standing Charlestown Town Hall

CHARLESTOWN — At a public information meeting Wednesday on a master plan for a 30,000-square foot self-storage facility on Route 1, members of the Planning Commission and residents heard a presentation of the plan and continued to express concerns about the proposal.

Storage Place LLC is proposing to build a five-unit facility on property purchased from Charlestown Willows Inc. The project, which would be built on 2.7 acres in a flood zone, calls for elevating the site by 1 foot at the road and by 6 feet at the rear of the lot where it slopes to the water. Fill would be trucked to the site.

Lead project engineer Sergio Cherenzia said a permit for the fill would have to be issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and a stormwater permit would be needed from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.

All runoff, he stressed, would be collected and held on-site, and wastewater from the facility would be negligible.

“This will require a septic system,” he said. “We have received a letter from the Rhode Island DEM onsite wastewater treatment section that we can use an alternative technology here that will not require us to put any water into the ground  from wastewater. It’s what’s known as an incinerator toilet. We plan on applying for one, and it basically incinerates all the waste and you can just throw it in the trash and it’s taken away with the regular trash.”

Wednesday's hearing was continued from Jan. 24, after Town Planner Jane Weidman determined that the property lies entirely within the Groundwater Protection District and is therefore subject to additional regulations which will require revisions to the site plan. The additional measures include the prohibition of floor drains; a detailed environmental impact statement; proof that contaminants would not enter the groundwater; and protection of a minimum of 20 percent of the parcel as open space.

Attorney Steven Surdut, representing the developer, said his client was still in the process of addressing the additional standards required in a groundwater protection district and did not yet have the necessary information. 

“We are not going to discuss the entirety of the application,” he said. “As the board knows, we recently were informed that the town is suggesting that we are in a groundwater protection overlay district and we had to do additional studies and bring on additional professionals to meet those requirements. We are still waiting for those documents to be compiled.”

Several commission members expressed concerns about the potential of damage to the aquifer, which supplies drinking water to about 40 households that are downhill from the proposed facility.

Despite assurances from Surdut that there would be a list of prohibited materials that could not be stored in the units, commissioner Sherry Krupka said she was skeptical about the ability of the business to monitor all the materials that would be stored there.

“I guess my point isn’t what you don’t allow, it’s that you can’t monitor that really effectively,” she said. 

“Unless you’re inspecting people who bring things in,” added Lewis Johnson, who chairs the commission.

The commission has received several letters and emails from residents and groups urging them to reject the application. Opponents describe as the proposal as incompatible with the 2002 State Scenic Roadway designation of that section of Route 1.

A memo to Weidman from members of the Route 1 Scenic Roadway Committee stated that the proposal was "not compatible with the goals and values of a Scenic Roadway and could even lead to the revocation of its designation, along with the additional protections and funding which that designation confers."

Russel Fisher, a resident of the Foster Cove neighborhood, which lies below the proposed development, was one of several homeowners who were eager to voice their concerns. Fisher said that without a complete application, it was impossible to understand the proposal as a whole, but he provided a list of issues that he felt were important to address.

“Being in a flood plain and the protected groundwater area zone, those are big concerns of ours,” he said. “We have 40-plus residents there that all have wells, and anything that would have potential to damage the aquifers that support our wells is a big concern of ours … We are also very concerned about the ability to monitor and control what is in the storage facility. I have a storage facility that I use, and I can tell you, they have no idea what I have in that.”

The hearing will continue at a later date, once the developer has completed the additional environmental studies.

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