Rhode Island Town Mobilizes Against Park Model Project

January 18, 2012 by   - () Leave a Comment

Dozens of residents opposed to a recreational vehicle resort proposed for land adjacent to McGowan’s Corner packed the Westerly, R.I., Town Council  Chambers on Tuesday (Jan. 17) for a public hearing on the project.

Planning Board members listened to the neighbors for an hour and then continued the hearing to Feb. 21, saying it would give the residents time to hire a  lawyer and also allow additional comments, The Westerly Sun reported.

The proposed Ocean State RV Resort would be built on a 59-acre site at the intersection of Westerly Bradford Road, Bradford Road and Dunns Corners  Bradford Road. Plans by Exco, a limited liability corporation that includes Charlestown developer Larry LeBlanc, call for a 225-unit facility that would be open from May to October and generate more than $200,000 per year in local tax revenue. Westerly is in the extreme southwest corner of the state.

Park Model Opposition

Residents opposed to the plans raised several concerns, including what constitutes a recreational vehicle.

During the hearing, Eric Prive of DiPrete Engineering showed slides of sample “park trailers” that he said would be the main focus of the RV park. The campers, mounted on wheels, are considered to be recreational vehicles as defined by state law, he said.

Opponents asserted that the vehicles looked like the dwellings found in “trailer parks.” Residents said they feared that the resort would cause the value of their property to drop and also raised questions about increased traffic, noise, smoke from campfires, emergency access and the drain on the public water supply.

Prive said about 32 acres of the property would remain as open space. A driveway that gives access to the property would be widened from 12 to 24 feet. The gated facility would be monitored by security year round and would include tennis courts, a workout facility and a small store. All of the amenities would be restricted to use by owners of the recreational vehicles, Prive said.

In addition to conceptual approval from the planning board, the proposal also requires a special use permit for a campground from the zoning board and approval from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Transportation.

Joseph Lombardo, of JDL Enterprises, a planning firm hired by Exco, said that the project would provide a net tax revenue benefit of $212,000 per year to the town, based on the land’s assessed value of $3.4 million and the average value of the recreational vehicles.

Michael Lenihan, a real estate appraiser hired by Exco, said the park would not adversely affect the property values of neighbors. He pointed to the nearby Timber Creek RV Resort, a recreational vehicle park at 118 Dunns Corners Road, as a model, and said he was not aware of a drop in the value of property in that area.

The property proposed for Ocean State RV Park is in receivership, the state form of bankruptcy protection. Court-appointed receiver Mark Russo said two liens on the property total more than $6 million. As a result, Russo said, the property must be sold at a price that the court determines would be fair to the creditors.

“There are economic pressures to have some development take place there,” said Russo.

If the proposal is not approved, Russo said plans would likely be submitted for a subdivision. Prive said the property could be subdivided into 57 lots, of which about 14 would be designated as affordable housing.

Opposition Forms

About 50 residents opposed to the plan met at the Dunn’s Corners firehouse on Friday and formed a group they are calling the McGowan’s Corners Neighborhood Association to fight the plans.

Ernest J. Vacca Jr., president of the association, submitted a petition with 75 signatures of people who oppose the plan. He said the park would be a “significant and dramatic overuse of the property which would be inconsistent with the neighborhood. The addition of 225 seasonal visitors to the neighborhood would lead to excessive noise and traffic, and potential criminal activity.”

Vacca said residents of the area already put up with noise generated by the Timber Creek resort and asserted that the proposed park would reduce property values. Referring to the receivership process, he said, “It appears that we’re trying to cut corners in order to straighten out a monetary problem that someone else created, looking for the people of our area to take care of it.”

Ron Dickson, of 173 Dunns Corner Road, McGowan’s Corners Neighborhood Association vice president, said the proposal was not compatible with the neighborhood and said he would rather have homes built on the property.

Campbell Field, treasurer of the new neighborhood association and a town councilor, agreed.

“I think I would prefer 50 neighbors to 225 vacationers in my backyard,” Field said.

While the vehicles at the proposed park might meet the state definition of a recreational vehicle, Field said they would be considered mobile homes under town ordinance. He went on to say the proposal is akin to a mobile home park, which would not be permitted under town zoning regulations. He also questioned the applicant’s desire to secure a permit from the zoning board for a campground

“Now you can call this a campground, but what does a campground really mean? A campground doesn’t mean you put in permanent structures that people are going to be living in six months out of the year,” Field said.


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