Letter: Westerly’s character is under threat | Letters to the Editor
Attending the Planning Board meeting on August 2 was an eye opener. The Planning Board works carefully with a real estate developer so that the wording of a proposed zoning enactment change, and therefore their development plans, can pass the Planning Board’s test and progress to the review level. next. But the fact is, this particular land development plan is the largest major development plan the City of Westerly has ever seen! This text change would allow monumental ramifications changing the very character of Westerly.
The Planning Board said its only job was to make sure the text was correct and complied with the rules on how to change a zoning ordinance. At the end of a long evening on August 2, even after many strong and valid arguments had been made by concerned citizens and their fellow Planning Board members against the text change, the Planning Board went ahead and adopted this zoning change!
With this zoning enactment change, a massive resort community can be built on the land of our historic 100-year-old Winnapaug golf course! If passed by City Council, owners of the Winnapaug Golf Course will have the ability to construct 20 buildings on the golf course:
A 5½-story, 150-room hotel within 250 feet of an existing neighborhood (they were able to change it by 500 feet!);
350 rooms in limited suite hotels, condotels and employee housing. The condotels will be for sale and for rent like Airbnbs;
A banquet hall for 250 people.
It is hard to believe that the golf course would remain the primary use of this development plan, as required by the Master Plan. The overall 2020-40 plan includes a hotel, clubhouse, pro shop and other golf-related buildings. The property developer, in a compromise with the neighborhoods surrounding the golf course, agreed to this language in 2020. Now they want to change this zoning ordinance so they can move forward with their plans.
Now keep in mind that it’s right across from another possible massive expansion project at the Venice Restaurant and the Winnapaug Inn. Their plans include adding 34 hotel rooms, adding to the existing 49, a 290-seat banquet hall (keeping the 190 seats), and adding a conference center! Huge!
Just think of the traffic on the roads, the strain on the sewage systems, and all the parts of the city’s infrastructure that these massive development plans would entail!
No final plans have yet been submitted by the developer, Winn Properties LLC. They will only be submitted if they are able to have their amendment to the zoning text adopted at the next meeting of the municipal council. If that happens, nothing will stop what happens next! They will now have the right, with their change to the zoning enactment, which will set a precedent for future developments, i.e. the Venice restaurant expansion plan, to move forward with little resistance. !
Western owners – don’t let this happen to our special city! Let’s unite and make our voices heard at the next city council meeting and public hearing that will take place in early September. We still have a chance to stop the potential for overdevelopment!