CHARLESTOWN — After withdrawing a proposal to build a self storage facility on property next to the Charlestown Willows motel on Route 1, the developer is returning to the Planning Commission on Wednesday with a proposal for a similar facility further down the road.
Storage Place LLC has applied to the commission for development approval of a self storage facility at 5677 Post Road. The parcel, which is about five acres, is the site of a former miniature golf course and would be demolished and replaced with six single-story storage buildings, according to the plan. The property is in a “C3” or commercial zone, and the total number of storage units is expected to be about 300.
Planning Commission Chair Ruth Platner said commission members were concerned with the visual screening of the facility, particularly since that section of Route 1 is a state-designated scenic roadway.
“At our pre-application meetings, we have emphasized screening it as much as possible,” she said. “Where they are not screened, making the buildings look like other buildings in the area, which includes the Quonnie Grange.”
Commission member Francis Topping said the developer appeared to be listening to the commissioners’ concerns regarding the appearance of the storage buildings.
“They really seem to have taken note from when they were on the other side, when they wanted to build near The Willows, of the exterior appearance and the landscaping,” she said. “I think they realize that that’s a major thing with us.”
Topping also noted that she would encourage the use of native plant species, which would benefit the entire ecosystem.
"It’s not just birds and even the small other wildlife that are there but the insects, the soil organisms — everything interacts with each other and they’ve evolved together,” she said. “The more we lose that stuff as we clear land, the more these decline and the whole web of life breaks down in those areas. It’s not apparent, but it’s happening. That’s why I think putting in native species for this area, for the right place, is very important.”
Another concern is the possibility of leaks or spills of substances in the storage units that would contaminate the ground water.
“Containment, so that anything that is put in the storage units isn’t going to get in the groundwater,” Platner said. “Make them have a list of things that can’t go in the units to protect the ground water — nothing toxic or anything like that.”
The previous application was complicated by that property’s location in a floodplain. The new proposed site is on the other side of the highway at a higher elevation.
“They have now moved to the other side of the road and higher elevation and they are fully not in any floodplain,” Platner said. “At seven feet of sea level rise - I think that’s projected to be 80 years in the future, they would still not be in the floodplain, so they have tried to escape that issue.”
The original proposed location would have posed a threat to groundwater, Platner said.
“Being in the floodplain was a real problem, because it would mean that no matter what their containment strategy would have been or is, that if there’s a hurricane, whatever was in those storage containers would be in the groundwater.”
The site fails under the Coastal Resources Management Council’s Special Area Management Plan, or SAMP, which oversees the management of the salt ponds.
“It’s in the SAMP, so the issue is what goes into the ground and what could get to the pond, so that would be CRMC’s interest, I believe,” Platner said.
The project is permitted by right in the commercial zone, but Topping said the developer was making an effort to respond to the commissioners’ concerns.
“They are trying to follow the regulations and be cooperative in that sense, which not all developers do,” she said. “We can only make it look a little better and make sure the groundwater is preserved by having them have stringent mitigation procedures and rules on what goes in there.”
The remote meeting will take place on Wednesday. Information on how to watch the meeting is at http://charlestownri.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=14&ID=1854&Inline=True.