A shower at a convenience store? That’s a stretch, zoning board says

A shower at a convenience store? That’s a stretch, zoning board says

Record-Journal

HOPKINTON — The Zoning Board grappled with mixed use permit issues Thursday as it continued to review testimony from the public hearing on a proposal by Love’s Travel Stops & Country Stores of Oklahoma to build a truck stop off I-95 at Exit 1.

Board members also questioned whether former Building Official Brad Ward erred in signing certifications for the uses that Love’s requested.

In 2008, Love’s proposed a 24-hour facility on an 18-acre parcel owned by the Gingerella family of Westerly. The project would comprise a 10,800-square-foot building containing a convenience store, gift shop, a small restaurant, 145 parking spaces and fueling stations for cars and trucks.

The town’s planning and zoning boards rejected the proposal but Love’s sued, asserting that the Planning Board had exceeded its jurisdiction, and later, in an appeal, that the Zoning Board had wrongly upheld the Planning Board’s decision.

In March 2014, Superior Court Justice Melanie Wilk Thunberg found for Love’s, allowing the case to go back to the Zoning Board.

In January 2015, the Zoning Board began new hearings on the case.

At Thursday’s hearing, board members questioned whether a number of uses that Love’s had requested for the property — including a convenience store, gasoline station, and gift shop, plus showers, a truck scale, underground fuel storage and overnight truck parking — could be permitted simultaneously.

Board member Jonathan Ure said the town had some allowable mixed uses, but that combining them did not follow the zoning code.

Under this line of reasoning, for example, showers could not be combined with a gift shop.

“It doesn’t say that you can just make your own mixed use and put them together,” he said.

“It’s not the size of this project, it’s all the uses jammed into a steroid version of a convenience store.”

On-site showers for truckers were a major sticking point for several board members.

“The individual uses are OK, but it’s the overnight trucking and the showers — that smacks of a truck stop,” said the board chairman, Philip Scalise. “For some point for me it doesn’t fit.”

Board members also discussed whether Ward had used good judgment in signing separate permits allowing uses for the site that they said were not allowable when combined.

Ure said that it was “an abuse of his discretion” because “he knew it was multiples being put into one project.”

Board member Ronnie Sposato asserted that Ward was required to issue the individual certificates.

Scalise said that Ward should have asked if the certificates were all going to one site.

“He could have said any one of these would be OK, but not all together,” Scalise said.

“He thought he was doing the right thing — he wasn’t in a vacuum, he knew what the whole project was, he clearly knew and he probably shouldn’t have signed them.”

Sposato said the board cannot assume what Ward knew.

“We didn’t ask so we can’t put words in his mouth,” he said.

The hearing was continued to Jan. 19.

Opponents of the project include the Hopkinton Conservation Commission, the Hopkinton Historical Association, the Wood Pawcatuck Watershed Association, and several neighboring homeowners.

chewitt@thewesterlysun.com


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