Missed opportunity? Locals say former ‘Pines’ property should have been town’s multigenerational center

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Ready for building: The inside of the former Pines Restaurant has already been stripped down.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – With it’s extensive grounds, large kitchen, fully built parking lot and spacious interior, local advocates say the lot that once held The Pines Restaurant could have been converted into a new facility to serve North Smithfield’s older residents and others at minimal cost.

Instead, it may now be turned into a 62-unit housing complex under plans proposed by the new owner.

Following news last week of developer RPA Services, LLP’s proposal to build low to moderate income housing at 1204 Pound Hill Road, NRI NOW has learned that an initiative to purchase the lot was brought before the North Smithfield Town Council last year.

“It was the perfect pad-ready, site-ready spot,” said former Town Councilor Thomas McGee. “It was exactly what we needed.”

NRI NOW contacted McGee and others following up on rumors of the failed initiative. The site, which served as restaurant for decades, has been vacant since the The Pines abruptly closed in 2017. An investor who purchased the lot in 2019 with plans to re-establish a restaurant among the white pine trees for which the business was once named was sidelined by pandemic-related costs and delays, and the property went back on the market in 2023.

To McGee, a resident who previously served on the council himself, investment in the lot seemed like the perfect opportunity.

North Smithfield officials have long discussed creating a community center to serve the needs of town seniors and others, and have even secured grant money for the project in recent years. But two potential locations under consideration each have drawbacks, with limited space for expansion at one site known as Scouter’s Hall, and the costs to build something from scratch at the another – the former Halliwell Elementary School property – exceeding available funding.

“It was already built. The frame was done. It had all the electric. It had a kitchen and the whole inside had already been gutted,” said McGee. “It had plenty of land…plenty of parking… a pond. It had plenty of room for outside activities like pickleball, cornhole… everything.”

Last spring, McGee brought the idea to Councilor John Beauregard, who in turn brought it to Linda Thibault, a longtime advocate for the project to build a senior center and chairperson of the town’s Senior Advisory Committee.

“I thought it was a great idea,” said Thibault. “It’s a wonderful property.”

Beauregard, meanwhile, said he thought McGee’s idea was, “the best I’d heard in a long time.” The pair quickly scheduled a tour of the 7.5 acre property.

“It was perfect,” said Beauregard, noting the building had furniture that could be reused, and enough land to even provide local scouts space for camping. “It definitely needed work, but we have the $4 million grant. I left there pretty excited.”

At a Town Council meeting on Monday, April 3, McGee, Thibault and Beauregard presented the plan during executive session.

“The reaction was mixed,” Beauregard said. “They thought the price was a little high. I didn’t think so.”

Both men said they knew the property would sell quickly.

Thibault said that for her, the former Pines property brought back memories, such as the picnics that the owners of Slatersville Mill would once hold for their workers. Thibault also serves as chairperson of the town’s Multigenerational Advisory Committee, a group made up of both senior residents and scouts that’s been working to evaluate potential locations for a multi-generational facility. The two-floor former restaurant, she notes, could have been easily split between the two groups.

“From the very beginning, I’ve had all options open,” she said. “It’s a beautiful property with lots and lots of land. I was all on board with it.”

“I begged them to put a deposit on it,” said McGee.

More than two months later, on June 12, the council voted to make an offer for 1204 Pound Hill Road not to exceed $500,000. They would soon learned that Cranston-based RPA Services, LLP had just signed a purchase and sales agreement.

McGee said he thinks that the project that buyer has proposed is ill-suited for the site.

“It’s a terrible fit,” he said.

According to plans presented in a concept review last week, the developer hopes to convert the 7,441-square-foot former restaurant into 14 apartments, and also build three new, two-story structures on the lot, with two to hold 12 units, and one 24. The 62-unit, “Pines Apartments,” would feature a 116-space parking lot, with private wells and septic.

“I’m definitely against it,” said McGee. “The two big reasons to stop it are the water and sewer.”

“Without infrastructure, it shouldn’t be done,” McGee said, pointing to long-term concerns with pulling water from the ground in a historically polluted area.

The former councilor noted that all other major development projects in town in recent years have had to connect to the town water and sewer systems. He noted that if the complex is built, and water or sewer issues come up in the future, it will become the town’s problem.

“When they find out they need it, North Smithfield will have to do it on their dime,” he said.

For the group that once envisioned the land as a town resource, the situation now represents missed opportunity.

“If we would have been able to make a decision more quickly, things could have been very different for that neighborhood right now,” said Beauregard. “It could have been something. There’s no question that we waited too long.”

“It didn’t have to go like this,” McGee said. “They waited, and they missed out.”

