River trail remains open, future use of Pawtuxet property unclear

Posted 9/21/22

“We’re in a wait and see mode at this point.”

That was Ginny Leslie’s assessment of any further developments concerning more than 15 acres with frontage on the Pawtuxet …

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River trail remains open, future use of Pawtuxet property unclear


“We’re in a wait and see mode at this point.”

That was Ginny Leslie’s assessment of any further developments concerning more than 15 acres with frontage on the Pawtuxet River. The words could just as easily be those of Warwick City Planner Tom Kravitz and Pawtuxet residents concerned over the proposal of Artak Avagyan and Lee Beausoleil to build four buildings with a total of 68,000 square feet as lease space for the storage of equipment and materials belonging to independent contractors.

Residents are also concerned over development in an area that has been flooded and of threats by the owners to close off a river trail that has been used for decades by the community. The situation reached a boiling point this summer when the owners tacked up a no trespassing sign below that of the Boy Scouts who had worked to maintain the trail. The sign has since been removed and the trail remains open.

Leslie, a board member of the Pawtuxet Village Association, points out that for centuries people have lived on the Warwick side of the river yet few have built along its banks in the area because they understood what could happen.

“You don’t build on a flood plain,” she said.

Avagyan and Beausoleil bought the property in 2019 for $450,000 and demolished the former 110,000 square foot Hammel Dahl valve manufacturing facility that had been vacant for years. They saved, however, a large quantity of PVC piping and stored it near the river as well as deposited a mountain of earth and other material on the site. On May 6, the Department of Environmental Management issued a violation on the proximity of the stored pies to the river. Two months later, they came before the Planning Board seeking approval to proceed with their development. The city planning recommended a smaller development as well as suggesting setting aside a significant portion of the site as open space.  The board, however, did not want to consider the application until the DEM violation was straightened out.  The board allowed developers to withdraw their application without prejudice thereby enabling to return.

As for the violation, the developers paid a $9,076 fine and relocated the pipes. In an Aug. 17 letter, DEM sent a release of notice of violation seemingly opening the way for the developers to return to the Planning Board. DEM also advised developers it would address the storage of fill as it might be contaminated.

Avagan said earlier this month that he and Beausoleil had not finalized their next course of action.

There is no question on what should happen in the opinion of Jeff Sutton, one of the organizers of the Pawtuxet Green Revival. In response to the questions about this story he writes, “You ask what ‘would be the ideal outcome for this property?’ The short answer is we want any development on the site to comply with Warwick’s Comprehensive Plan. At their pre-application meeting with the Warwick Planning Board on July 8, 2022, the owners were told that if they demolished the building on the site, any development would need to be consistent with the City’s Comprehensive Pan and conform to the goals and purposes of the Planning Board.

Sutton goes on to say, “We also want to regain access to, and protect, the Pawtuxet River Trail. This trail has been used by the public for over 30 years. Various members of the community, including the Boy Scouts, have maintained it over the years. The trailhead at Post Road leads to Warwick Ave. where it crosses over the river to reconnect to the trail on the other side, and then winds along the river to Pawtuxet Oxbows Park. The trail is frequented by trail runners, dog walkers and nature lovers. Few people knew the trail was on private property and many are outraged to have it taken away from the public.”

On Aug. 19, DEM director Terrence Gray responded to a letter from Rep. Joseph McNamara calling on him to use his executive authority to declare the storage of the PVC pipes hazardous on the premise if they caught fire they would release toxic fumes and if they were to washed down the river they could breakup and pollute the river and Narragansett Bay.

Gray wrote, “With respect to the stockpile of pipes and other materials on the site, we have investigated those materials and the owner of the property has told us they are usable materials and not waste. When we visited the site, it appeared as if the materials in question were being managed as products, and not waste, so without evidence that they are completely unusable, we need to rely on the owner’s representations and consider these materials as usable materials.”

Gray writes, “Development on the site will likely require a permit or permits from DEM. We have not received any applications or proposals yet for this site. As you know, DEM neither supports nor opposes proposals like this on any property. Our responsibility is to evaluate any proposal for compliance with relevant law and regulation and make decisions on that basis.”

As of Monday, the Planning Department had not received a revised or new application from developers.

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