By JOHN HOWELL Last Wednesday night, the old Carvel Ice Cream building at the intersection of Airport and Post roads hadn't had as many people in it since the days it was The Office. This wasn't a bar crowd, although a few probably would have appreciated
Last Wednesday night, the old Carvel Ice Cream building at the intersection of Airport and Post roads hadn’t had as many people in it since the days it was The Office.
This wasn’t a bar crowd, although a few probably would have appreciated a drink. Rather, developer David Corsetti of Premier Land Development was serving up a vision for the future of the site that has become an eyesore in recent years.
His audience was the neighbors who know how difficult it can be to get in and out of the site, are fearful of a development that could generate more traffic and are hopeful of preserving as much of an adjoining open parcel that has become a de facto neighborhood park as possible.
Corsetti faces a lot of variables for his plan to come together. He bought the former Carvel property from Don Ed Realty Corp. in January 2020 for $950,000. But he needs more land to develop it for a local bank and a small retail store.
Meanwhile, the state is looking to sell the vacant lot that it acquired when the Department of Transportation operated the airport. Using federal funds, the state cleared the land of three houses because they were within the airport’s high noise contour. On March 9, the state held an auction for the land and Corsetti was the sole bidder at $400,000.
There are strings to the sale.
Although zoned residential, Corsetti can’t build houses on the land. In order for the sale to be consummated, he must get the land rezoned commercial.
Corsetti hasn’t filed a formal rezoning application with the city. He has done a couple of preliminary outlines, one of which became the topic of conversation Wednesday. Basically, he proposes using less than half of the vacant land so to meet setback and parking requirements for his development while deeding the remaining portion of the property to the city to be saved as open space.
The open space and a clean development on the site are the enticing to the neighborhood. Yet neighbors were skeptical if not untrusting of the proposal.
“I’m here to work with the neighbors, not against them,” he said. He said the purpose of the meeting was to hear the suggestions and concerns of the neighbors and to make adjustments accordingly. While he could not identify possible tenants for the site, other than to say it could be a local bank, he was emphatic that a bar or establishment with entertainment would not be built. Furthermore, Corsetti said he would own and manage the property and has no intention of selling it.
But that wasn’t enough to allay neighborhood concerns that they would face increased cut through traffic and bright lights from motorists using a bank drive thru at all time of night if that was to be developed.
“A 24-hour drive thru, that’s the biggest [objection] for me,” said Kim Ouimettte, whose Guilford Drive home faces the site.
Pell Avenue resident Dennis Paolucci remains hopeful of saving as much of the vacant lot as possible.
“We’re fighting for a park here, because we have nothing,” he said.
Mayor Frank Picozzi and Principal Planner Lucas Murray listened as residents decried the condition of the Carvel building, claimed they were being ignored by their councilman, Timothy Howe, and claimed any development would result in an increase in accidents and eventually devaluation of their properties.
Although he wasn’t in attendance, Picozzi said Howe has the concerns of the neighborhood at heart and that he hears from him “all the time.”
In response to whether they would have the opportunity to comment on whatever plans Corsetti proposes, Murray outlined the process of a zone change and public hearings before the Planning Board and the City Council. As Corsetti has not filed an application for a rezoning, it is premature for the city to comment on any proposal.
Having heard concerns over lights and egress from the site, Corsetti said engineers would work on solutions including the use of berms with shrubbery and trees to insulate the neighborhood. He urged residents to forward their comments to him.
Corsetti said if an agreeable plan couldn’t be worked out, he doesn’t intend on mounting a fight, in which case he would sell the property and there would be no guarantees that about half of the vacant lot would be preserved as open city land.
“If this development doesn’t work, I’ll move on down the road,” he said.