The future location of the multigenerational center, meanwhile, remains uncertain. Thibault said that her committee is making good progress on evaluating the remaining options, with a study of the feasibility of the Scouter’s Hall property now underway. At Halliwell, she notes, she’s concerned about the cost.

Once all of the information is gathered, the board will make their recommendation to the Town Council for final review.

Thibault has frequently joked that if it comes down to it, she’ll build the center in her own back yard.

“This town needs a senior center, end of story,” Thibault said.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. It took me 5 minutes to scroll down past comments Not even remotely relevant to this thread. What you tube meeting was this (Pines) made for public comment? Which TC members said Not to buy and why? Did you think ‘ let some schmuck buy it, it’ll never pass planning.’

  2. The town may want a new police station, but it’s crucial to distinguish between wants and needs.

    Right now, what this town truly needs is a reality check. Before considering costly projects like a new police station, the focus should be on responsible budgeting and prioritizing the essentials. Residents shouldn’t be burdened with excessive taxes for unnecessary amenities. Cut the budget and save the money. We don’t want to foot the bill. Let’s redirect our efforts towards fiscal responsibility and ensuring that taxpayer dollars are allocated wisely.

    • I will respectfully disagreed with you and note that your words are nothing but empty rhetoric. The phrases such as affordable, fiscal responsibility, excessive etc. are subjective at best and subject to your opinion. Look at the surrounding towns around us, Smithfield, Lincoln, Cumberland, even Burriville are all improving. Our infrastructure is terrible and nonexistent at best, our buildings are falling apart and our roads are the worst they’ve ever been in 50+ years. But you’re right, let’s not spend any money and do anything.

      It’s time we elect officials that have a vision of prosperity and growth at a reasonable price with a future on increasing the business tax base to take the burden off the homeowner. The current do nothing Penny pinchers, kick the can down the road regime has to go!!!

      • Okay, let’s take your comment apart. With the police department, multi generational building, roads, and etc…, let’s not forget all the lawsuits the town is dealing with and future ones if the town doesn’t fix itself, if the budget doesn’t get fixed, how do you propose we fund everything? We’re lucky to have 2 new businesses come to town, but outside of that, we’re still down like 5 businesses currently from 2018 levels, if not worse. If the multi generational building was there, would the police building been brought up? If both had passed, would our roads suffer even more, or would that get approved too? Then the town would be paying how much more in taxes to cover everything? Comparing our town to others, is terrible thing, leads to unfilled campaign promises, which just leads to frustration after frustration and they still somehow get voted back in.

        If only there was a 3-5 year plan that had a list of priorities, so things didn’t come at a surprise to the town. Do we need a police station right now or does a select few WANT a new building for them. I think the 2023 election showed what the town thinks about that.

        The 2023 losses for a certain counciler still coming in 2024, that’s amazing. If I were him, running a relection campaign of almosts and what ifs, is a terrible platform and might need to change tactics. Don’t need to thank me for the free advice.

        • 2018 RRE tax rate $17.24
          2023 RRE tax rate $14.43

          I’d say some leaders are doing a good job managing this rate down!

  3. This town NEVER had a police station. YES it needs one. Not one retro fitted for a basement of town hall or in an old school. YES the police force and it’s station benefit all residents!!! Your thinking is Illogical.

    The town also needs a dedicated senior / community center. Not space in a scouts hall that models as a court in the day hours. Yes the town needs that too!

    The Pines property would have been perfect!!! Why wasn’t this put to public discussion? I’ll agree with you there!!

    When we need a new school, more police and more fire staff for the 62 units, we can suggest that we use the old town hall as the school and maybe the school buses as police, fire and rescue vehicles because the new ones needs won’t benefit all residents, just the new ones at the Pines.

    Middle school kids could run this town better. Shame on this current leadership who shoot down ideas out of political spite !! Out with Alves and Hamilton!!! What have they accomplished? NOTHING

    • I disagree 200% with your socialist beliefs. The other towns are worse because the tax rate and union thinking is killing the towns. It time to out the foolish spenders like John Beauregard, Paul Z, Gary E, and Clair O’Hara who think taxpayers should support everyone and everything including themselves. Which you call progress but is a waste of money. What has the $2M football field done for the town. Nothing but increase taxes. But what you fail to understand is were is the money going to come from. This is socialist thinking that is a slow death of the town and state. Just look at all the empty mills in RI that are gone due to the same socialist union thinking. A new police station will not improve law enforcement and a community center will yield very little benefit. The town can not even maintain roads and basic town services but you want all the bells a whistles.

      • Mike, maybe we the town should stop listening to your little white lies, Like the $2M Football field. It was not $2M and you know it and it wasn’t even funded with town collected taxpayer dollars.

