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Commission approves neighborhood plan

After months of public comment, the City Plan Commission adopted a neighborhood plan for College Hill, Fox Point and Wayland Tuesday night over objections to some proposals regarding the waterfront. The plan's recommendations will now be incorporated into the Comprehensive Plan, a long-term guide for the city's development under Mayor David Cicilline's '83 Providence Tomorrow initiative.

As throughout the planning process — which began over a year ago with a series of intensive neighborhood meetings — the most contentious issue was the fate of the property formerly housing the Shooters nightclub. Community members hoped for guarantees of public use on the property, which borders Providence Harbor.

The plan as adopted does not call for a change to that property's zoning, which is currently classified as mixed-use. Daisy Schnepel, president of the Fox Point Neighborhood Association, expressed concern that condominiums could be built on the site. The zoning would allow a building of up to eight stories.

Schnepel said local residents wanted a "waterfront destination" at the site, such as a multimodal transportation hub, restaurant or tourist center. Bonnie Nickerson, director of long-term planning for the city, said the current zoning would allow such uses. The plan offers incentives for developers to include public meeting spaces and a public marina.

Though the Commission made a number of changes at the request of community members, Schnepel said she wanted it to hold off on adopting the plan until another plan concerning all the city's waterfront could be discussed.

The city's goal is for continuous public access to the waterfront and an uninterrupted 25-foot "greenway" along it, Nickerson said.

The Shooters property is just one of dozens of parcels of land soon to be sold by the state after the relocation of the interstate clears up the land.

Other changes to the plan include the removal of language that would have limited institutional buildings, including Brown's, to four stories, within a certain distance of residences. Nickerson said that the restriction was too broad and will be "fine-tuned."
Also removed from the adopted plan was language that would have allowed businesses on South Main Street to remain open later at night.

Earlier in Tuesday's meeting the Commission adopted the plan for Hope, Mount Hope and Blackstone neighborhoods, leaving five more neighborhood plans, the waterfront plan and downtown plan to be finalized. Robert Azar, director of current planning, said the commission would like to adopt the remainder by early next year. The updated Comprehensive Plan would then need to be approved by the City Council.


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