Coventry Town Council votes unanimously against petition to amend residential lot to general business

COVENTRY — Taking into account the various concerns raised by neighbors of the property, the Coventry Town Council this week voted against a petition to amend the zone of a residential lot so that a business could move in.

Built in 1938, the home that sits on nearly an acre of land at 96 Tiogue Ave., Coventry has been owned for generations by the family of JoAnn Plante, the applicant for the zoning change. 

Plante, who recently inherited the property, has opted to sell it. It was a difficult decision to make, the retiree told councilors during a meeting late last year, but due to its costly upkeep she felt she had no choice.

During a planning commission meeting in September, Plante’s realtor argued that, because there are several businesses across the street, changing the zone of 96 Tiogue Avenue from residential to general business would “just make good sense.”

“For [Plante], for the lot, for a buyer, for the town of Coventry, it’s beneficial,” said John Vitkevich, who added that he would look for “low-impact businesses” to move into the property. 

Vitkevich said during this week’s council meeting that there’s a bank interested in moving onto the site. 

The planning commission ultimately voted last fall to recommend that the town council approve the petition to change the zone of the property from a residential designation to general business. 

Still, amid opposition from many of the property’s neighbors, the council was hesitant to do that.  

Nearly a dozen residents of both Coventry and West Warwick took the podium during a public hearing in December to share their concerns over how the zone change could affect their own homes.

Gina Dove, who lives on Hibiscus Lane, was among those to speak out against the zoning change. She voiced her concerns once again on Tuesday. 

“No, we don’t want a bank there, with drive-through 24/7,” said Dove, who noted that her property is located directly behind Plante’s. 

“Personally, we would just like to see it put on the market tomorrow… and have some wonderful new neighbors.”

Kevin Chamberland, who also lives on Hibiscus Lane, noted that if a business were to move onto the site, it would be the only non-residential building on that stretch of Tiogue Avenue — while the properties on the opposite side of the street are zoned commercial, those surrounding Plante’s home on the south side of Tiogue Avenue are residential.

“We’re staying in the community, the owner is leaving,” Chamberland added. “We would hope that you would weigh our opinion, as neighbors, higher than those that are leaving the community.”

Councilor Kimberly Shockley’s decision to vote against the zoning amendment was rooted in the fact that, since her election to the council in 2020, she’s frequently encountered issues involving residential and commercial properties that sit too close together. 

“In my time on council I’ve seen more problems with this kind of zoning change than solutions,” Shockley said, adding that she would likely also be opposed to changing the zone if it were currently zoned as commercial. 

Having spoken with several residents in the area, councilor Jennifer Ludwig said she too would be voting against the change. 

“I do respect personal property rights,” she said, “but in this case felt that the change to a commercial zone lies with the council, and not with the individual.”

The council’s vote to reject the petition to change the zone of 96 Tiogue Avenue from residential to general business was unanimous.

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