Splash before clash

Neighborhood rallies in opposition to Sand Pond self-storage unit

By John Howell
Posted 8/23/18

By JOHN HOWELL What better way to advocate the value of Sand Pond than to use it? That's just what pond neighbors and many of their friends plan to do this Saturday at a Pond Palooza" set to start at noon from the Sand Pond Beach. There's going to be a"

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Splash before clash

Neighborhood rallies in opposition to Sand Pond self-storage unit

Posted

What better way to advocate the value of Sand Pond than to use it?

That’s just what pond neighbors and many of their friends plan to do this Saturday at a “Pond Palooza” set to start at noon from the Sand Pond Beach. There’s going to be a parade of watercraft (no gas or electric powered craft), prizes for the most colorfully decorated craft, games, raffles and music.

“We need a break; we’re going to have some fun,” pond Palooza organizer Jane Allsworth said in an interview Tuesday.

But while the Palooza is booked as a fun event, it’s all business when it comes to efforts to stop construction of a three-story, 630-unit self-storage facility at Pond Plaza on Post Road. The proposed facility, which would require expansion of the existing plaza building, would rise above the tree line, altering views of the pond and is feared would introduce activities that could impact the neighborhood and impair the pond.

Following a heated meeting last September, the Planning Board found that the proposed development was inconsistent with the purpose of the city’s zoning ordinance. That wasn’t the end of it, however.

PRW Holdings LLC and its principal, Charles Anderson of Saunderstown, appealed the decision to the city’s Zoning Board of Review. Attorney John Mancini, who represented PRW, argued the plan is in compliance with city ordinances and that the planning board “abused its discretion and committed clear error of law by making prejudicial comments.”

The Zoning Board agreed with Mancini.

Chapter three is set to open when the same board considers two special use permits for the development. As of Wednesday it was unclear when the hearing would be held. Initially, it was scheduled for Sept. 11, but when contracted Tuesday K. Joseph Shekarchi, who also represents PRW, said he requested a delay and that he was “90 percent sure” the hearing would be held in October or November.

There promises to be battle. Shekarchi said “more than 10 experts” are expected to testify in support of the development.

And this time the neighborhood has more than petitions, placards and its heartfelt appeals to fight with. Allsworth said a core group of 20 to 30 neighbors, which has regularly been meeting every other week, has retained attorneys Marisa Desautel and Patrick Sullivan, who specialize in environmental and land use law. Further, she said, they are in the process of retaining experts to outline the detriments of the development to the community and environment.

Allsworth doesn’t live close to the pond. She lives on Pawtuxet Avenue and as a Norwood resident is a member of the community. She became involved when her good friend, Alisa Richardson, who owns a home on the pond, told her of the plan for the self-storage unit. Allsworth questioned what was proposed, discovering she wasn’t alone. She helped launch a petition drive last summer that garnered the signatures of more than 300 in opposition to the development in one day. Then came yard signs, letters to officials, t-shirts and a community network was born.

“We all met on Facebook originally,” she said. “It has galvanized the neighborhood,” she said of the proposed development.

Allsworth, whose father Henry Allsworth served on the School Committee and was its chair, has done some of her own research. She has found that there are 18 self-storage facilities within a 10-mile radius of Sand Pond and within the month Cranston officials approved a 104,000-square-foot facility on vacant land near the bowling alley on Elmwood Avenue. Additionally, she said, there’s no shortage of vacant units in the area.

Allsworth doesn’t expect the details of the legal fight will be talked about Saturday. That’s not the purpose of the Pond Palooza. Rather, it’s to enjoy the fellowship of community and those believing in their cause and, most importantly, the beauty and clear water of Sand Pond. There will be some games, too, and a scavenger hunt.

The Pond Palooza starts at noon and runs to 4 p.m.

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Justanidiot

We want economic progress, just not in our backyard.

Thursday, August 23, 2018