NORTH SMITHFIELD – A project that has faced several challenges due to its proximity to the Woonsocket reservoirs was cleared last week for its final stage of planning review.
North Smithfield Auto Body owner Tom Whalen is seeking to expand his business at 770 Eddie Dowling Highway. The expansion includes a new building with 12 service bays on a neighboring lot and a new entry and exit onto Route 146.
Last Thursday, Feb. 11, lawyer Christian Capizzo told the Planning Board the owner is still seeking permits from the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. Due to its location near wetlands and on a state highway, the expansion will require approval from both agencies in addition to local boards.
“It’s somewhat fluid, so we had asked to get this before you while we work with DOT on the engineering as well as DEM,” Capizzo said.
Last year, the project faced pushback from some members of the Zoning Board over concerns it may be located in a water supply overlay district where auto repair shops are not allowed. The Zoning Board voted 4-1 to approve the project after a consultant said it was not subject to the rules of the overlay district.
Then, in the fall, it faced another setback when the RIDEM required the company to restore an area that had been disturbed during construction. According to David D’Amico, an engineer for the project, the company had begun pre-work and excavation for the new building and was storing the material on a neighboring property when it rolled into a protected area.
“Some of the material, because of the steepness, rolled down and went into the buffer area,” he explained.
After RIDEM representatives visited the property, he said, the company agreed to a restoration plan that involved planting and revegetating the slope. At the same time, they’re also working with the RIDEM to secure their remaining permits.
Asked about the effect on the nearby water supply, D’Amico said the project will have a net positive effect on the water quality in the wetlands due to new systems for treating runoff that will be installed as part of the expansion.
Planning Board members had a generally positive reaction to the project but raised some concerns about the plans for entry and exit onto the highway. The company has had to work closely with the RIDOT, particularly since the state agency announced plans to overhaul the Sayles Hill Road intersection down the street.
The current plan, according to D’Amico, is to have a separate “frontage road” in addition to the two northbound lanes to allow for easier access to local businesses.
Board members voted 5-0 to approve the project’s preliminary application. The plans will need one more review by the Planning Board before final approval.
In a separate matter, board members also voted 5-0 to approve the master plan application for an expansion of K & B Properties at 20 Providence Pike. That project will involve a new warehouse and office building to serve The Beck Company on the corner of Industrial Drive and Providence Pike.