Apponaug hotel proposal to be aired

Meeting is tonight on plans for $21 million development


Warwick has 39 miles of shoreline and more than 2,100 hotel rooms, but until now no one has put the two together. Joseph Pisaturo wants to change that and, if he gains state and city approvals, he plans to build a 127-room, six-story Windham Hotel overlooking Apponaug Cove.

Pisaturo’s company, Apponaug Waterfront LLC, will outline the plan to neighbors at a meeting this evening starting at 6 at the Warwick Museum of Art in the village center.

Pisautro anticipates there will be questions about the proposal.

“Everybody is going to have an issue,” he ventured in a telephone interview Thursday.

He’s right.

A neighbor to the proposed hotel site on Station Street, Lynn Potter-Vosselman, can only imagine problems if it were to be built. Traffic is her major concern and what that would mean at the West Shore Road railroad underpass. Station Street intersects on the east side of the underpass and the hotel entrance would be to the east of that.

Observing that the underpass is already a bottleneck, she questioned whether fire trucks and rescues could get through in an emergency should there be even more traffic.

On the other hand, the city administration that has reviewed hotel development proposals for the property for more than three years looks at this proposal as the best so far. They see it as a catalyst to revitalization of the village. The city did have issues with the initial proposal, a 187-room, eight-story building of 150,000 square feet with parking for 271. That plan never came before the Zoning Board of Review or the City Council for a required zone change. The Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) also had problems with the same proposal, signaling a likely rejection should a request be submitted. A member of the City Planning Department said the site “has just about every obstacle you can have,” listing its proximity to the railroad, potential archeological significance, neighboring residents and the impact on traffic.

Yet developers have persisted, and made major changes since the initial plan. There are no archeological findings on the site. City Planner William DePasquale asked residents to have an open mind at tonight’s meeting. He pointed out that the land is currently zoned light industrial, meaning developers would not need approvals for certain types of development that may not complement the village or the shoreline. On the other hand, a hotel, if “right-sized and designed properly,” would fit with the comprehensive plan and a vision for the village. He called the proposal a “niche hotel” that could serve as an “anchor” for village development to the east. To the west, along with the reconstruction of the Apponaug Circulation, which is to begin next year, he sees a new use for the former mill “saw tooth” building as a westerly anchor. DePasquale said tonight’s meeting provides an opportunity for a “public dialogue on what’s appropriate.” Developers have reduced the overall hotel to 130,000 square feet on a footprint of 27,000 square feet. The number of rooms and the height has been reduced and the choice of building materials and the appearance of the structure have been altered to make the project more in keeping with its surroundings.

“The design has been completely changed,” said Raymond D’Abate, who is working with Pisaturo on the proposal. He said the hotel would have a historic feel, fit into the neighborhood and have an “old New England look.”

D’Abate said that, after three meetings with CRMC and modifications to the plan, the agency has given them a letter saying the project has been scaled down in response to their initial concerns but have not formally approved of it as of yet.

Tonight’s informational meeting was suggested by the administration as a means of sounding out neighborhood reaction to the plan before starting the formal process of appearing before the Zoning Board. That’s the way D’Abate is viewing the session.

“This is just to give the concept … nothing is cast in stone,” he said.

He said the latest design takes into consideration neighboring residents and, because the hotel would be in a low area, the roof line would not rise above trees as seen from abutting Dory Road.

In response to the issue of traffic and access, Pisaturo said the company has a purchase and sales agreement with the boat company on West Shore Road. Overall, the site would be about five acres.

D’Abate put the cost of the project at between $21 million and $23 million. Given required approvals, he said he would like to see a shovel in the ground in six months. Plans filed with the planning department show an indoor pool and outside decking facing the cove with a view of marinas and Greenwich Bay.

Potter-Vosselman, who has either lived or worked in the area since 1958, has printed up flyers alerting neighbors of the meeting, even though developers sent letters. She believes area residents haven’t considered the impact of the development on traffic, wildlife and the appearance of the neighborhood.

“This is not in keeping with the neighborhood,” she said.

“Apponaug needs revitalization, but it doesn’t need a hotel,” she said.

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