        You have a knack for misleading people and distorting realities to align with your agenda of not spending any money on anything (as if the town coffers were your own)

        All the towns mentioned above have less RRE tax rate than ours. Again another lie. Lincoln has a higher rate but also has more of an infrastructure. I bet families in Lincoln aren’t shelling out money for well pumps or maintaining personal septics.

        No one is suggesting socialism. What you’re suggesting is just flat out lies and scare tactics!

        2023 RRE rates
        Cumberland – $11.62
        Burrillville – $14.39 (same for commercial)
        Smithfield – $13.72
        Lincoln – $16.49
        N. Smithfield – $14.43

        • I love reading comments of people with zero financial skills. First the tax rate going down in NS is due to revaluation and the value of property increasing. Actual spending and tax revenue has increased just under 4% each year. Just review anyone’s tax bill online and you will see the dollar increase every year. Gary E was a great administrator of raising taxes by 4% each year with no noticeable value or progress seen. Second you can not compare tax rates in other towns due to the average property values. For example average property values are higher in Cumberland and Lincoln than North Smithfield. Now Burrillville has twice the area to cover with a higher population and does it for less. Now the football field did cost $2M, the original field cost was $1M plus the redo of the turf that was suppose to last 25 but lasted half the time for another million for a total of $2M. I know math is not North Smithfield’s strong point and you talk about distortion the facts. You also missed the point of the football field comment so please tell me what value did the football field add. Another misleading fact in your comment is water and sewer, taxpayers in those towns pay a separate assessment for water and sewer not part of property taxes and if you look at the cost over a ten your period town water and sewer is far more expensive than a well and septic system because town services have your government union employees and pensions to fund.

          • So DT, whoever you are, for someone critiquing financial skills of others, it would be good if your information was correct. But since you advocate that it’s spending that matters, I guess you have no interest in recognizing that the rate of spending increases during my four years were substantially less than the six years before.

            • Gary, DT also goes by the name of Tom Balon, Kevin Mutto, Bob Simpson, among others. People who hide behind fake names don’t do so because they care about what’s true. They do so because they deal in what’s not.

                • It is interesting how some people are aware that the initials or names are made up, especially John. Now how could he be aware of that unless he has inside information? So if Sandy does not wish to reveal the person or persons behind this, John should. My guess would be that John knows the names of everyone posting, including FOJ’s (Friends of John,) using aliases.

                  • I will sound like a bit of a school marm here, but I have found that despite many requests, nearly all commenters here continue to make personal attacks. And so, we no longer waste time playing referee or trying to monitor the daily back and forth between two groups that have consistently attacked each other and failed to follow the rules. Those clearly trying to “impersonate” a well known local are banned, but otherwise anonymity is allowed, and obscenities are removed – but that’s it.
                    I would advise that those upset with the personal nature of the comments can request removal ONLY if they have not committed the same offense and directed their own comments by name repeatedly. (This is not directed at anyone in particular, but is general information for those wondering why some comments and commenters have remained.)

                    • Or said another way, don’t cry foul when you and or others on your “team” are guilty of the said foul?

                      Is that what you’re saying Sandy?

          • It appears someone has hit a nerve with Gary and John when they question the results of there leadership. Gary the comment from what I read does not mention past administrators but mentions your term and the increase in spending with not a great deal of progress to show. For example spending grew by $3.6M, absent of the school department, during your administration and the infrastructure has deteriorated. We also do not have a long term capital plan that Gary and John feel is a waste of time. This is so Gary and John can chose any major spending idea and justify the need without determining the affordability. Just note that when anyone chooses to be in politics all decisions will be criticized and you need to have tough skin.

            • I’m certain John can speak for himself, but no nerve problem for me BB. I just don’t like false information.
              As to comparisons, people here apparently don’t want to compare NS to other towns so I chose to compare NS to NS.
              Your comment that “spending grew by $3.6M, absent of the school department” is more of the same false information. Yes, spending grew in my term, as it always will given our form of government and the conditions set by actions at the state level. Not an excuse by the way. Just reminding that we live in a real world not some fantasy town that people make up. Spending in my tenure actually expanded by just over $4.2 million. For what ever reason if you really want to exclude school increases the number reduces to $2.2 million. But again, forgeting aout others and comparing to ourselves, during my administration the four year average was a 2.39% annual increase while the prior six year increase averaged 4.28%. Did our work reduce absolute spending? No. Did we change the rate of increase? Yes by almost 50%.
              Now let’s talk about infrastructure. With the cooperation of two town councils, I managed to start a program for funding two miles of road reconstruction every year and unlike the other previousl work on roads my recommendation was to do it without bonding. That program has continued to a point where near 25% of our roads have been repaired over the last ten years or so. Seven miles was bonded while another seven or so have been done in the annual budget. If that effort continues we will get all of our roads up to a reasonable level of service.
              We also reroofed the Memorial Town Building which had been leaking for years and we got the exterior painted which was in sorry condition. We also reroofed the fire station on St Paul St where a blue tarp had long been hanging over the radios and computers in the dispatch area to direct rainwater to a bucket. We also managed to replace the antiquated radio system in the fire department that regularly left our personnel out of touch when on duty in some parts of town. We extended a sewer line (again without bonding) into an area where bacteria was impacting stormwater and we extended a water line (2/3 of which was funded by a grant) to an area that had been wrestling with solvent impact in wells for 14 years prior to my taking office. Beyond that we set a program in place to replace fire and rescue vehicles which were in such a state that in late 2016 and early 2017 they were regularly being towed. That plan avoided upsets to annual budgets and I believe is still working today. Some will jump right in to comment about attention not paid to the annex building. To them I say, the building was scheduled for major renovation or replacement and a great team of people were working on that under the guidance of town councils. Immediate needs like pipe leaks, walkway repair, and asbestos matters that were brought to my attention were addressed. In my tenure we addressed many infrastructure problems that had developed over many years.
              Now go ahead, tear me and others apart with more false information. How about this time you don’t hide behind a pen name?

