NEWS

Mayor hears plea to save vacant Hillsgrove lot

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 4/1/21

By JOHN HOWELL It's a neighborhood sandwiched between one of the city's busiest intersections, the airport and Amtrak. Yet Mayor Frank Picozzi was told Friday afternoon it can be extraordinarily quiet in the evenings. Area homeowners want to keep it that

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NEWS

Mayor hears plea to save vacant Hillsgrove lot

Posted

It’s a neighborhood sandwiched between one of the city’s busiest intersections, the airport and Amtrak.

Yet Mayor Frank Picozzi was told Friday afternoon it can be extraordinarily quiet in the evenings. Area homeowners want to keep it that way and preserve the single bit of open space they have – an open lot behind what was the “old Carvel Ice Cream” and once the site of four single-family homes.

But the residents fear a different future for the land, which was sold in auction by the Department of Transportation to David Corsetti of DNC Holdings LLC for a bid of $400,000.

Cleared of homes because they were in the airport’s high-noise contour, the land can’t revert to residential use even though it is zoned for that purpose. Corsetti, who bought the “old Carvel” for $950,000 a year ago, must obtain a zone change for the land if he’s to use it as part of a new development. Corsetti hasn’t disclosed a potential tenant for the site, but a reliable source said a bank has been mentioned.

Attorney John Mancini, who represents Corsetti, said Monday there are no plans for either of the properties at this time.

In yet another twist to the story, while Corsetti’s $400,000 bid was the only one and seemingly he owns the property, the sale won’t be finalized until the land is rezoned. Corselli could walk away from the deal – just what neighbors would love to see happen – if the City Council refuses to go along with a rezoning. On the other hand, if Corsetti doesn’t get council approval to use all or some of the vacant parcel, he’s stuck with a narrow strip on Post Road that, despite terrific visibility, has notoriously poor access and parking.

Knowing the odds, key players seeking to save the vacant lot, Dennis Paolucci and Kim Ouimette, are of the mind that the developer has some kind of inside track to gain the necessary zoning for the land. Why else would he have spent almost $1 million on the “old Carvel” and pledged to come up with an additional $400,000 for land that can’t be developed as currently zoned?

Picozzi, accompanied by Dan Geagan of the Planning Department, did a lot of listening Friday. For nearly an hour, they heard of the issues the neighborhood faced when “Carvel” was a rough and tumble bar, when 18-wheelers cut through the neighborhood bringing down overhead wires, and when they found needles and bottles from overnight activity on the lot. (They still find needles in the vacant lot, and last week there were two car fires in the Carvel parking lot.)

Ouimette sees a bigger issue. She questions how the airport can dictate the rezoning of residential land it has cleared of houses for business and commercial uses. She argues this will change the character of Warwick.

Indeed, as Geagan explained, the city has urged the airport to sell excess property, especially along Post Road, so as to return it to the tax rolls and promote good development.

Does this include Carvel?

Picozzi offers no preferred outcome for Carvel or the lot behind it. He made it clear he can’t prejudice the case or taint the process. But he promised the process will be followed to the letter, and depending when Corsetti submits an application to rezone, that could take more than a year.

land, Carvel

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