WESTERLY — The Planning Board on Tuesday gave its unanimous approval to a preliminary plan for the owner of the Sandy Shore Motel on Atlantic Avenue to build a third-floor restaurant with a retractable roof.
Motel owner Gene Arganese, the primary principal of Gene Properties LLC, said he hopes the 150-seat restaurant would be a new attraction for his business and Misquamicut in general. He said it would help him compete with other vacation destinations and potentially allow him to do business in the shoulder seasons on either side of the busy summer months.
Tuesday’s Planning Board vote came after a public hearing on the application that lasted about an hour and brought out concerns about traffic and congestion.
Member Christopher Lawler said that in June, July and August, there would be “quite a bit of additional foot traffic and vehicle traffic” with an 150-seat restaurant. Traffic on weekends now is high, he said.
Members of Arganese’s team said that the restaurant, like other beachfront businesses, would mainly draw from visitors already in the area. “We do not anticipate generating any substantial volume of traffic,” said Paul Bannon, senior project manager with the Beta Group Inc. engineering firm.
Lawler said, “If you have a restaurant that’s open at night, people may not be beachgoers, but they may want to go to the restaurant.”
Bannon said cars associated with the restaurant would be lost in the large volume of beach traffic during peak beach hours in the daytime.
“There’s nothing we can do to change that,” he said. “That is the seasonal condition down there.”
The business does have on-site parking and unobstructed driveways allowing for easy access, Bannon said.
Resident Marilyn Bellesheim, who lives on Winnapaug Road, also said traffic was a problem.
“The traffic has never been as bad as the past several summers,” she said. “All the side streets start backing up too, because people use GPS. When you get to Atlantic Avenue, nobody can go anywhere.”
Bellesheim also said people attending a function at the restaurant might balk at paying a fee at nearby private parking lots.
“I just can’t see more and more cars coming to Misquamicut,” she said.
The Planning Board approved the master plan for the work a year ago. That was followed by the Zoning Board’s approval in April of a variance to the municipal parking ordinance and an amendment to a special use permit to allow alcohol to be served. The Architectural Review Board also gave a favorable advisory opinion.