2017-09-28 / Front Page

Still No Decision for Proposed Hotel

By Bob Rulli

A decision on a hotel proposed to be built on the site of the former Newport Yachting Center has been delayed once again. The Newport Zoning Board of Appeals, which was expected to address the mixed-use project at its meeting on Sept. 25, will now consider the matter at a special meeting on Oct. 16 after attorney Neil Galvin, representing the project’s owners, told the board he would be submitting additional information.

The plan is to construct a three-story, 48,000-square-foot building on America’s Cup Avenue that would include a “boutique hotel” with 84 rooms, a 5,500-square-foot restaurant, 3,000-square feet of retail space and 2,485-square feet of office space. The project would also include the continued use of the marina and commercial parking at the site. The skating rink would be relocated closer to The Smokehouse Restaurant.

The Peregrine Group acquired the property in December, 2014.

Friends of the Waterfront, a non-profit citizen group that has long advocated for the preservation and enhancement of public access to Newport's waterfront, went on record as being opposed to the project and objecting to the license agreement as the means to preserve access.

Other continuances: Twenty-two of the 45 petitions on the agenda were continued to Oct. 16 or to the regularly scheduled Oct. 23 meeting. “There are no guarantees,” Board Chair Rebecca McSweeney told petitioners who had applications continued. “In fact it is unlikely that all if any will even be heard at either meeting.”

Decisions on two appeals by abutters to lots on Ledge Road, which have received approval from Newport’s Historic District Commission (HDC), were deferred to the Oct. 23 meeting. Attorney Turner Scott, representing the owners of the two lots, acknowledged that the board did not have enough time to digest the contents from legal briefs recently received from both applicants.

An appeal by the owners of 49 Cliff Ave. was also continued to Oct. 23. The owners are appealing a decision by the HDC that denied their request to demolish the property and construct a new home. Although the home is located in an area designated as eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the owners claim there have been many alterations and additions to the property that are not historic in nature. The home was previously owned by former Rhode Island governor Bruce Sundlun.

The board also heard petitions that required summary approval, which generally don't involve testimony from the applicants and do not have objections from abutters. After the approval of the first summary hearing, zoning official Guy Weston requested that McSweeney “… have the condition that any invoices not paid by the applicant for the notification of abutters be paid in full before a final decision be issued.”

Previously, the zoning office notified abutters free of charge. The fee was temporarily suspended after City Manager Joseph Nicholson said that proper notice of the change had not been given. The Newport City Council subsequently adopted the change, and also approved a charge for special meetings.

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