The proposed Ocean State RV Resort failed to gain the support of the planning board in Westerly, R.I., when board members deadlocked in a 3-3 vote Tuesday (May 15) on a motion to issue a favorable recommendation on the plan, the Westerly Sun reported.
Board members Robert Clark, Kenneth Sorensen and Jack Felber voted to endorse the resort’s master plan and a special use permit it would need to operate as a campground. Board members David Panciera, Alan Scribner and Patricia Douglas were opposed, so the motion failed. Board member Carl Blume did not vote, saying he had missed some of the board’s hearings on the application, which started in February.
Charlestown developer Larry LeBlanc’s Exco LLC had proposed a 125-unit facility for a 59-acre site adjacent to McGowan’s Corners in Bradford. Vincent Naccarato, Exco’s lawyer, said after the board’s vote that he would confer with his client to determine whether they would appeal the board’s decision to the Zoning Board of Review.
The planning board’s vote came at about 12:20 this morning (May 16) before an audience of about 25 anxious residents who are opposed to the project. The residents formed McGowan’s Corners Neighborhood Association to organize against the resort, arguing that it would cause the value of their property to fall and that it would present environmental and safety problems.
The board’s vote followed attempts earlier in the evening to approve the project with conditions, including reducing the number of units, requiring a 75-foot buffer around the perimeter of the project area, and requiring the developer to post a performance bond. Board members could not agree on the number of units or whether to establish the deed restrictions.
Developer Makes Case
Before the board tried to vote on the project, Naccarato discussed a memorandum written by Town Planner Marilyn Shellman in which she recommended that the planning board not issue a favorable recommendation. The board denied Naccarato’s request to reopen the public hearing to discuss Shellman’s memorandum, but allowed him to discuss it as part of his closing remarks.
Naccarato said Shellman wrongly relied on zoning regulations pertaining to residential developments rather than looking at regulations pertaining to recreational land uses.
“This is a seasonal use with no permanent residences; any comparison to residences is the comparison of apples to oranges,” Naccarato said.
Shellman also said, in her memorandum, that Ocean State RV Resort would lead to increased use of the town beach, hurt the quality of life in the neighborhood, and put a strain on town roads and the town water supply. Naccarato disputed all of those assertions, saying the seasonal facility complied with the town’s Comprehensive Plan of Development and many of its goals.
Naccarato also rejected Shellman’s determination that recreational vehicle resorts are not permitted under the town’s zoning regulations. He said the proposed resort qualified as a recreational campsite, a use allowed by special permit.
The Zoning Board of Review voted May 2 to uphold an appeal filed by Naccarato challenging Zoning Officer Liz Burdick’s determination that the proposed recreational vehicle resort amounted to a mobile home park. The zoning board decided that the vehicles in question are “park trailers” which are considered to be recreational vehicles under state law.
LeBlanc has an option to buy the 59-acre property, which is in receivership. Naccarato repeated his contention that the land will eventually be developed, as court officials are determined to sell the land to pay creditors who are owed by its former owners, Grassy Hill Development Corp. of Roxbury, Conn.