Dueling appeals

Parties contest decision on future of Pawtuxet site

Posted 3/16/23

After hours of hearings over the future of 15 acres on the banks of the Pawtuxet River, Warwick City Planner Tom Kravitz has finally gotten the two sides to agree on something – to both …

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Dueling appeals

Parties contest decision on future of Pawtuxet site


After hours of hearings over the future of 15 acres on the banks of the Pawtuxet River, Warwick City Planner Tom Kravitz has finally gotten the two sides to agree on something – to both disagree with his plan that would save a river walk trail forever and allow the land owner to build a scaled down version of what was first planned.

In what is believed the first case of its kind in the history of the Warwick Planning Board, opposing sides to a land development have appealed the board’s decision, which Kravitz crafted, to the Warwick Zoning Board of Appeals. Should the local area residents the owners of the land, or conceivably both, not agree with that board’s ruling, the next avenue of appeal is Rhode Island Superior Court.

No matter what, it appears not much will change for some time at 175 Post Road, which is on the skirts of Pawtuxet River. The property was the site of Hammel Dahl, a manufacturer of valves that current owners, Lee Beausoleil and Artak Avagyan, bought in 2019. The partners demolished the manufacturing plant built in 1954 that had sat empty for years and proposed building smaller buildings that would be rented to independent contractors to garage equipment and store materials.

Presently, the property is being used for the storage of PVC pipes. It is also home to mountains of broken up building material, all of it sitting in the floodplain to the Pawtuxet River.  In 2020 the owners advanced a plan to build several buildings to be rented for the storage of landscaping equipment and supplies on the site of the demolished manufacturing building. They came before the board with an application for master plan approval on June 15, 2022. Pawtuxet residents protested the development was too big, but because the owners had been cited by DEM for the storage of materials near the river, the board denied the application without prejudice. This enabled the owners to return before the board after clearing up DEM concerns and marginally reducing their plans. 

It was just the beginning.

A river trail that Boy Scouts have maintained over the past 30 years is on the land. It became the tinder to ignite community awareness/objection to the proposed development when the land owners took down the trail sign and posted no trespassing signs last June. Pawtuxet neighbors united to fight the proposed development, circulating a petition that garnered more than 1,000 signatures and gaining the support of state legislators who have introduced measures that preserve access to the river if approved.

The revised application was heard by the board at a meeting on Jan. 11 that was continued to Feb. 8.

On Feb. 8 the board approved the down-sized version of the original proposal with the condition, as proposed by Kravitz, to increase the seven acres to be placed in a conservation easement by an additional 1.7 acres that abuts Post Road and includes the trail head to the river walk.

Beausoleil and  Avagyan  weren’t happy nor were the residents.

Nicholas Goodier, attorney representing the land owners filed a two-page appeal with the Zoning Board on March 7. The following day Nicholas Hemond, representing Matthew Jerzyk, Suzanne DaSilva, Vanessa Carlton, John Joseph McCauley III, Roger Farren and Virginia Bernal-Price filed a 17-page appeal accompanied by a ream of exhibits.

Goodier finds fault with the Planning Board’s decision on the basis that it is in violation of constitutional, statutory and ordinance provisions  in additional to a series of other claims that it was affected “by error of law ”and clearly erroneous in view of the reliable, prohibitive and substantial evidence of the whole record.”

In an interview Friday, Goodier said the nub of his clients’ argument is the condition that the 1.7 acres be included in the conservation easement. 

Representing the residents, Hemond argues that while the Planning Board found the owners’ application warranted master plan approval, “there existed fatal deficiencies with both the property and the application as a whole, which if taken in full consideration, would render approval objectively impermissible.”

The appeal reasons that the Planning Board failed to adequately consider testimony concerning issues raised over contaminates on the site; that it is located within the Pawtuxet River floodway; that there are “no appropriate measures to mitigate stormwater runoff and that the property abuts the Pawtuxet Village Historic District. Hemond quotes the purpose of the district is to preserve structures and sites of historic, architectural and archaeological value.

“The interests of the city and surrounding community greatly outweigh the interests of the use proposed by the application based on the physical location of the property,” reads the appeal.

David Petrarca, attorney representing the Planning Board said Tuesday he would defend the board’s decision and that Peter Skwirz from the law firm of Ursillo, Teitz and Ritch would represent the Zoning Board. Petrarca favors the two appeals be heard simultaneously as that both parties are dealing with the same facts.  He said this is possible if the parties can agree on the “record of review.”

While Petrarca favors public comment during the hearing(s), he said public comment would need to be limited to the arguments of the dueling appellants.  He said it is “not a rehashing” of testimony heard by the board over the course of the hearings.

Petrarca likened the hearing to an appeal to the Supreme Court where arguments are heard and now new testimony is introduced. In the case the court is made up of the five members of the Zoning Board of Appeals.

By statute the board has 45 days from the filing of the appeal to conduct a hearing.  Petrarca said that can change if all parties agree. He favors an extension given the unique circumstance that both parties have appealed the Planning Board decision.

Hemond did not return the call.

Pawtuxet, appeal, appeals


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