By GRACE KELLY/ecoRI News staff
WARWICK, R.I. — Would you give the thumbs up to a 541,000-square-foot warehouse in your backyard?
At a recent Warwick Planning Board meeting, NorthPoint Development attempted to sell the idea on a Wednesday night Zoom call full of wary residents and board members.
The Kansas City-based applicant specializes in industrial and commercial real-estate projects and boasts more than 365 industrial clients, with more than 107 million square feet developed and managed since 2012.
The Warwick project, which would be off Airport Road and Commerce Drive, would be a massive warehouse and distribution facility with 116 loading bays, 124 trailers, and 404 parking spots. There is no tenant for the space at this time.
Kelly Coates, president of the Carpionato Group and owner of the land, attempted to assuage fears of increased traffic, environmental degradation, and general warehouse activity.
“I can assure you that this phenomenal partner we have in NorthPoint, which is the second-largest owner of industrial property in the United States, they know what’s going to be required to do this project,” he said during the Feb. 10 meeting. “We have a history of getting projects approved, and it’s done the right way.”
But online attendees questioned the promises made, particularly when it comes to the wetland adjacent to the property.
“I’m very concerned about the impacts that this facility will have on the natural resources in that area,” board member Valerie Bataille said. “The footprint on this to me is way too large for the location. The comprehensive plan has us protect natural systems and sensitive water resources and natural habitat for future generations, and I don’t see this facility doing that.”
One member of the public, Alisa Richardson, said she was a former supervising engineer at the stormwater and wetlands division at the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and felt that the stormwater basin size proposed was inadequate.
“My comment is that the footprint of this is absolutely enormous,” she said. “I’ve seen thousands of plans come before me and maybe this developer is a national developer, but I just want to give you guys a heads-up that Rhode Island’s stormwater regulations are very different than others around the country. You could probably count on 15 percent of stormwater basin size to building size, to impervious cover, and boy that doesn’t look like 15 percent to me.”
NorthPoint is also currently battling a group of concerned residents in Edgerton, Mo., where the company is proposing a 640-acre development. There, residents scored a win when the Edgerton Planning Board recommended rejecting all of NorthPoint’s applications in relation to the proposal.
But in Warwick, the proposal is still in its nascent stages, and Planning Board member Phil Slocum urged everyone on the call to remember that nothing is set in stone.
“We’re at what we refer to as a master plan phase, which is super high level, sky-view vision of this project,” Slocum said. “There’s a lot of engineering and a lot of work left to be done on this project, and if something were to come out at the other end … it might look quite a bit different than this at the end of the day.”