              • Gary not to speak for anyone else but I just looked at a schedule of actual spending produced recently by the current finance director and the $3.6M number is correct. If you use actual spending and not budget and you start with FY17 actual your first year to FY21 actual your last year you get $3.6M. Must be some North Smithfield math/finance in the fantasy town you spoke about. Second the road plan in no way meets the report done for the town a number of years ago unless you count Parkview drive. I just love avoiding all the pot holes when I drive on my street and other streets to the main road. Please note that my street and streets to the main road have not been touched in well over 35 years and maybe more. Once on the main state road for example Smithfield road I avoid the hole on the skim paving job and then avoid the pot holes in front of the police station. As far as the other items you mentioned that should be normal maintenance just like at my house when something breaks say a faucet or roof I fix the issue. Aka I do normal maintenance which is expected and take no credit for doing everyday maintenance. But I will give you credit for listing your accomplishments. It is a very good list.

                • Well David Pratt, or whoever you really are, here are the numbers starting with the 2017 budget which, as I hope you know, was created by my predecessor.
                  Council approved budget 2021 $46,727,061
                  Council approved budget 2017 $42,513,194
                  Total increase $ 4,213,867
                  Increased appropriation to schools in budget years 2017 to 2021 $ 1,972,084
                  Net increase in spending absent increased school appropriation $ 2,241,783
                  Those are the values stated online in the town’s financial records. I stand by my prior statement and go further by adding that since each of my four years ended with a surplus, I will argue that the use of actual spending information will show an overall increase in spending that is even less than the 2.39% overall average that I previously explained.
                  As to roadwork, how would you have the town meet it’s obligations? Are you advocating that we bond again so we can get seven miles of roadwork while paying for eight or more? Where were you during the budget process when I was arguing with town councils to raise the road reconstruction budget to reach $800,000 per year? The target of that program was to get the surface of every road in town to be less than 30 years old. I don’t recall any David Pratt, or anyone else who normally comments here for that matter, being present to support my effort. On Parkview Drive, I’m sure you won’t care, but paving was required by the sewer line extension.

                  • Everyone knows who “David Pratt” really is. Looks like they are adopting a practice of the current town councilor and former TA who openly admitted and defended the use of aliases to comment and “keep the conversation going”

      • Can you cite any kind of data to backup your claim that “The other towns are worse because the tax rate and union thinking is killing the towns.”? They don’t appear to be dying.

  4. What we need is a police station but that was squashed by the lies of the one and only Mike Clifford.

    • @john Marchand, I also strongly oppose the notion of a new police station. We don’t NEED it, nor does a new station directly benefit all residents. We NEED a senior center and this would have been the perfect site for a mixed use center. Shame on the people who decide what’s best for this town.

      I firmly believe that the town should have seized the opportunity to acquire this property for a community center. It’s disheartening to witness such a pristine property slip away due to poor decision-making. The potential for development on this site was boundless—it could have housed amenities like a town pool, courts, hiking trails, and even a new site for Camp Phoenix, benefiting both seniors and youth alike. It’s infuriating that despite McGee’s proposal, the town failed to recognize the value of this opportunity. The prospect of a new housing project as a result is deeply disappointing. This town’s backward approach to decision-making is truly sickening.
      Why wasn’t this put out to residents to decide? Maybe I missed the memo.
      What an incredibly STUPID decision made by the town.

      • All residents benefit from the services the police provide. How would all benefit from a senior center or community center?

        Also, the property is a cleared sandy lot with a handful of big pines so hiking trails are out and its level with a pond & stream so a pool is out, and we already have multiple basketball & tennis courts. Its unclear why buying this place would have made any difference compared to Halliwell.

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