2018-12-06 / Front Page

Cranston-Calvert Plan Sent to City Council

By James Merolla


The conversion of the 33,000 square-foot Cranston-Calvert School into a 34-unit apartment building is being executed by BCM Realty Partners of Newport. (Renderings by 2 Hands Studio and Herk Works Architecture) The conversion of the 33,000 square-foot Cranston-Calvert School into a 34-unit apartment building is being executed by BCM Realty Partners of Newport. (Renderings by 2 Hands Studio and Herk Works Architecture) The Planning Board has unanimously forwarded a recommendation to the City Council to transform the former Cranston-Calvert School into affordable apartments.

Under the proposal, the school would be converted into 22 one-bedroom and 12 two-bedroom units, with 64 parking spaces, 51 of which would be accessed from Bartlett Court, through Broadway.

Under current zoning regulations, the 50,000-square-foot property and the 30,000-square-foot building allow for 19 three-bedroom units, with 38 parking spaces. Current zoning requires two spaces per unit.

“It is our position that this fits right into the goals of the Comprehensive Plan,” attorney Peter Regan said, representing the developer, Newport Project Development Co., LLC. “Parking is the number one issue (with) traffic. There is a great need for more housing, to house those people who will fill the newly created jobs.”

The board wants rezoning to be applied more broadly to be consistent with the city’s Comprehensive

Plan if it applied to other city-owned properties.

“We want young professionals here,” board member Liam Barry said. “We need one-bedroom housing, we need apartments, we’d like to see it across the city. I like the language associated with change, but not spot zoning for just one location.”

Spot zoning is defined as the placing of a small area of land in a different zone from that of neighboring property. For example, because it serves a useful purpose to neighborhood residents, a park might be granted a zoning exception and be allowed in a strictly residential area.

Regan argued that unless the zoning is changed to fit the specific language regarding the Cranston Calvert plan, it would not be compliant with the Comprehensive Plan.

“We are pleased they like the plan,” he said. “Based on discussions with the city, the rezoning petition applied specifically to the Cranston-Calvert property and we put together a detailed development plan, so that everyone would know exactly what would happen to the site if the rezoning was approved. I’m not sure that a one-size-fits-all approach would work for different properties located in different neighborhoods with different concerns. We’re hoping that the City Council agrees with our approach.”

In addition to increasing the number of housing units, ideally for employees of Newport businesses and year-round residents, the plan would also repurpose an existing building and expand the economic tax base, putting a tax-exempt property back on the tax rolls.

“There is no incentive for developers to construct one-bedroom apartments, which the city desperately needs. I like that aspect of it,” said Barry.

Chair Melissa Pattavina, while calling it a “great project,” voiced concern over the language in the zoning code.

“It would be very difficult to get relief from the Zoning Board without this change,” Regan said.

Four abutters spoke out against the plan, one stating it was designed to bypass the Zoning Board of Review, and would further exacerbate limited parking and increase traffic.

“This needs as much careful internal scrutiny as it can get,” abutter Mary Jo Carr said. “To bypass the scrutiny of the Zoning Board, I think, would be a monumental mistake.”

Regan predicted that the project would not be approved without a change in the zoning code. “If it doesn’t change, 19 three-bedroom luxury condos will be built and bought as second homes. And you are not going to have places for people to live who work here,” he warned.

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