Dozens of residents opposed to a recreational vehicle resort that would feature park model trailers packed the Westerly, R.I., Town Council chambers on Tuesday (Jan. 17) for a public hearing on the project.
According to a report by the Westerly Sun, Planning Board members listened to the neighbors for an hour and then continued the hearing to Feb. 21, saying it would give the residents time to hire a lawyer and also allow additional comments.
The proposed Ocean State RV Resort would be built on a 59-acre site in Westerly. Plans by Exco, a limited liability corporation that includes Charlestown developer Larry LeBlanc, call for a 225-unit facility that would be open from May to October and generate more than $200,000 per year in local tax revenue.
Residents opposed to the plans raised several concerns, including what constitutes a recreational vehicle.
During the hearing, Eric Prive of DiPrete Engineering showed slides of sample park models that he said would be the main focus of the RV park. The campers, mounted on wheels, are considered to be recreational vehicles as defined by state law, he said.
Opponents asserted that the vehicles looked like the dwellings found in “trailer parks.” Residents said they feared that the resort would cause the value of their property to drop and also raised questions about increased traffic, noise, smoke from campfires, emergency access and the drain on the public water supply.
Prive said about 32 acres of the property would remain as open space. A driveway that gives access to the property would be widened from 12 to 24 feet. The gated facility would be monitored by security year round and would include tennis courts, a workout facility and a small store. All of the amenities would be restricted to use by owners of the recreational vehicles, Prive said.
In addition to conceptual approval from the Planning Board, the proposal also requires a special use permit for a campground from the Zoning Board and approval from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Protection and the state Department of Transportation.
Joseph Lombardo, of JDL Enterprises, a planning firm hired by Exco, said that the project would provide a net tax revenue benefit of $212,000 per year to the town, based on the land’s assessed value of $3.4 million and the average value of the recreational vehicles.
Michael Lenihan, a real estate appraiser hired by Exco, said the park would not adversely affect the property values of neighbors. He pointed to the nearby Timber Creek RV Resort, a recreational vehicle park, as a model, and said he was not aware of a drop in the value of property in that area.
The property proposed for Ocean State RV Park is in receivership, the state form of bankruptcy protection. Court-appointed receiver Mark Russo said two liens on the property total more than $6 million. As a result, Russo said, the property must be sold at a price that the court determines would be fair to the creditors.
“There are economic pressures to have some development take place there,” said Russo, who is also serving as special master in The Westerly Hospital receivership case.
If the proposal is not approved, Russo said plans would likely be submitted for a subdivision. Prive said the property could be subdivided into 57 lots, of which about 14 would be designated as affordable housing.
About 50 residents opposed to the plan met at the Dunn’s Corners firehouse on Friday and formed a group they are calling the McGowan’s Corners Neighborhood Association to fight the plans.