atrubia@ricentral.com

NORTH KINGSTOWN – Earlier this summer, Rickey Thompson, a current candidate for the North Kingstown Town Council, filed an appeal to the Washington County Superior Court, requesting reversals on recent decisions made by the town’s zoning board and planning commission related to the proposed Preserve at Rolling Greens. Thompson cited improper procedure in regards to zoning amendments, among other allegations, as the reasons behind the appeal.

On top of requested reversals, Thompson is also asking the court that his attorney fees be paid by the Town of North Kingstown.

The Preserve at Rolling Greens, a major development proposed to be built off Ten Rod Road, has been a long discussed project in town, including a great deal of debate and even court battles. For more than a decade, opponents 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. Proponents for the project, on the other hand, said that the Preserve at Rolling Greens would be beneficial for the town and bring in additional revenue.

However, after the town entered into a consent agreement last year with the proposed 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 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 development would also include the existing Rolling Greens Golf Course.

The zoning map was also amended, allowing the proposed project to go forward in a CVD zoning district.  The CVD sets the overall percentage of nonresidential to residential building coverage, however, with the amendments, the development proposal for the Preserve at Rolling Greens would no longer be in violation of the zoning ordinance.

After the town council was able to reach an agreement with Hawkins, and avoid a $10 million lawsuit, the project then moved before the planning commission and zoning board for consideration. Both boards approved the preliminary plan for the development.

But the development hit another snag in July, after Thompson went on to appeal the decision to the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which was denied, leading him to file yet another appeal, this time to the Superior Court.

According to Thompson’s appeal to the Superior Court, he is the owner of property within 200 feet of the proposed development project. His appeal also names members of the zoning board, planning board and town council individually.

Thompson’s appeal states that the CVD ordinance was improperly amended by the planning commission, due to the consent agreement that was reached last year 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.

His appeal goes on to say that the agreement between Hawkins and the town council did not include a ratio of non-residential to residential building coverage. He also alleged that the planning board was told they had no alternative but to approve the application, with all of the requirements of the consent agreement.

Other allegations include the planning commission “erroneously” finding that the non-residential coverage did not include the golf clubhouse, and that the commission violated the open meetings act, among several more.

Specifically, Thompson appealed the preliminary plan approval of the Preserve proposal, requesting that the court reverse the decisions made by the zoning board. He also requested that the court enter a judgement in favor of his appeal, and that North Kingstown award attorney fees for its “prosecution” of this complaint.

The appeal goes on to allege that the town council was not authorized to enter into a settlement agreement with Hawkins, which “essentially purported to change zoning without required notice and public hearings.”

“The planning commission should not have relied on the terms of the Consent Agreement in considering and deciding [Hawkins’] application for preliminary review,” the appeal states.

Thompson also said that, based on “statements of various planning board members, it appears that there were discussions outside of the public meeting, which amounted to a violation of the Open Meetings Act.”

Because of this, Thompson requested that the court declare the planning commission’s approval of the preliminary plan for the Preserve as “null and void.”

Thompson did not immediately return a request for comment.

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