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EXETER – Last week, the Exeter Town Council voted to continue a discussion surrounding a possible intervention in an appeal to the Preserve at Rolling Greens development, which is being constructed close to the town line.  

Over the summer, an appeal was filed by a North Kingstown resident to the Rhode Island Superior Court, requesting a reversal on the decision to move ahead with the Preserve at Rolling Greens development in North Kingstown. And at a previous Exeter Town Council meeting in October, councilor Frank DiGregorio made the motion for the town to intervene on the side of the appellant, though the council ultimately decided to table the matter until its November meeting, requesting more information on the matter.

At its November meeting, however, the council decided to continue the discussion item until its next meeting–the first that will take place following the Nov. 3 general election, when a new council made up of the top five vote-getters will be seated.

The Preserve at Rolling Greens is a major development that was proposed to be built off Ten Rod Road near the North Kingstown/Exeter line. The project has long been discussed, including a great deal of debate and even court battles. For over a decade, opponents in both North Kingstown and Exeter have been voicing their concerns about the large-scale, mixed-use proposal, which they argue is inappropriate for the compact village development (CVD) zoned area. However, proponents of the project have argued that the Preserve at Rolling Greens development would be beneficial for the town and bring in additional revenue.

After North Kingstown entered into a consent agreement with developer Mark Hawkins, it appeared that the project could move forward, though with amendments to the original proposal. The current iteration of the proposal, which was based on the agreement made with the North Kingstown Town Council, would allow Hawkins’ development company to construct up to 26,000 square feet of commercial space, with the expanded clubhouse excluded from the calculation. Up to 106 units containing 212 bedrooms would also be allowed, though the development will now be a 55 and older age-restricted community.

The project proceeded to move before the planning commission and zoning board for consideration, where both boards approved the preliminary plan for the development.

But in July of this year, Rickey Thompson, a North Kingstown resident, appealed the decision to North Kingstown Zoning Board of Appeals, which was denied, leading him to file yet another appeal, this time to the Superior Court. Thompson’s appeal states that the CVD ordinance was improperly amended by the planning commission, due to the consent agreement that was reached between the town council and Hawkins. Thompson claimed that the planning commission was under the impression that they had to approve the preliminary Preserve proposal, and amend the CVD ordinance to allow larger non-residential building coverage, as part of the consent agreement.

Thompson requested that the court reverse the decisions made by the zoning board.

And in October, DiGregorio made the case for Exeter intervening in the appeal on the side of Thompson.

“Exeter’s concerns and legitimate objections to the CVD ordinance and Preserve at Rolling Greens, as in the past, were recently dismissed, along with the objections of some North Kingstown residents,” DiGregorio said in October. “A North Kingstown resident has since filed an appeal to Superior Court for the preliminary plan approval by the North Kingstown Planning Commission. The Town of Exeter has a legitimate standing as an abutting municipality, with specific rights, in accordance with [state statute].”

At that meeting, town solicitor James Marusack explained that an intervention would first have to be granted by the court, which would involve writing a motion and memorandum in support of Thompson’s appeal. If the intervention were to be granted, there would most likely be an opportunity to place a brief before the court, outlining the town’s position against the development.

However, he went on to say that, if the council decided to move forward, he could not be sure how much it would cost the town or if the court would even allow it. Marusack also suggested that the town’s planning board solicitor, Peter Ruggiero, take the lead on the issue from a legal standpoint.  

During the October meeting, other council members requested more information about the matter before taking a vote. Councilor Dan Patterson, however, said he was against the intervention, adding that it was “North Kingstown’s problem, not Exeter’s.”

But at last week’s meeting–which took place the night before the election–DiGregorio said he would be making a motion to continue the discussion to the council’s December meeting.

“At the last council meeting, I withdrew my motion to seek an intervention on an appeal to the Superior Court for the preliminary plan approval by the North Kingstown Planning Commission for the Preserve at Rolling Greens,” DiGregorio said. “I withdrew my motion to request the wishes of the council members that requested more information and an assessment from our council and planning board solicitors before voting on this motion.”

DiGregorio said the issue should be taken up at the next town council meeting, when a new council was seated.

“Because this action is time sensitive, I suggest that the solicitors present their assessment following the election, at the next council meeting, when the new council is seated,” he said.

The item was moved to unfinished business and will be taken up again during the council’s next meeting. 

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