With the endorsement of the Planning Department and a positive vote from the Planning Board last Wednesday, Apponaug Waterfront Development LLC, the developer of a boutique hotel, moved a step closer to dramatically changing the look of Apponaug.
But more than a favorable recommendation for a City Council zone change is coming together for the developer of a six-story 127-room hotel on a four-acre site overlooking Greenwich Cove.
Raymond D’Abate reported last week that an agreement has been signed and the $20 million project will fly the Wyndham Hotels flag. With an entrance just east of the railroad underpass on West Shore Road, the hotel would contain meeting rooms, a ballroom and a spa.
The proposal has been vetted at two public hearings and during numerous meetings with city planners and the mayor. As a result of questions over traffic, size and esthetics, the hotel was reduced in size and its design altered to harmonize with the architecture of the village and surrounding homes.
Surprisingly, some of the most vocal critics of the development didn’t show up for the zoning board hearing. Meanwhile, the proposal gained fresh supporters, in addition to Derek Anderson, president of the Apponaug Improvement Association.
Anderson said traffic would always be an issue because of the two-lane railroad underpass and the lack of alternative east-west arteries in the city. But, he added, hotel traffic wouldn’t be going in and out constantly and with the Apponaug circulator, a $33 million village traffic enhancement project to be completed by 2017, he doesn’t see problems.
Assuming City Council approval, other permits and financing, hotel construction could be completed about the same time as the circulator.
“I think we’re going to find it works out well,” Anderson said.
Representative David Bennett added his support to the project, calling it, “A great boost to Apponaug.”
Robert Flaherty, attorney for the developer with K. Joseph Shekarchi, said the circulator would bring a change in traffic patterns.
“I’m sure the conditions that exist today won’t exist tomorrow. It’s [the circulator] two years away. It’s going to bring a massive change.”
Zoning Board members still had reservations.
In addition to a series of 18 stipulations recommended by the Planning Department, the board insisted on a peer review of the developer’s study saying a hotel would have minor impact on West Shore Road traffic.
City Planner William DePasquale had no problem with the added requirement as long as it won’t hold up the process to bring the matter to the council. The land is zoned light industrial and is presently occupied by a trucking company and a boat company. Boats are also stored on the property. The council would need to approve a general business zone and open space for the development to proceed. The open space would apply to the coastal property that would be left in its natural state and be accessible to the public from Station Street.
Stipulations recommended by the Planning Department include, among others, that the developer work with the state Department of Transportation to improve the sidewalk on the southern side of West Shore Road and under the railroad trestle “to provide a gateway and pedestrian access from the hotel site to the village.”
Among other requirements were that the developer provide a market analysis showing the need for additional hotel rooms; that the hotel hires a Warwick Police Detail for hotel events exceeding 100 persons; and that the preliminary plan include a plan from a registered Rhode Island landscape architect.
Of those present, the board granted unanimous approval of the proposal with stipulations as recommended by the Planning Department. No date for City Council consideration of the project was set as of Monday.