January 12, 2017 03:12PM
By Cynthia Drummond
Sun staff writer
RICHMOND — After a public hearing Tuesday, the Planning Board approved a revised plan for an affordable-housing complex on West Shannock Road.
Because of a high degree of interest in the proposed project, particularly among Shannock residents, the hearing was moved from Town Hall to the large conference room at the H.L. Arnold Fire and Public Safety Complex in Carolina.
Dubbed Richmond Ridge, the project received master-plan approval from the Planning Board in Jan. 2016. The nonprofit Women’s Development Corp., which is building the complex, was requesting approval on the preliminary plan so it could then apply for tax credits from Rhode Island Housing before a Jan. 27 deadline.
Richmond Ridge will consist of 32 low- and moderate-income residences on a 62-acre parcel. Drinking water will be supplied by the Shannock Water District, and a solar array covering approximately 35,000 square feet will generate the electricity for the complex. The onsite waste-water treatment system will include nitrogen treatment.
The Women’s Development Corp. has been trying to build the project for about a decade. The first designs for the project, which was then known as Altamonte Ridge, called for 53 low- to moderate-income units built on 33 lots. Shannock residents worried that the project might fail because of its rural location with no access to services or public transportation. Others worried about light pollution, impervious surfaces, and the possibility that the units would not sell.
Residents listened politely on Tuesday as Paul Attemann of the Providence Architectural firm Union Studio presented the new, more compact design, consisting of just eight buildings and a large conservation area, which will remain as open space.
“We, in the last year, have worked on this in detail with a lot of engineering coming to light, and we began to understand some of the constraints of the site a little bit more, and we also heard some of the concerns of the public and the board at the master plan approval,” he said.
The result of the reconfiguration is a more compact development with fewer units and more open space.
“The building footprints were reduced by consolidating the units,” Attemann said. “We went from 14 buildings to eight.”
Dean Harrison, the Women’s Development Corp. Director of Real Estate, answered questions from the board and the audience about the management of the complex. One of the most frequently-mentioned concerns was whether the four washers and four dryers would be sufficient.
“We brought this up at the last hearing,” board member Philip Damicis said. “ One of the issues is, there really is no place else close by. You can’t go to the laundromat.”
Harrison said more machines could be added if necessary.
“If it’s not sufficient, we’ll hear from the residents,” he said.
Shannock resident Sanford Neuchatz asked whether there was a way to determine that the project would be financially viable before approving the preliminary plan. Citing the failing Rockville Mill affordable-housing project in Hopkinton, Neuchatz said he didn’t want the same thing to happen at Richmond Ridge.
“The owner of that property is in some foreign land now, they can’t locate him. The management has broken down, and tenants aren’t paying rent. In any project, tenants don’t pay rent and projects get into trouble and management breaks down. Just keep that in mind,” he said.
“I don’t think the Planning Board can speculate on how something’s going to be managed,” Damicis replied.
The board voted unanimously to approve the preliminary plan. The Women’s Development Corp. expects to complete the project in approximately a year and a half.