In preparation for the debates, Salve unveiled a new website last week and opponents began sending out letters of opposition.
NEWPORT – The community-wide discussion on two new dormitories on the Salve Regina University campus begins again this week but will kick into high gear near the end of February. In preparation for the debates, Salve unveiled a new website last week and opponents began sending out letters of opposition.
Attorneys for Salve and attorneys for the opponents were expected to submit appeal briefs Monday night to the Zoning Board of Review, which is expected to receive them without much discussion. Board members will read the briefs and then hear oral arguments at a public hearing set for Feb. 24.
Salve is appealing the Historic District Commission’s decisions of the past year to deny Salve a “certificate of appropriateness” for either dormitory because of their size, massing and siting. The HDC handled the dormitories in separate hearings and decisions, which the zoning board will do as well.
First up for the zoning board in February will be Building A, also called the Watts Residence Hall, proposed for the corner of Lawrence and Shepard avenues. The dormitory would house 214 students and be near the historic Watts Sherman House, from which the planned dorm takes its temporary name.
Salve’s new website, which can be found at salveresidences.com, focuses on the Watts dormitory plan and includes video presentations of the plan and a message from Salve President Kelli Armstrong.
The video shows renderings of the designed dormitory set back from the two avenues with landscaping in the buffer between the roadways and the building.
“This website will serve as an information source for those who are interested in learning more about the project,” said Matt Boxler, Salve spokesperson.
“When built, Residence Hall A will create more room for sweeping lawns, vistas and pedestrian corridors than currently exists with the five non-historically significant ranch houses that will be removed along with the non-conforming modern wing of the historic William Watts Sherman House,” the website video says.
The dormitory adds 153 new beds to the site, since students currently stay in the ranch houses that will be demolished, the website says.
“Only 10 percent of the lot for this residence hall will be covered by buildings when construction is complete,” the website says. “This includes the new residence hall and the existing William Watts Sherman House combined – leaving 90 percent of the site open.”
Judy and Laurence Cutler, co-founders of the National Museum of American Illustration on Bellevue Avenue, between Shepard and Victoria avenues, have been leading opponents of the dormitory plans.
Judy Cutler sent out a letter last week asking fellow opponents to show up at the zoning board meetings Monday and Feb. 24.
“Considering that there are very few or no sidewalks on the streets in the R-60 neighborhood, the addition of almost 400 students (with cars) is going to make the area extremely dangerous for pedestrians year-round,” Cutler wrote. “As it is, Salve students already speed down Victoria, Ruggles, and Shepard Avenues as several residents and visitors to the area have confirmed and complained about to the City.”
“The bottom line is that an additional almost 400 more students, who will be housed in two large dormitories in the National Historic Landmark District and single-family, residential neighborhood, should simply no longer be allowed or even entertained,” Cutler concluded.
The Historic District Commission voted on Jan. 20, 2019, to deny approval of the Watts dormitory, but the written decision was not approved by the HDC until May 14.
Once the zoning board decides on the appeal of the Watts dormitory, the members must take up at a yet-to-be-scheduled meeting to hear the appeal of HDC’s rejection of the second dormitory last year.
The proposed Wallace dormitory so would be constructed west of Lawrence Avenue, between Victoria and Ruggles avenues where there is now a field used for soccer practices. This dormitory would house 196 students and be near the existing Wallace Hall, which gave that dorm its temporary name.
The HDC denied approval to construct the Wallace dormitory on June 20, 2019, but the HDC did not approve the written decision until its Nov. 19 meeting.
This has been a long, drawn out approval and denial process since the HDC first took up the initial conceptual designs for the dormitories in the fall of 2017. There is no end in sight yet.
After the zoning board decides on the appeals of both HDC decisions, the board then may take up the university’s request for special use permits for both dormitories.