WOONSOCKET – A bid by Mayor Leo T. Fontaine’s administration to boost the city’s sagging business climate with the rezoning of two currently vacant parcels of land will be considered by the City Council Monday night.
The two roughly six-acre parcels, one running along the entrance of Highland Industrial Park and other at the now-cleared site of the former French Worsted Complex, were both recommended for rezoning by the Planning Board.
City Economic Development Director Matt Wojcik requested Council consideration of the rezoning during a recent council session while explaining that the move would help in the development of potential uses for the sites.
City Council President John F. Ward said the panel postponed action on the rezoning to allow for the Planning Board to consider its recommendation, a process that is now complete.
Ward said the French Worsted parcel is currently zoned I-1 (light industrial) and would be rezoned to MU-2 (mixed used, industrial/commercial) under the proposed ordinance.
The ordinance would also rezone the 5.9-acre parcel of vacant land at the entrance to Highland Industrial Park along Mendon Road and Park East Drive from its current R-2, (low density single-family) and PR-2 (passive recreation) to I-1 (light industrial). The rezoning does not include 15 residential house lots that are located between the Highland parcel and Mendon Road.
The largely unused and deteriorated French Worsted Mill complex was razed by its owner, Henry Vara of Boston, to better allow for its redevelopment as a shopping center and home to professional service businesses. The complex’s two large wool thread spinning buildings and several smaller supporting structures were all leveled by a Coventry Building & Wrecking demolition crew during the spring and summer, leaving only a single, tall smokestack looming over the industrial property.
The parcel off Park East Drive, listed for sale by ALLI Realty LLP, has also been cleared of trees and partially graded as part of its preparation for development.
Ward said he is not aware of a specific development proposal for the Highland site but believes it would be a use in keeping with the industrial park’s zoning and development guidelines.
Although the council will likely air the potential future uses of the properties during its consideration of the rezoning on Monday night, Ward said he expects that ultimately the panel will weigh in on the side of action in moving the projects forward.
“We can’t leave these parcels stuck in limbo,” Ward said as he predicted council support for the rezoning.