WOONSOCKET – Members of the City Council accepted the recommendations of local planning officials and voted unanimously Monday night to modify proposed rezoning of two vacant parcels.
The council agreed to amend the rezoning of approximately six acres at the entrance to Highland Industrial Park so that it will now fall under city requirements for design review and also limit the use options allowed under its proposed I-1 (light industrial) zoning.
In a separate unanimous decision, the seven-member panel amended its pending rezoning of the former French Worsted Mill complex off Hamlet Avenue and Davison Street from an initially approved C-2 commercial designation to a less intense commercial use as a C-1 designation. Both zoning decisions will be back before the Council at its next regular meeting for second and final passage.
The action on Highland Industrial Park came after Scott Gibbs, president of the Economic Development Foundation of Rhode Island, asked the Council to consider the Planning Board’s recommendation that a design review stipulation be applied to the planned land use change.
While not opposing the rezoning itself, Gibbs suggested that the design review requirement should be considered to maintain the city’s involvement in future development of the vacant property abutting its premiere office and industrial park.
The need to obtain design review approval from the Planning Board will give the city a say on the suitability of a proposed use to the rest of the park, according to Gibbs, a long-time participant in Highland’s development.
“We want to make sure the city has a right to get involved in it,” Gibbs said of the potential development of the site.
The land, located behind several residential properties along Mendon Road and running to the Highland entrance, is currently zoned R-2 (low density single family) and PR-2 (passive recreation).
While debating the change Monday night in Harris Hall, members of the Council heard City Planner Jennifer Siciliano recommend that stipulations limiting the site’s future use to corporate offices, wholesale commercial use and research and development facilities be included in the rezoning.
“The Planning Board went through all the allowed uses and felt those were appropriate for the area,” Siciliano said.
City Council Robert Moreau asked that an option for a manufacturing use also be included, given the importance of the industrial park to the city’s overall economy. Matt Wojcik, director of economic development, said he’d also recommend that addition and the panel subsequently amended the rezoning to include the use stipulations as well as the requirement for design review before granting it first passage.
The rezoning of the former French Worsted site is being sought to allow supermarket use in the redevelopment plan but Siciliano and Wojcik suggested the C-2 designation might allow a larger commercial property, such as a so-called “big box” store, than would be suitable for a site across the street from the city’s middle school complex.
A C-1 zone could allow a smaller supermarket to be located on the site through the creation of a use ordinance, according to Siciliano.
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