SMITHFIELD – Seventeen years in the making and an overturned denial later, Churchill & Bank’s Smithfield Village will be moving forward with updated traffic plans after the Planning Board granted preliminary plan approval during its meeting last Thursday, June 20.
The board agreed 6-1, with member John Yoakum against, that an updated traffic mitigation plan with reviews at 80 percent build-out and one-year after full build will ease concerns.
New member Michael Pinelli recused himself from the decision and said he was not familiar with the development.
According to Assistant Town Solicitor Scott Levesque, the Zoning Board of Review reversed the Planning Board’s November 2018 decision to deny the 27-building residential and commercial development on March 27, requesting the developer work with the Planning Board and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to find solutions to the traffic problem.
“The applicant and abutter and DOT have a clear path,” Levesque said.
Located at 355 Putnam Pike on the corner of Esmond Street and Route 44, developers proposed adding a “Qwick Kurb,” a low-cost highway lane separator serving as alternatives to Jersey barriers, to prevent left turns into the development from eastbound traffic, mainly coming off the 295 ramp.
The development will have 27 buildings for commercial and residential use, including 124 residential units, of which 25 will be low-income housing.
“With those measures in taking place, we now have adequate and safe access to the development,” Levesque said.
The developer and the town will be splitting costs of an estimated $35,000 to conduct two traffic reviews at 80 percent build-out and one year after occupancy. Levesque said the reviewer will be found through the request for proposals process.
Representing the applicant, Joelle Rocha said the agreement was suitable to the town and RIDOT. In addition to the “Qwick Kurb” and traffic reviews, developers are also widening the entrance to Esmond Street off Route 44. Rocha said the developer is on the hook for any changes that incur as a result of the two traffic studies.
“With those items in place, we feel we have addressed all the issues necessary,” Rocha said.
Yoakum, who chaired the meeting, did not agree and said though the previous traffic studies had a lot of details, it cannot address every real-life situation.
“I think this is a real-life issue that people who travel that will have to deal with,” Yoakum said.
Abutter David Loffredo, who owns an 18-acre lot at 270 Putnam Pike across from the proposed Smithfield Village again asked the board why they didn’t propose a traffic light at the end of the 295 off-ramp.
“In my opinion, that’s the least expensive possible cure,” Loffredo said.
RIDOT did not propose using a traffic light, but it may be recommended during one of the future studies.
Attendants of the meeting criticized that speakers did not use the microphones well enough to be heard, and said it was unfair not to give visualizations so people can see what the proposed traffic plans look like.
In response, Town Manager Randy Rossi said a camera-operated projection system is being brought in to allow plans and other documents to be projected for everyone to see should a flash drive not be provided.
Later in the evening, the Planning Board elected Al Gizzarelli as chairman, and John Yoakum as vice chairman.