2018-04-12 / Front Page

Conservation Commission Delays Gas Station

Plans to Visit Site
By Jocelyn O’Neil

The Middletown Conservation Commission delayed a decision at its April 9 meeting on a petition to build a combination gas station/ convenience store/car wash at the intersection of East Main Road and Aquidneck Avenue that, Chairman Gary Paquette said, “broke the record for the longest case we’ve ever seen.”

The Conservation Commission is a volunteer panel that makes recommendations for development proposals based upon whether or not they see the projects as harmful to the watershed of Middletown. Although a lack of a recommendation from the commission won’t halt a project, it may sway the final decision of whether the Zoning Board of Review does.

The petition, filed by Benzine Development, LLC, requested a special use permit to allow the construction of the business, which is required due to its location within a Limited Business-Traffic Sensitive Zone (LBA) and in Zone 1 of the Watershed Protection District (WPD).

Nick Giacobbi, principal at Benzine Development, submitted the petition to open his third combination gas station/convenience store/ car wash on the island with his brother, Joe.

Currently, the brothers own two Patriot Petroleum locations in Portsmouth. The new location will be at the intersection of Aquidneck Avenue and East Main Road, and it will combine two land parcels that abut each other: 1225 Aquidneck Ave., the current site of the Bay Willows Motel, and 533 East Main Road, a vacant lot. (See “Jumbo Auto Services Under Development,” NTW, March 29, 2018.)

Lyn Small, a senior civil engineer for Northeast Engineers & Consultants, Inc. of Middletown, presented the proposal to the commission on behalf of the Giacobbis.

According to Small, permits required through the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) have been obtained, and various environmental precautions have also been implemented to deal with all runoff water.

“We have added multiple, multi-layer filters for water runoff to prevent groundwater contamination and to protect the WPD that borders the back of the location site,” Small said.

Nick Giacobbi, who was present at the meeting, said the car wash will be unlike any on the island because of its “laser, high-pressure washers with no rollers.” He also said that all soap used is made from 100 percent biodegradable materials.

Commission member Howard Hall said he saw two issues within the town’s ordinances that he felt prohibited such an operation from occupying those plots of land. Hall requested that Town Solicitor Chris McNally examine the ordinances more closely and issue an opinion by the next commission meeting on May 14.

The commission made arrangements to accompany the Planning Board on a visit to the site, before the next meeting, after which it would render a recommendation.

The second and shorter case of the night was the petition from West Main Self Storage owner Kenneth Alves, who has proposed building a three-story, 6,000-square-foot addition to the northern side of his self-storage business located at 825 West Main Road. The commission members were deadlocked 2-2, and thus were unable to support a recommendation for the proposed expansion.

The expansion is also located within the Zone 1 WPD, which requires a special use permit. The proposal received application approval from the DEM on March 15.

Attorney Jeremiah Lynch, III, representing Alves, said that “no new pavement, vehicles or traffic” would be created through this project and that the quarterly tests required by the DEM of the facility’s pipes are done weekly to insure unrestricted waterflow and prevent water backup and groundwater contamination.

“We don’t want those problems,” said Alves. “That would be a nightmare situation for us and our tenants.”

But commission member Terri Flynn said any construction would be “pushing the envelope in that area.”

“The proximity to Bailey’s Brook has me really torn on this decision,” she said. “Although I have heard you are a good businessman and have respectable business practices, our one job is to protect the watershed and I just can’t support this.”

According to Matthew Viana, a senior civil engineer at Millstone Engineering in Warwick, the project’s ultimate approval is up to the Zoning Board of Review and is not necessarily contingent on a recommendation from the Conservation Commission.

Return to top