SMITHFIELD – Preliminary plans for the Smithfield Village, a 27-building residential and commercial development on the corner of Esmond Street and Route 44, will go back to the Planning Board with stipulations after the Board of Appeals last week reversed the Planning Board’s earlier denial based on traffic and safety concerns.

The Smithfield Zoning Board, sitting as the Board of Appeals, unanimously decided at its March 27 meeting that the Smithfield Village, a Churchill & Banks development, should return to the Planning Board for further review on the expected traffic impacts.

Despite multiple peer-reviewed traffic studies, the Planning Board denied preliminary plan approval last November because members felt there was not enough data on numerous traffic issues on Route 44.

Speaking on behalf of Churchill & Banks, attorney Joelle Rocha said the basis for the Planning Board denial was limited and would be addressed by the developer. She said the developer will “completely reconfigure” the entrance on Esmond Street off Route 44, widening the road and adding left turning lane onto the street.

Rocha said the Rhode Island Department of Transportation proposed adding a solid white line on Route 44 to prevent east-bound vehicles from “weaving” left into the development and the stage agency has also discussed the possibility of adding a traffic light to the intersection.

“RIDOT has the ultimate approval,” she said.

The Board of Appeals remanded the plans back to the Planning Board, stipulating that the developer and Planning Board work with RIDOT to find solutions for the traffic problems facing Smithfield Village.

Stipulations handed down last week include:

• Further review of the traffic impact to abutters, specifically across the street at 270 Putnam Pike;

• An assessment of traffic mitigation either a year out or at full occupancy, and an agreement to complete any necessary work RIDOT requests;

• Addressing the weave from the Route 295 northbound off-ramps onto Route 44 to Esmond Street, and the removal of the center lane;

All parties involved will meet within 60 days to collaborate on possible solutions and discuss traffic mitigation options.
Route 44 is a state road, and the RIDOT has jurisdiction over and maintains the road.

Board of Appeals Chairman James Busam said it seemed to him that the Planning Board, developer and RIDOT did not work together well, and ignored each other’s points. He said by getting together to cooperate in a meeting, he believes a solution for the traffic issues can be found.

Board Member Edward Civito said 60 days should be plenty of time to finally figure out a Smithfield Village plan first proposed some 17 years ago.

“I have a lot of faith in the DOT. They review a lot of complex issues in projects and they’ve always made it work,” he said.

Proposed along a busy section of Route 44, the 27-acre development would have 27 buildings for commercial and residential use, including 124 residential units, 25 of which will be low-income housing.

The 60 days will begin after the decision is drafted and adopted at the April 24 Zoning Board meeting. Town Planner Michael Phillips said once stipulations are met, he will need two weeks to advertise for a public hearing for Smithfield Village before it appears on the agenda.