Tiverton's Bayview Condos need new hearing

Approved 20-plus years ago, project needs to meet updated DEM rules

By Bruce Burdett
Posted 3/25/21

TIVERTON — The Tiverton Planning Board approved Bayview Condominiums after lengthy hearings over 20 years ago, and now the board will have to start that process at least partly anew.

Located …

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Tiverton's Bayview Condos need new hearing

Approved 20-plus years ago, project needs to meet updated DEM rules

Posted

TIVERTON — The Tiverton Planning Board approved Bayview Condominiums after lengthy hearings over 20 years ago, and now the board will have to start that process at least partly anew.

Located uphill and across Main Road from Lil’ Bear Sports Lounge, and north of Souza Road, the 52 condominiums and ten buildings were given the go-ahead by the board back in 2008 but were never built. Most of the land is zoned residential (R-60) but a lot along the west side (fronting Main Road) is zoned commercial.

In the meantime, representatives of developer Northborough Realty Holdings told the board last Tuesday, March 2, that the state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) has changed its stormwater regulations. And that, they said, required changing the project’s stormwater system design — challenging work for a sloped property where water flows west toward Main Road and eventually Mount Hope Bay.

Their new plan won EM approval recently, said Northborough spokesman Mark Russo. He asked that the Planning Board consider this a “minor” rather than a “major” plan change — if the planners view this is a major change, the process would require a partial restart complete with neighbor notifications and public hearings.

The board rejected that request, voting unanimously that this amounts to a major change to the plan approved back in 2008.

Board member Stuart Hardy agreed that the change is major but asked for clarification on what a start-over entails.

Am I correct that the changes relate to stormwater — “You’re not making changes to anything else? There are still 52 units, nine buildings with a tenth building used as a community center, two tennis courts, a playground ...  We will not open up a can of worms and open up the traffic, for example, or any other issues, design standards, landscaping?” he asked Town Solicitor Michael Marabello.

“Yes, I believe you will be limited to these issues,” the solicitor replied, although because this involves two lots and a combined use, some of the other issues may come up. “Do I think you start from scratch? Absolutely not.”

‘Complicated’ drainage

“Stormwater management is a bit more difficult (at this location) than on a noirmal site,” engineer Todd Greene told the board.

The topography and slope are “challenging,” the soil is very silty so doesn’t lend well to water infiltration, there is a high water table, and shallow bedrock, all of which contribute to runoff, he said.

The driveway winds up the hill with “switchbacks,” he said.

The original plan called for several above-ground detention ponds to hold runoff, along with an underground water storage area in the property’s commercial lot alongside Main Road. Overflow from that would be directed to state drainage on Main Road.

Since that design was created, Mr. Greene said several changes to state regulations rendered the plan unusuable.

The state now requires that the development hold and treat more water before it is allowed off-site, he said. And the state has also set more stringent restrictions on runoff into Mount Hope Bay which is considered an “impaired waterway” by DEM.
That meant replacing the underground stormwater storage area with a much larger above-ground detention pond that will cover 70 percent of the commercially zoned lot, Mr. Greene said. The redrawn runoff pond is meant to be capable of holding runoff up to the volume of a “hundred year storm.” That area, with its water holding depression, will be planted with grass shrubs and will be fenced.
Minor or major change?

Mr. Russo argued that alterations to the drainage design amount to a minor change and shouldn’t require the applicant to go through an all-new hearing process.

“The problem we have is that minor changes were never defined” in Tiverton’s ordinance, he said.

Eighteen other Rhode Island towns that did provide definitions determined that changes to a plan required by RI DEM are to be considered minor.

“My client has had vested approval since 2008 and it’s time to move forward with the project,” Mr. Russo said. 

Town Planner Jennifer Siciliano, though, said she believes the changes are major.

Among other things, she said the new plan will require merging the two lots (the one zoned commercial with the residential lot) since zoning forbids sending a development’s stormwater from one lot to another.

Board Chairwoman Susan Gill agreed.

She said the minutes of hearings leading up to the 2008 approval noted that the commercial lot was to be occupied by a bank, a couple of retail shops, parking, and a small stormwater system. Now that lot is to be entirely devoted to stormwater control.

It was proposed as commercial/residential, she said, and they now propose that it be entirely residential.

“Also, the visibility of this along Main Road is another reason to allow for the public to comment. It would impact a commercial” property.

“I do agree that this is a major change,” Mr. Hardy said. “As much as I hate to see it come back. I believe that there are all sorts of problematic issues related to this project.”

Board member Peter Bramante asked, “Is there a statute of limitations? This plan is over 20 years old.”

Solicitor Marabello said that, despite its age, the project is still very much alive.

“The applicant is clearly within his rights. The project has not become stale because it has been inactive.”

The solicitor said the applicant has the right to appeal the board’s decision or otherwise can begin begin the hearing process.

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