It’s in early stages, but Planning Board OKs concept of roof-top restaurant at Misquamicut

It’s in early stages, but Planning Board OKs concept of roof-top restaurant at Misquamicut


Sandy Shore Motel owner Gene Arganese wants to add a glass-enclosed third floor to his Atlantic Avenue inn. Courtesy of Gene Arganese

WESTERLY — The Planning Board offered unanimous approval to conceptual plans for the addition of an enclosed roof-top restaurant at the Sandy Shore motel Tuesday and issued a favorable opinion on the property owner’s anticipated need for a variance to the town’s parking ordinance.

Gene Arganese, who owns the Atlantic Avenue property, wants to build a 4,500-square-foot restaurant with a retractable roof that would be built atop the existing motel. The new space would include a bar, kitchen, and restrooms.

The 150-seat facility would provide a means to increase revenue without increasing room rates, a move Arganese said would put him at a competitive disadvantage in the vacation market. He also hopes to host weddings and other events and thereby extend into the “shoulder season” by being open in early spring and late fall.

As a condition of approving the master plan, the board asked Arganese to seek a variance to the parking regulations and to appear before the Architectural Review Board before returning to the Planning Board for a public hearing and review of preliminary plans, which will be more detailed and include information on engineering and storm resistance.

In June the board and Town Planner Jason Parker raised questions about whether the project would trigger the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s 50 percent, or substantial improvement, rule. Under the rule, property owners who plan renovations that would cost equal to half or more of the building’s value must bring the building into compliance with current building and flood code standards.

William Nardone, Arganese’s lawyer on the project, reviewed the 50 percent rule findings with the board during its Sept. 19 meeting. Nardone also reviewed the findings of an appraiser hired by Arganese. The appraiser, Norman Benedict of Guilford, determined the value of the motel building to be $3.1 million to $4.6 million. And, Nardone said, experts hired by Arganese estimated construction costs at $850,000. Arganese’s appraisal contrasts with that of Vision Government Services, which performs aspects of the town’s property appraisal process. Vision lists the motel’s appraised value of the entire property at about $1.8 million with the land valued at about $1 million and the building at $809,900. Benedict said Vision erroneously assumed commercial land has a higher value in coastal areas and overlooked the importance of existing buildings being grandfathered under zoning, building, and flood regulations.

Nardone noted that even with Building Official David Murphy’s estimated construction cost of $1 million, the project would be under the 50 percent rule threshold.

Parker had also raised a concern about the motel’s use of space on the ground level and whether it complies with zoning and building code regulations. During the Sept. 19 meeting Nardone said the first floor use is grandfathered and will not have to change since the project will not trigger the 50 percent rule.

Arganese has applied to the Zoning Office for a zoning certificate stating how many parking spaces the town considers the facility to have and how many it will need. Arganese needs the information before applying to the Zoning Board of Review for a variance from the regulations.

Arganese told the board he is confident there is adequate parking for his patrons, noting the abundance of parking lots in Misquamicut.

Proposed landscaping improvements will be submitted to the Architectural Review Board, Nardone said.

The state Coastal Resources Management Council confirmed the proposed work area is outside of the protected 50-foot buffer from the nearest coastal feature and as a result Arganese’s plans will likely require only an administrative assent.

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