Central Street project moves forward in N.S. following court ruling; MST files request for extension

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A map shows in green wetlands on the property where metal reclamation company Material Sampling Technologies hopes to expand its operations.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – A plan by Material Sampling Technology to erect a 23,600-square-foot warehouse on a currently vacant lot on Central Street is moving forward, following a ruling in Rhode Island Superior Court this month that vacated denial of requested variances for the project by the North Smithfield Zoning Board.

Town Planner Mark Carruolo said the business has applied for an extension of the master plan for the project submitted last year, which the Planning Board is now expected to take up in June.

MST’s new request comes following Providence County Superior Court Judge Melissa Darigan’s Tuesday, April 9 ruling that zoners unlawfully denied the business’s application for dimensional relief of a town ordinance requiring, “maximum setbacks,” for the proposed structure. Darigan noted that the state’s Zoning Enabling Act, which gives the town board its power, does not give municipalities the authority to establish maximum setback lines.

The ruling differentiated the town’s erroneous 70 foot maximum setback requirement from, “minimum setbacks,” which are commonly enforced.

It is unclear when North Smithfield’s now unenforceable language creating maximum setbacks was added to the town ordinance, but Carruolo noted it was a decision likely made long ago by a previous town council. Following the decision, “the town would not enforce that regulation today,” Carruolo explained, noting that officials are currently in the process of updating the town’s entire Code of Ordinances.

“We will take that decision and any other decisions related to zoning into consider,” he said of the ongoing update process.

The decision marked a win for MST, a precious metal reclamation business that aims to expand their current operations at 800 Central St. to an adjacent 9.7 acre vacant lot that the business purchased in 2021. Opponents of the project, who spoke at hearings prior to the zoning denial last November, noted the property holds forested wetlands, and expressed concerns about issues including well safety, lighting, traffic, quality of life and more. The vacant lot is situated in a mixed use zoning district, currently dominated by residential homes.

Zoners denied the business’s variance requests in a split 2-2 vote, which MST appealed in Superior Court under the name Tech Realty, LLC.

“At that point, the project was stopped,” Carruolo explained.

But the resulting decision means the proposed structure will no longer be required to go before the town zoners.

“The project is now allowed to proceed,” said Carruolo.

Residents concerned about the expansion, however, will still get another chance to weigh in. Carruolo noted that MST is now in the process of obtaining all of the required state permits, and must then go back before the Planning Board with a preliminary plan, a process that will trigger another public hearing.

“There could be conditions placed on the project at the preliminary stage,” he said.

First will come MST’s already filed request for an extension, which the planner noted the board will likely, “have to grant because of the extenuating circumstances,” created by a zoning denial that was ultimately deemed unlawful.

“They certainly have grounds for an extension,” Carruolo said of the business.

Any requested conditions or changes planners may seek once the preliminary plan is filed will also need to follow the letter of the law – or could run the risk of further litigation.

“They need to follow objective criteria,” said Carruolo of the future proceedings.

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4 COMMENTS

  1. I’m going to give you the answer. BS tactics. The TC and TA weighed in on this. The abutting neighbors: and a ‘zoner’ who abstained because it was in a protected area voiced their concerns. A real expert from the URI Ext on Water safety. EPA weighed in. A couple of the planning board members had no clue to what a GAA or aquifer was! Are they not supposed to be the town’s ‘experts’? The TC minds were already made up. The Planner Tom Kravitz even said he had “applications waiting” for the exemptions on the map to go through. FACT they were supposed to notify to abuttors of this by 1st Class mail on the MAP change. Mr Esovski alluded to the fact that is was “just a line” that caused this. Wow. And that line was and is STILL there, isn’t it? Mr. Kravitz knew the warehouse wouldn’t pass the 6.19 ordinance for a recycling center. So, let’s just make it exempt. There are a few people who know the real truth, and it’s sickening to see who’s lying. I guess we will have to remind them of what happened in the 70’s and 80’s when people fought for our aquifer.

  2. Maybe the Planning Board can figure out that a precious metal reclamation facility is a specialized recycling center and under the use table a recycling center is a prohibited use in a mixed use district.

    • Right on the MST site states: “We provide precious metals reclamation and recycling services to a broad range of industries, including:” It shows on the code table in 5.4.10. Industrial uses that Recycling is not allowed in a MU. However, I think they get around this by saying this new building would just be a warehouse. I would argue that this should still be considered part of a recycling operation and therefore not a permitted use of a MU2.

  3. I know things don’t get rolling on here till after 9, but I’m amazed nobody has asked “are they trying to build on wetlands?” “Why?” “Is that allowed?” Apparently DEM rules for wetlands has changed recently, and some programs sort of in progress have been informed of this. I can’t wait to see what’s allowed vs not allowed.

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