Warren mill developers need zoning help

mill

millThe would-be developers of the American Tourister complex will be back before the town next week looking for a host of variances and special use permits for their large residential, commercial and office development in north Warren.

Principals of Tourister Mill LLC hope to turn the former Warren Manufacturing Co. mill into a development consisting of nearly 300 apartment units and as much as 94,000 square feet of office and commercial space. And while the Warren Planning Board has already given Master Plan approval to the project and will review it at least twice more, the Warren Zoning Board will meet for the first time Wednesday, May 21, to discuss several crucial requests.

First, developers need three special use permits to develop the property; such permits are needed as a matter of course for any similar type of construction in the mill’s zone. The variances are a different story. The plan for the old mill deviates from Warren zoning ordinances in six areas, and developers are looking for the following:

* A variance from dimensional requirements for construction in the waterfront zone.

* A variance is being sought to exempt the project from a section of the ordinance that prohibits nonconforming structures (like the mill) that lie in special flood hazard areas from being enlarged or expanded.

* Another variance would allow buildings to be set closer than 200 feet from a floodway (the Warren River).

* Developers are looking for a variance on the number of off street parking spaces. In all, zoning codes would require 892 parking spaces at the development; developers are looking to install 733 spaces.

* A variance is being sought for the ordinance’s parking lot requirements, which require one “island” for every eight parking spaces. The amount of parking lot to be landscaped is also at issue.

* Finally, the developers seek a reduction in the total number of loading spaces/docks required.

Even after the zoning board considers the application, there are several other layers of town review. The planning board must grant the project preliminary and final plan approval, and the building official must give the project a permit. Outside of Warren, there are several issues as well, including the developers reaching a final deal with the State of Rhode Island over tax credits. The developers recently got word that they’ll be granted $5 million in historic tax credits to help fund the project; however, the deal with the state has not yet been signed. Approvals for parts of the project will also be needed from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and state Coastal Resources and Management Council (CRMC).

The plan is to complete the project in two phases. The first would included approximately 200 apartment units in the main mill building, while the second would see an additional 100 or so apartment built in a new structure that would rise on the site of the current metal-roofed warehouse at the south of the property.

The zoning board will meet Wednesday, May 21, in the Warren Town Council chambers, second floor of Warren Town Hall. Meeting starts at 7 p.m.

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2 Comments

  1. morganleigh said:

    Why is Warren so intent on turning prime real estate property into 200 apartment units as oppose to developing upscale condos that would increase the town’s tax base? Won’t those apartment units have the potential of adding even more students to an almost-at-capacity Hugh Cole Elementary School and increasing Warren’s cost to the district’s funding formula? Warren is a beautiful little town with great potential for a wonderful future. The key word here is “potential.” The opportunities are there for those with a vision.

  2. Wil DeGelt said:

    I think they should convert this property into “affordable housing units”.
    People will need a place to live after Warren goes bankrupt.

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