves from the business aspect of the abutting property and absorb some of the sounds.”
He also said he was upset that the neighbors were never contacted about what was being proposed.
“When I talked to them, they were unaware that there was going to be any expansion of intensification,” he said.
The Barkins’ neighbor, who stated her name for the record but didn’t seem comfortable sharing it with the media, agreed. When she addressed the council, she also expressed concern about noise, as well as parking.
“Spencer Avenue is one of the most beautiful streets in Warwick and we’re finding it hard to keep it residential,” she said. “We’re feeling the push of commercialism.”
Another abutting neighbor, William Lister, who has been living at 57 Corey Avenue for more than 35 years, disagreed. In fact, he spoke in favor of the dental office.
“I see no reason for objection,” he said at the meeting. “I think it will greatly enhance the value of the property.”
Revens said the premises has been used as a dental office since the late 1950s when Dr. Herbert Underhill moved his family into the property and raised nine children. Through the years, two additional dentists joined him and the building was expanded to accommodate a larger practice.
In the 1980s, Underhill moved from the home after his children were grown and the zoning board granted him the approval to convert the residential portion of the building into apartments.
“It’s remained in that use and condition ever since,” said Revens. “The parking area is at least 70 feet from the property line and at least 250 feet from the abutting house. There is a very lovely evergreen forest between the abutting property line and the house.”
Moreover, he said, “If I had a choice between apartments or offices, I’d say, ‘give me the offices.’”
By the end of the hearing, both sides agreed upon a compromise for an amendment, which includes four stipulations. The amended ordinance states that the property use be limited to dental office use with 10 patient rooms; that there shall be no separate office use in the basement area and any future use of the basement be restricted to ancillary or accessory use; that the total number of residential units shall not exceed the five existing units; and that the landscape buffer shall be increased.