2014-11-13 / Around Town

Eastbourne Lodge Plans Revived

By Barry Bridges


In December, the Newport Planning Board will consider a revised plan to develop Eastbourne Lodge and the surrounding property at 80 Rhode Island Ave. into a subdivision comprised of 12 single family homes. The sprawling main house, once home to the Whitehouse family and currently divided into apartments would be converted into eight condominium units. In December, the Newport Planning Board will consider a revised plan to develop Eastbourne Lodge and the surrounding property at 80 Rhode Island Ave. into a subdivision comprised of 12 single family homes. The sprawling main house, once home to the Whitehouse family and currently divided into apartments would be converted into eight condominium units. After years on the back burner, discussions to develop the Eastbourne Lodge property are once again making the administrative rounds.

At its monthly meeting on Nov. 3, the Newport Planning Board received a request from Melvin Hill of Hill Realty to modify the conditions for subdivision plans that were previously approved several years ago. Hill hopes to purchase the land from the present owner if the city agrees to his proposals.

Eastbourne, a roughly 3.8-acre tract located at the corner of Rhode Island Avenue and Kay Street, is one of the largest undeveloped parcels in the Kay Catherine neighborhood. Part of a once-grand estate that was for decades the home to the grandparents of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, the main house was later divided into apartments.

In 2006, the property was at the center of a controversial project to divide it into a mix of townhouses and single family homes. Its owner, Boston-based Core Investments, LLC, a real estate development firm, ultimately proposed renovating the historic house into a 10-unit condominium complex, with the remainder of the estate to be divided into 12 residential lots, each with 10,000 square feet to meet zoning requirements.

Neighbors objected, fearing the density of the development and the potential loss of the robust tree canopy around the house.

But over the course of a two-year period between 2006 and 2008, Core was able to obtain subdivision approval from the planning and zoning boards. The project then ran into further complications when the City Council intervened and passed a zoning ordinance that increased the minimum applicable lot size.

Core sued the city, challenging the legality of the zoning amendment. Core ultimately won its case in Superior Court. However, with the downturn in the real estate market in 2008 and the subsequent lackluster economic recovery, the project languished.

Hill is now hoping to bring it back to life, subject to his outlined changes that need another round of board review.

He wants to reduce the number of condominium units in the main house from 10 to eight, with one single-family carriage house to be built in the area of the former greenhouse.

The size and configuration of the 12 previously-approved lots would remain the same, and all of the single-family homes would face existing streets. The residences would reflect the different architectural styles of the neighborhood.

Two stormwater basins identified on the original drawings of the parcel as a whole would be eliminated in favor of individual low impact drainage systems for each house.

Construction on all 13 lots would proceed in a manner to protect significant trees identified by the city. Newport Tree Warden Scott Wheeler has outlined his hopes of retaining many of the property’s European Beech trees and silver maples. The landscape plan would include portions of the existing wall that surrounds much of Eastbourne, as well as new fencing and vegetation that would be reviewed by the fire marshal and the city to maximize access and security. Where the ex- isting wall is retained, its height would be reduced to no more than four feet.

The wall modifications, additional fencing, and landscaping would be completed along with the individual houses.

Hill is also hoping to establish a new set of covenants applicable to the lots that would encompass design restrictions, maintenance specifications for common driveways, and limitations on the placement of boats, deliveries, clothes lines, and trash cans. Utilities would be placed underground.

Although the Planning Board formally entered Hill’s requests into the record, a debate on the package will have to wait until the board’s next meeting in December. The Historic District Commission would also have to eventually weigh in on the new home designs. In other business, the Planning Board:

. Gave its conditional OK for the subdivision of a 14,139-squarefoot tract located at the corner of Ellery Road and Champlin Place North into 2 lots of around 8,000 and 6,100 square feet. The application will next go before the Zoning Board and will then return to the Planning Board for a final review.

. Conditionally agreed to the subdivision of 22-acres at 21 Hammersmith Road (Wild Moor) into four lots of about five-and-one-half acres each that would allow for two additional homes on the property. Two of the proposed lots would be occupied by the existing main house and carriage house. Before being implemented, the proposal needs approval by the Zoning Board, while the Historic District Commission will have to assent to the new construction.

. Unanimously authorized the demolition of dwellings at 7 Kilburn Court and 231 Coggeshall Ave.

Return to top