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Westerly’s Potter Hill Mill demolition order upheld

WESTERLY — The Rhode Island Building Code Standards Committee Board of Appeal has declined to overturn the town’s demolition order on the Potter Hill Mill property at 198 Potter Hill Road.

“They tabled a vote and upheld the town’s decision,” building official David Murphy told the town’s Building Code Board of Appeals Thursday night.

The decades-long saga of the deteriorating mill property is not yet over, however. Murphy told the town board that owner Edward Carapezza can appeal the state board’s decision to District Court.

Murphy said he hoped the attorneys for Carapezza and the town would work out an agreement, and he might have more information for the board at its Oct. 24 meeting.

Board members noted that the best option for the town is for Carapezza to do the work that the town requires. Members doubted the town would get reimbursed for the cost if it demolished the property, because the lien that would be put on the land would be less than the cost of the demolition, which Murphy estimated could be up to $500,000.

According to online records provided by Vision Government Solutions, the 4.55-acre property is appraised at $150,300.

Murphy said Carapezza has already done some cleanup on the property, a former thriving textile mill that is now a collection of deteriorating buildings.

“He has cleaned up the property from where it was before,” Murphy said.

However, some board members doubted Carapezza has done any meaningful work on the property.

Carapezza, who has owned the property since 1992, applied for a demolition permit earlier this year to destroy four wooden buildings on the property. Murphy described them as falling down, and said this was the area Carapezza had been cleaning.

Demolishing the dilapidated 19th century mill has been on the town’s agenda, on and off, since the early 1980s. In 2006, Carapezza presented plans to the town to turn the property into a mixed-use development with office space, an inn, a museum with a nonprofit science center, and affordable housing units.

The minutes from the Sept. 12 meeting of the Rhode Island Building Code Standards Committee Board of Appeal were not available as of Thursday evening.

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