Spring Grove residents are excited about the former Benny’s at Wildes Corner becoming a Dave’s Marketplace, but they don’t want the traffic they believe a neighborhood access road would bring.
And Carpionato Group, that owns the 26.5-acre site, is prepared to keep the access closed provided the state approves another traffic signal on West Shore Road.
The City Planning Board heard nothing but praise for what is being billed as the best Dave’s in the state Wednesday night.
“We love, love Dave’s,” said Maureen McNamara of Spring Grove, who has coordinated the campaign to keep access from the dead end street to the former Benny’s site closed. Residents fear opening the road would make it a cut through to avoid Wildes Corner and increase neighborhood traffic, raising safety concerns for children and residents.
Kelly Coates, president of Carpionato Group that bought the 30 Benny’s sites when the Rhode Island chain closed, is agreeable to keeping the road closed on one condition. He told the zoning board under the terms of the lease with Dave’s, the company wants a traffic light on West Shore Road near the Taco Bell, and if it can’t get it then it wants the access road open.
That might be easy if it was up to the city; however, West Shore Road is a state road and the traffic plan as well as a traffic signal will need state DOT approval. Coates said the plan for storm water runoff from the site will also need Department of Environmental Management review and without those approvals the project couldn’t move forward.
As the petition for master plan approval came at the tail end of a lengthy Planning Board agenda, Coates met with neighbors in the vestibule to council chambers to hear their concerns and answer questions prior to the formal informational meeting. Noting he is a Warwick resident and shops at Dave’s, Coates promised the Wildes Corner Dave’s – located only a short distance from where Dave Cesario started the business from a fruit stand – “will be the best Dave’s.” He said the company would pour more than $5 million into renovating the store. He also promised to talk with the Salks of Salk’s Hardware at the head of Spring Grove and offer at Carpionato Group’s expense to curb the parking lot so as to reduce the use of the lot as a cut-through. Coates also agreed to the closure of the access to Spring Grove with the exception of pedestrian use and golf carts if the DOT approves the traffic signal.
McNamara handed out a thick packet to Planning Board members outlining arguments to keeping the access to the site closed and a petition signed by more than 60 neighbors. Standing with her were half a dozen neighbors who also welcomed Dave’s but urged that the access used by Star Market 30 years ago remain closed. The exception was Helen Maccrone, who has lived on Spring Grove for 62 years. She reasoned when her neighbors get to be her age – she is 86 – they’d welcome the convenience of the access. In voicing his concerns about the access, John Reiss added some levity to the meeting when he suggested the neighbors take up a collection and buy Maccrone a golf cart.
Other aspects of the development that include a 6,500-square foot-retail store next to Dave’s and new buildings on West Shore Road including a bank, restaurant and retail outlet; an access from the property owned by Frank Paolino where O’Reilly Auto Parts and Dollar General are located and the rezoning of residential land to the back of what would become Dave’s were hardly discussed. The access to the Paolino property was viewed as either a good or potentially bad thing. Access from the Paolino property, it was reasoned, would reduce traffic at Wildes Corner. On the other hand, it could turn into a cut-through.
No questions were raised about Carpionato’s request to rezone a good portion of the 26.5-acre site as open space. Coates said the request is being made to assuage concerns that at some future date the company would return with plans for a condominium development. Much of the land is wetlands.
The Planning Board voted unanimously to grant master plan approval. It also approved a provision that should the state approve a traffic signal on West Shore Road that the access to Spring Grove be closed with the exception of pedestrian traffic, golf cart and for emergency use.