The January 4 Chester planning board meeting opened with a public hearing on Davidson Drive Holdings, a warehouse project coming to the Sugar Loaf Industrial Park, including a presentation from its engineers and comments from residents and board members.
The hearing began with a presentation by Michael Morgante and Frank Iliciotto, head engineer and traffic engineer respectively. The project proposed is a 166,000-square-foot, light industrial building with tractor-trailer loading docks.
“This site is located off of Davidson Drive, not too far from the intersection of Bellvale Lakes Road and Davidson Drive, and pretty much across the street from Paradise Lane,” Morgante said.
Other features include a stormwater wet pond, a water supply well, a septic system, a bioretention facility, parking spaces, several loading docks, and a retaining wall to mimimize disturbance to the nearby wetland. Additionally, one of the building’s entrances was extended in case of a future agreement with Pomegranate Solutions, another project.
“One of the things we had discussed with the board was potentially connecting the two roads between Pomegranate and this particular project. We were not able to get Pomegranate to work with us on that matter, but what we did do was extend that entrance towards the Pomegranate side so we have the opportunity in the future, for whatever potential reason, for the roads to still combine,” Morgante said, referring to the Pomegranate Solutions warehouse project.
Using their Septemeber 2021 traffic study, Iliciotto explained that trucks will likely approach the site on Bellavle and take a right at Lake Station Road, and affirmed that there will not be significant truck traffic going through Sugar Loaf.
Following the presentation, the board members made remarks on the project. Don Serotta, planning board chairman, questioned traffic safety when traveling from Chester to Warwick.
“So the Bellvale Road and Lake Station Road. Have you taken a look at going towards Warwick?...That can be a little bit of a dangerous corner up there. I’ve never been in a tractor-trailer, so I don’t know what a tractor’s like to be in it, but you’re pulling up on a very steep hill,” Serotta said. “I think that area has to be looked at a little bit too.”
Serotta also suggested that the engineers consider the impact of Pomegranate Solutions in their traffic studies.
“You should also look at what impact Pomegranate might have. We just approved a 120,000 square foot, or something like that. They’re going to be exiting on the other side of Davidson onto Bellvale, so I think you need to look at the cumulative impact and how many trucks are going to be coming out of there,” he said.
Planning board member Jackie Elfers complimented the project’s landscape and appearance but raised concerns with Lake Station Road’s narrowness and sharp turns.
“That just takes into account the volume. It doesn’t take into account the narrowness of Lake Station and if there are school buses, that type of thing will affect morning travel. And the intersection from Lake Station, that’s a hard 90,” Elfers said. “My concern is the school bus and kids. And the turning, as it is, is a very narrow road with a low speed limit.”
Planning board member Larry Dysinger mentioned that the traffic study is incomplete and should take all current industrial projects into account.
“Don mentioned a number of them: Pomegranate, 1251 Kings Highway, the one on Bellvale. The study should account for all those projects to get a true picture, plus all the different work shifts,” he said.
Iliciotto responded that vehicles of different sizes and passenger capacities, such as school buses and trucks, were taken into account and weighted differently from standard automobiles for the most accurate results.
After the board spoke, several residents commented. John Darcy, a town resident, opened discussion by asking if the project’s entrance on Lake Street Road is really necessary.
“Davidson Drive already has an entry point on Bellvale. Why aren’t we just using that to get to this warehouse? Why does there have to be a completely new entry point on Lake Station?” Darcy asked. “Lake Station is extremely tiny; there’s no shoulder, and it’s a completely residential street with limited sight distance. And me as a resident, I don’t want tractor-trailers going down there all day long...especially when my kids are going to be standing at the end of my driveway waiting for the bus.”
Susan Miller, another resident, explained how the project affects her neighborhood’s road, Paradise Lane.
“We’re the first house on the street; we set up high. And I don’t care how much shrubbery they put up there, we’re going to be able to see this. We’re going to be able to see the lights; it’s going to look like a Walmart at night, lit up. Not to mention the noise with the trucks and the braking,” she said.
Lydia Cuadros, a fellow resident, stressed that the impacted roads’ signage must be reevaluated to maintain road safety.
“I think because of the volume of the warehouses and the volume of the traffic and the growth that has taken place in our community, signage probably needs to be reevaluated. If those tractor-trailers start coming through the hamlet, and they already come through the hamlet, it’s just very dangerous,” Cuadros said.
While the board didn’t answer most residents’ questions that night, Serotta said that he and the board will consider all public comments as they review this project.
My concern is the school bus and kids. And the turning, as it is, is a very narrow road with a low speed limit.- Jackie Elfers, Chester planning board member