WARWICK, RI — The Warwick City Council granted first approval to a $33 million “medical tourism” development at Crowne Plaza Hotel’s 801 Greenwich Ave. property, including a 100 room hotel expansion, 35,000 sq. ft. Laser Spine Institute and 86,000 square foot retail/office building promising hundreds of jobs, with two neighbors asking the city to temper light and noise from the facility.
Lawyer and State Rep. Joe Shekarchi (D- 23, Warwick), represented Crowne Plaza before the Council during a public hearing, touting the expansion, which he said will take advantage of Warwick’s unique, convenient location near Rte. 95, TF Green Airport to serve the growing medical tourism industry. The economic phenomenon draws people to municipalities for short-term medical treatments, during which they stay at local hotels, frequent local restaurants and businesses, Shekarchi said.
The Warwick Planning Board has already approved the plan, noting it is in synch with the City’s comprehensive plan, and current economic trends.
“The Comprehensive Plan indicates strong industry growth opportunities for Warwick in tourism and ambulatory healthcare services. Industry growth is being driven by a shift in health care services from hospital to outpatient settings, and the aging of the population,” according to the Planning Board’s findings on the proposal.
Councilors praised the project’s fruition of zoning in effect since the 1970s and the anticipated economic boon to Warwick.
“I find the project, the sheer scope of the project, very exciting,” said Councilor Camille Vella-Wilkinson, who expressed hope that the facility would offer employment to local high school graduates seeking immediate employment. She also noted the boost to the local construction industry the expansion would bring.
Councilman Stephen Colantuono also noted his hope that the facility would aid the employment opportunities of local students, and asked Shekarchi if there were similar developments in the state. Shekarchi said there were not, nor, he added, are there any proposals for any such developments in the state.
Wendy and Mitchell Fienstein of 420 Chapman’s Ave., at the corner of Rte. 5 and Chapman’s Avenue, were the lone opposing voices in the room.
“In our opinion the the proposed plan is too great and will negatively impact Greenwood,” said Wendy, who has lived in the village most of her life, and attended Greenwood Elementary School.
“I know that many years ago residents of Greenwood were promised that if a hotel was built on this property the surrounding land would remain tasteful and greenery would remain. That promise has been rescinded. We do enjoy the greenery surrounding the hotel, including the beautiful and mature pine trees.
The Feinsteins said they have been told that Coates wants to work with neighbors to mitigate the light and build sound buffering, and that they want to take advantage of it.
“We wish Green Giant Arborvitae trees, up to 20 feet tall, and an eight-foot fence. We need to be shielded from the bright lights which shine into our bedroom at night,” Wendy said.
During a recent party held at the hotel’s outdoor tent till midnight, Wendy said, they called the hotel management to complain of noise and music. “We were told that the people had rented the tent until midnight and that they had every right to have their party until midnight. Well, we have a every right to our peace as well. We shouldn’t have to stay up until midnight because of an event.”
Wendy said they hope the trees they’re asking for will mitigate both the noise and the light from the hotel, but recent experience with the hotel has not left them hopeful.
Wendy said she and Mitchell have Coate’s cell phone number, and when they called for his help on the noise, “He assured us he’d take care of it,” but the problems have continued.
The couple who said they are not alone in their concern and have been joined by several other neighbors at past hearings on the development, are aware that such plans have been in the works since the 1970s.
“We’re in the minority and we know it,” Mitchell said.
Councilman Joseph Gallucci noted the Feinstein’s concerns should be addressed in expressing his support for the project. Vella-Wilkinson, who was at the planning board meetings on the project, also noted her interest in making sure their concerns are addressed, though the Dist. 21 candidate wasn’t certain if she would see it on the agenda while she remained a councilor. Wilkinson did note the council has worked to mitigate similar noise complaints with neighbors of the current airport expansion project, which she said gives her confidence the hotel neighbors’ concerns will be respected.
The proposal passed 8-1, with Councilman Joseph Solomon abstaining. Second approval is scheduled for the Nov. 21 meeting.
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