WESTERLY — The Planning Board is seeking a more detailed environmental study before it will consider the latest phase of plans for a proposed storage business on Ledward Avenue.
The board voted 6-1 on Tuesday to continue its deliberations on preliminary plan documents submitted on behalf of Quarry Hill Properties LLC, which is looking to construct a mini-storage facility at 61 Ledward Ave., the current site of Autoworks service garage.
The board made its decision after considering Town Engineer Kyle Zalaski's recommendation that Phase II and III environmental site assessments be performed. Contaminated soils were found on the site as part of an earlier study.
In a summary of Zalaski's findings provided to the board by Town Planner Nancy Letendre, she wrote that remediation of contaminated soils on the site would be "particularly important" given the proximity of the site to a pond and nearby wetlands, a previous exemption granted by the board from the Aquifer Protection Overlay District based on a revised boundary adopted by the state Department of Environmental Management, and the proposed "use of infiltration for stormwater management on the site, which could result in contaminants leaching into groundwater if not addressed."
"The initial limited investigation was not adequate to determine the degree and extent of contamination necessary for proper remedial action," Zalaski said in written comments to the municipal planning staff.
The plans call for demolition of an existing building on the 1.6-acre site and construction of 20,600 square feet of storage buildings with roof-mounted solar panels and a 600-square-foot office building containing a private bathroom for one employee. The Zoning Board of Review previously issued a special-use permit and dimensional variances for the project.
Anthony Nenna of On-Site Engineering Inc., which developed plans for the project for Quarry Hill Properties LLC., told the board that soil samples collected by Applied Environ-Tech Inc. of South Kingstown revealed "minor spillage areas with surface soil staining .... The [required] remediation is hand digging it, putting it in a 50-gallon barrel, and disposing of it." The expert who collected the samples "did extensive research through uses and abutters and found nothing that would trigger doing a Phase III," Nenna said. The contaminated samples were taken from an area where vehicles were stored on the property, Nenna said.
Nenna asked the board for conditional approval of the plans contingent on results of additional samples, but the board's lawyer, Scott Levesque, advised against conditional approval, saying the board's current preliminary plan review is intended to include complete studies and engineering plans.
"Preliminary plan is the point at which all engineering is supposed to be done. I'm very uncomfortable with this board kicking the engineering plans down the road," Levesque said.
Nenna then asked whether his client could simply take additional samples rather than initiating a Phase II assessment.
"Staff and the town engineer want a Phase II environmental report, not 'We'll do more sampling,'" Letendre said.
The board also discussed the project's landscaping plan and agreed to have Letendre ask the Zoning Board to permit 6-foot-tall trees as part of a vegetative buffer rather than the 12-foot-tall ones the zoning board requested.
Board member Joseph M. Montesano said he preferred granting conditional approval and voted against the motion to continue consideration of Quarry Hill Properties LLC's application. Board members Justin Hopkins, Richard Constantine, Christopher Lawlor, Andrew Delisio, Tabitha Harkin and Kevin Lowther voted in favor of the continuance motion.
In other business, the board granted a one-month-long continuance to Watch Hill Bay Views LLC for its plans to renovate 48-52 Bay St. The continuance was requested by Paul Azzinaro, the project architect, who said his client hoped to retain a lawyer for the project and that he was awaiting an opinion on the project's plans from the state Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission. The board's next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 19.
The board also granted a two-month-long continuance to November to Centrica Business Solutions, which is planning a 999.6-kilowatt, 1.44-acre ground-mounted solar energy system at 20 Frontage Road. William Nardone, a lawyer representing Centrica, said the applicant needed more time to obtain a report on the site's wildlife and plants. The board requested the report during its meeting in August.