NORTH KINGSTOWN – Two housing developments, one the re-purposing of the shuttered school on Academy Cove, moved closer to beginning the public hearing portion of their application process.
Tuesday night, the North Kingstown Planning Commission presented recommendations and updates the developers will need to do as they move forward.
No public hearing dates have been set as of yet, but commission members think the two developers will be back next month with the changes they have been asked to make.
The more ambitious of the two projects is a plan by Wickford Schoolhouse LLC, who will be seeking approval to convert the former school on Academy Cove into 39 condos.
The old school has gone through a lot of changes since the first one on the site was constructed in the early 1900s; it burned down in 1907. In 1908, the town turned away from wooden structures and the school was rebuilt using brick. Additions were hung on the sides of the building in 1930 and 1948 and then it was vacated because it was no longer needed a number of years ago.
Various plans for what to do with the structure have been floated over the years, but none moved forward until the current plan, to convert it into one and two bedroom condos.
In addition to re-purposing the school, the developer also owns land across the street where a colonial era home, and a garage are located. Both those structures will be moved back onto the lot.
The developer also owns land across Phillips Street, the Olde Theater site, on which 18 more condos are proposed.
Members appeared put off by a proposal to possibly put an additional building on site that could include 15 more condos, and asked that it be removed from the plan. That proposal would have been good for 10 years, if the developer did not submit plans to the additional condos within that time period, the land would revert to the condo association.
“I will not support this, if the possible future development is not removed from the plan,” said commission member Paul Dion.
Commission chair James Grundy agreed with Dion and told the applicant the possible 15-unit plan must be off the map before the next meeting.
“I’m not comfortable blessing something that is not laid out,” Grundy said, adding that all the overall site plan shows is a note and not proposed plans.
The second applicant, Wickford Junction LLC., who wants to build a 152 unit apartment building, some of which will be for low income, on land off Post Road in near the train station.
A parking garage will be built for residents’ vehicles, but will require a height variance. Town law permits a building height of 38 feet, and the applicant is proposing a 50-foot structure.
The additional height is needed so HVAC equipment can be placed on the building’s roof, and the developer will also install solar panels on the roof.
No one is really sure what the building will look like, because, according to the developer’s attorney Peter Ruggiero, the architect has yet to design the building.
Resident Richard Thompson said there is concern the building will look like “a shoebox.”
He was told that would not happen because under town law, the proposed building must have New England style architectural elements, so it’s more in keeping with other buildings in the town.
Commission members said they like the preliminary plan because the land has been sitting vacant, and Patrick Roach, vice chair says “This is not a residential area and is a good use for the site, and will bring revenue into the town.”
The commission has yet to schedule follow-up meetings with Wickford Schoolhouse or Wickford Junction, but both the commission and the developers believe they will probably be held in the early part of February.