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North Smithfield council to weigh Dowling open space purchase Monday

August 16, 2013

NORTH SMITHFIELD – A long-standing question as to what will happen to a still-undeveloped parcel of land bordering the Dowling Village commercial development off Eddie Dowling Highway could be answered on Monday with the help of a $400,000 open space grant from the Department of Environmental Management.
The Town Council will consider the acquisition of a 40-acre parcel of land at Dowling Village using the state grant and another $525,000 in available local open space preservation funding when it meets Monday evening in the Kendall-Dean School cafeteria.
Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton indicated on Friday that the Town Council is ready to move ahead to complete the purchase of land for the $925,000 in total open space funding.
The acquisition from the parcel’s current owner, RAM Investors, would include the Booth Pond area bordering Dowling Village that has long been sought for protection from future development, according to Hamilton.
The site had earlier been proposed for housing development under the overall development plan for Dowling Village, and most recently considered as a site for a wind power project.
The council will also be considering the acquisition of another 2.5 acres from RAM Investment Associates under a separate transaction for $60,000 that would retain its potential for use as a future wind turbine site providing energy to Dowling Village.
Albert G. Brien, a Woonsocket City Council member and principal in RAM Investment Associates, LLC, the owner of the 42 acres involved in the proposals, said Friday that the land’s sale to the town would permanently remove the option for future real estate development of the site.
The area is zoned by North Smithfield for up to 76 residential units, and also for use for the site of a wind turbine, Brien said.
“This acquisition is intended to extinguish the development rights for the 40 acres,” Brien said. “The possibility of 76 residential units being developed there would be eliminated,” he said.
The separation of the 2.5-acre parcel for a future wind turbine site would also provide the town with royalty revenues once a turbine is located there that would help fund local debt service on its open space bond funding, according to Brien.
The wind turbine site would be located within the 40 acres at the highest point of the land and also be serviced by an easement road granted under the agreements, according to Brien.
The total 42 acres includes the southern portion of the Booth Pond area, which has been identified as the second-largest habit for dragon flies and damsel flies in Rhode Island, Brien said.
The property is still densely forested with numerous ledge outcroppings, and as such is worthy of conservation and preservation, according to Brien.
“I think the consensus in town is very favorable toward this, and I am optimistic that it will pass,” Brien said.
The proposal has been worked out with the help of Robert Erickson, town planner, Hamilton, Caroly Shumway of the Valley Alliance for Smart Grown, and members of the town Conservation Commission including Ruth Pacheco, according to Brien.
“They are really the ones who worked out this project,” he said. Brien said RAM Investment Associates also includes Robert Cece of Stoddard, N.H., and Michael Macera of Phoenix, Ariz., as principals.
The wind turbine project could be pursued through an agreement with DV Wind LLC, a company owned by Dowling Village developer Brian Bucci and Mark Depasquale of Site Resources, Dowling Village’s site development contractor that is also on the agenda for Monday’s meeting.
Bucci on Friday said he has no objection to the acquisition of the land once proposed for housing development near Dowling Village and noted that it also represents a good opportunity for the town.
“It is an environmentally sensitive area that they probably want to protect from future development,” he said.
The award of state open space money to assist with the acquisition was another positive factor, according to Bucci.
“They got a grant from DEM to buy it where the town only has to come up with half the money,” he said.

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