Argument on whether to amend the town's comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances to accommodate a village center at Rolling Greens Golf Course continued Thursday at the Beechwood Senior Center.
If approved, the amendments would help pave the way for developers to begin construction on a village center west of Route 4 at the Route 2 and Route 102 intersection—a location not far from residential neighborhoods.
During the meeting, Planning Director Jon Reiner said the commission “should be looking at more compact development,” as it better utilizes infrastructure and services.
According to Reiner, the village center would be somewhat of a throwback. From a historical perspective, towns were “much more compact; you had a lot more happening in smaller areas,” he said.
Of mixed-use development, Planning Commission Member Jeffrey Michaelson said it would be “nice not to have to drive everywhere.” Harriet Powell, also a member of the commission, echoed Michaelson’s statement, adding the close proximity of commercial and residential areas would be a boon to residents’ gas budgets.
Paul Dion and Chip Palmer, however, said they favor implementing “thresholds” or fixed ratios for commercial versus residential development as a means of curbing excessive industry in residential neighborhoods.
While Palmer acknowledged that setting such parameters could prove tricky and potentially stifle growth in certain areas, or fail to cater to changing markets, he proposed the parameters be set to provide a "level of comfort" to those fearful the potential village at Rolling Greens will create too much traffic.
Chairperson Dick Pastore and Commission Member James Grundy said sweeping parameters are not solvent. Pastore said issues presented to the commission must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. “That’s the way it’s worked pretty well for as long as I’ve seen it,” he said. “You need the latitude to do what you feel is right.”
Grundy added, “We have to evaluate the benefits and the detractors from each individual area.” Reiner agreed, stating “no two sites really match up with one another, so it’s difficult to put a box around it.”
Pastore’s predominant concern with the potential village center, he said, is the construction of a seemingly mammoth pharmacy with features that don’t mesh well with the exterior aesthetics of North Kingstown—a pharmacy similar to the Walgreens on Route 2 in Warwick, he said.
Bill Landry, lawyer for Rolling Greens developer Mark Hawkins, said it would be up to the Rolling Greens team to show the commission such a store within the mixed-used development is able to be altered in a way that “fits the spirit of the village.”
For Colin O’Sullivan—a resident who spoke on behalf of residents from Wickford Highlands opposed to the village center—“cherry picking” from the town’s comprehensive plan to qualify a potential village center is “not a fair way to approach [the issue].”
The commission will reconvene August 16 to discuss the subject further and work toward decisive action on the issue.