NEWS

Neighbors fear loss of open space

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 3/4/21

By JOHN HOWELL Even today, many years after it closed, the circular building at the west end of Airport Road on Post Road is still known as Carvel. Since then, it has had other lives as Ozzi's burgers and later as the drinking establishment The Office.

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NEWS

Neighbors fear loss of open space

Posted

Even today, many years after it closed, the circular building at the west end of Airport Road on Post Road is still known as Carvel. Since then, it has had other lives as Ozzi’s burgers and later as the drinking establishment The Office.

Now, it’s closed. It looks like people left in a hurry. Papers are scattered across the bar. A plastic cup with straw looks to still have coffee, or could it be a moldy growth?

During the last election season, the property was a veritable carousel of political signs. A few are still zip-tied to the railing around the exterior of the building.

Don Ed Realty Corp. sold the property on Jan. 9, 2020, to DNC Holdings LLC for $950,000, according to city records.

David Corsetti said in an interview Tuesday that he bought the property with the thought of developing it for a tenant. He has no tenant at this time and hence can’t say what the future will bring.

Corsetti was one of about two-dozen people to attend a pre-auction meeting Tuesday morning at the vacant property behind Carvel. The future of the site is the source of speculation from those living on Pell Avenue to the north and Guilford Drive to the south. A bank has been suggested, but that appears to be more of an off-the-cut comment by Ward 3 Councilman Tim Howe than anything serious.

What does appear to be real is that the nearly one-acre site behind “Carvel,” which has become a community park, is up for public auction on March 9 at 10 a.m. A sign has been posted on the property and area residents have obtained copies of a flyer from Sullivan & Sullivan Auctioneers.

The property is comprised of five lots that once had four homes. Those homes were acquired by the state Department of Transportation in 1987 with FAA funding prior to the creation of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation because they were in a high noise contour. One of the houses was used by RIAC as its airport noise mitigation assistance office. It was demolished in 2007.

Neighborhood park

Over the years, the vacant land became a de facto neighborhood park where kids play and people walk their dogs. To the annoyance of neighbors, who put up with the noise and the traffic, it also became an unauthorized parking lot when Ozzi’s transitioned to The Office.

Now, according to an Oct. 5, 2020, letter from Christopher Santilli, administrator of real estate for the Department of Transportation, at the request of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation the land is deemed as excess and the DOT is to proceed with the sale.

“The Rhode Island Airport Corporation would receive the funds and reinvest them for other airport improvements as required by the Federal Aviation Administration,” the letter reads.

But what will become of the land?

Will the community once referred to as “the neighborhood everybody forgets about” lose an open space that not only provides for recreation but also serves as a noise and visual buffer to Post Road and the airport?

Answers to those questions appear to depend on who buys the land, what they plan to use it for and, most importantly, whether the city would grant them the zoning. Presently, the land is zoned residential, but according to John Goodman, director of marketing and communications for RIAC, residential development is not an option.

“Under the terms of the program the acquired land is intended to be sold for non-residential purposes to recoup the federal investment and allow the City of Warwick to return properties to the tax rolls as they see fit,” Goodman wrote in an email.

He goes on to suggest a sale may not be consummated. 

“Under the terms of the auction, should the prospective buyer and City of Warwick fail to reach an agreement to re-zone the property, the purchase and sale agreement would not move forward,” he writes.

That could work for the benefit of the neighborhood, which would like to see the city or another entity keep it as open space. Leslie Derrig, chair of the Warwick Land Trust, attended the pre-auction informational session. She later met with neighborhood residents.

So far, according to the city’s Planning Department, no one has shown an interest in the property. Usually, prospective developers will contact the city before buying a property to get read on the feasibility of a project.

Speculation over possible uses

That doesn’t mean there isn’t speculation. Dennis Paolucci, who lives on Pell, imagines that the new owners of “Carvel” would have an interest in the property either for a parking lot or an expansion of what they have planned for the site.

Corsetti said he could have an interest in the site depending on the tenant for the Carvel site. Corsetti said his companies, which operate under the name Premier Land Development, have developed properties in five states, including Rhode Island.

“We don’t engage in controversial developments,” he said. Should he acquire the property in auction, he said, “we would work with the neighbors.”

When Paolucci and Harold and Kim Ouimette, who live on Guilford, talked with Councilman Howe, he questioned whether a bank would be a preferable neighbor to a bar. That spawned rumors that a bank was planned for the combined sites.

Howe said Saturday he had no inside information and meant only to suggest a future use of “Carvel” might be an improvement.

Following the pre-auction meeting, Kim Ouimettte said that Rhode Island Home Improvement at the corner of Guilford Drive and Post Road was interested in the site for parking. That could not be confirmed.

During the meeting, she said, “There’s no need for more businesses. This will ruin the city if they can do this to every parcel.” She said residents fear increased traffic to the area would be a danger. Pell Avenue and Guilford Drive both have limited street parking, and residents are worried the parking situation will only get worse with a new development.

“We just want our home to be our home like everyone else,” Ouimette said. “We were promised by the airport that this land would never be sold.”

In an email, Goodman said, “It remains to be seen what interest there will be in the property, and of course, the sale would not be finalized unless the City of Warwick approves a request for compatible re-zoning. If at the end of the process no sale agreement is reached, RIAC will seek additional guidance from the FAA.”

Mayor Frank Picozzi said Tuesday the neighbors had contacted his office to voice their concerns over the future of the property. A representative of his office attended the meeting and is expected to attend the auction slated for 10 a.m. on March 9.

Carvel, land

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