SOUTH KINGSTOWN – The South Kingstown Zoning Board approved a special use permit and variance to allow Bank Rhode Island to construct a drive through window and allow two parking spaces between the building and front property line at its proposed site at 290 Main St. in Wakefield.
John Kenyon, attorney for the applicant, BankRI, appeared before the zoning board with a team of experts Wednesday, including Eric Prive, project engineer with DiPrete Engineering, John Carter, landscape architect, Rod Topolewski, architect, Paul Bannon, traffic engineer, and Steve Parente, senior vice president in charge of retail banking at BankRI.
Each expert presented testimony to the zoning board on the project, even though the zoning board was only charged with approving the drive through window and the two parking spaces.
In June, the South Kingstown Planning Board approved BankRI’s draft development plan with 16 conditions, to all of which the BankRI team agreed.
The building, which is proposed to be two stories at 2,350 square feet per story, will be located across from Arnold Lumber in what is currently a vacant lot.
To enter and exit the bank, which will have three drive through lanes, patrons will turn off Main Street and utilize Blanchard Place, which caused concern among some residents.
Les Thompson and Roger Smith own Industrial Marine Marketing located at 28 Blanchard Place. They expressed concern that the presence of the bank would increase traffic on the already narrow roadway.
Eric Prive said the road is 22 feet wide and the town requested a 10-foot strip on Blanchard Place, which may be used for widening the road.
Paul Bannon said he conducted a traffic study last August.
According to the study, Bannon said the bank would not generate much traffic, especially since it’s not open 24 hours. He said expecting 60 customers in an hour would be high. He added that based upon the traffic signal and the density of pedestrian traffic in the area, vehicle speeds are often less than the posted 25 miles per hour.
“This is the only time I’ve seen a traffic report where the actual speed is less than the speed limit,” Attorney John Kenyon said.
Smith and Thompson argued that there is more vehicular traffic than Bannon claims and that traffic on Main Street is often chaotic.
“Blanchard Place does not generate any traffic from an engineering perspective,” he said.
The zoning board accepted Bannon’s opinion.
“They’ll work this out,” said Robert Cagnetta, zoning board member. “This isn’t a Dunkin’ Donuts. Like you said, it’s low volume.”
Robert Toth, zoning board vice chairman, reminded the members and the audience that the BankRI team was only before the board for the drive through window and the parking spaces and the development plan was already approved by the planning board.
“I share a lot of your opinions on Main Street,” Toth said. “But we have to focus on what they want to do. The bank is going to happen, though traffic is relevant.”
Ultimately, the zoning board approved the special use permit and variance for the drive through window and parking spots, agreeing that the plan for the entire project was “well put together.”
“The building is going to be nice and the architecture will be sound, it conforms to the rest of the buildings in town,” said John Bernardo, zoning board member. “I don’t know how you can have a bank nowadays without a drive through, I use my drive through almost every day.”
Bernardo said he heard the residents on the traffic issue but deferred to the opinion of the traffic engineer.
“I’m not so sure he spent enough time on Blanchard, but I have to defer to his opinion,” Bernardo said.
Igor Runge, zoning board member, said the BankRI plan was preferable to the plan for retail stores and offices proposed several years ago.
“This is going to be a lot less impact traffic wise, really,” Runge said. “It’s really well thought out and they spent many months on the application.”
Board member Stephanie Osborn agreed with the others.
Toth also said the bank was the preferable type of development for the location.
“Assuming the site had to be developed, the bank is probably the least intensive use we could hope for there,” he said. “The idea of retail and office, it would be a mess down there.”
The board approved the application by a vote of 5-0.