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Richmond opening communications with Copar officials

RICHMOND — With Copar Quarries of Westerly doing extensive blasting and grading work at the site of the Richmond Commons development, and Copar president and CEO Sam Cocopard announcing his intention to buy the property, Richmond officials want to make sure that all work done on the site complies with the plans approved by the town.

Town Council President B. Joseph Reddish announced at the Tuesday council meeting that he and Town Administrator Robert Rock had met Oct.8 with Cocopard and John Aiello Jr., the current owner of the Richmond Commons property. Reddish said he had requested the meeting.

“It was pursuant to wanting to know who the person was that was working on the property, so that we have an understanding what their expectations are and what our expectations are,” Reddish said. He added that there was little discussion at the meeting of Cocopard’s announcement on Sept. 27 that he intended to exercise an option to buy the 294-acre property for $12 million.

“We did talk about that, and they have not signed any documents at that point in time when we had our discussion. He does have the option to buy that,” he said.

Under the terms of Copar’s lease with Aiello’s company, Richmond Realty Associates, Copar can purchase the property in the seventh month of the lease, from Oct. 12 to Nov. 12. If it does buy the property during that time, Copar must pay $3 million to Richmond Realty, which would hold the mortgage for the remaining $9 million.

Richmond Commons, the largest project in the history of the town, and one of the largest in the state, is a mixed use development which, when completed, will have 399 residential units and 700,000 square feet of commercial space. Aiello has donated 49 acres to the town for a recreation center and to be preserved as open space.

Aiello has expressed a desire to sell the property to a large national developer who would bring the project to fruition. But before any construction can begin, extensive blasting and grading are necessary to level the land. Copar is removing stone that is not needed on site and selling it elsewhere.

Copar’s quarry in Bradford has drawn complaints from nearby homeowners in Westerly and Charlestown and provoked a considerable amount of litigation, but Reddish has stated repeatedly that the Richmond Commons site, approved by the town as a mixed use development, will remain as such regardless of who owns the property.

“We understand the importance of open communications and addressing any challenges that may be happening here or in other towns so that we’re clear. I don’t like to be blindsided,” Reddish said. “There’s a set of approved zoning plans and a plan that’s been approved by the planning board and the zoning board and by the Town Council for that property. That is what they’ll be adhering to.”

Reddish said he has asked Rock to meet regularly with Copar officials. His first meeting will be with Sam Cocopard on Friday at Town Hall.

Rock said, “I am going to meet with Copar officials, biweekly at the very least, just to keep updated on what’s going on at Richmond Commons from their perspective. As the president has made very clear, Richmond Commons is zoned and is planned to be Richmond Commons. It’s not as if anyone can come in and change it without going through the proper channels.”

Reddish said, “We’re going to deal with Copar and Mr. Aiello, Richmond Realty, as a Richmond project. If they get out of line, and at this point in time they have not done anything to be out of line with the town of Richmond or violating any rules in the town of Richmond, but if they do, we’ll be watching.”

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