Johnston Planning Board approves initial plans for retail distribution site

Though some of the initial hurdles were cleared, officials stressed there is still a long way to go in this process.

JOHNSTON, R.I. (WLNE) – The Johnston Planning Board is paving the way for a massive retail distribution site off of Route 6 after giving initial approval to the master plan by the developer Bluewater Property Group at a meeting Tuesday night.

Though some of the initial hurdles were cleared, officials stressed there is still a long way to go in this process.

This comes after hours of expert testimony and questions from the public.

The site would sit on almost 200 acres of land on Hartford Avenue, which officials said is that about the same size as downtown Providence.

Many ahead of the meeting were concerned about possible environmental issues.

“I’m really concerned about what kind of acreage is going to be cleared,” said Lauren Niedel.

However, officials with the project explained that the development would only require clearing about 36 percent of the property, leaving the rest untouched. The developer is seeking to make the building taller – about 6 stories – rather than using more land.

Officials are simply calling the retail distribution site Project Schooner and a ‘confidential client’

“Our client will offer over 1000 full time, full benefit jobs for Johnston residents,” said Principal of Bluewater Property Group Don Chase.

However many residents and citizens in surrounding towns have voiced concerns that the client is Amazon, though that has yet to be confirmed.

“There are a lot of obstacles and things we have to overcome before this comes to fruition so that’s not of any concern right now,” said Board Chairman John Laurito after members of the public kept calling it Amazon in their testimony.

The other major concerns include issues with traffic, lighting, and noise. The site sits on Route 6 near the intersection of I-295.

“That interchange, during construction and thereafter, is going to be very congested,” said Caren Belli.

However, being that things are still in the very preliminary stages, officials didn’t yet have specific answers to many of the questions at Tuesday’s meeting.

“How could it be harmonious to the surrounding area? How could you look me in the eyes and tell me it’s harmonious to the surrounding area when you are 50 feet away from my house?” said Mohama Sasa, who lives next to the property.

Representatives with the developer, and engineering company DiPrete Engineering, say there will be a rigorous traffic study done with RI DOT, as well as a study with the DEM regarding wetlands, before anything is set in stone. Those studies will be the next hurdles for the developers to get over.

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