SOUTH KINGSTOWN — Representatives of Post Acute Partners do not plan to reduce the size of its proposed 72-bed assisted living facility for clients with early-stage Alzheimer’s and other memory loss issues.
The company seeks to tear down the historic Larchwood Inn, 521 Main St., and build the 59,070-square-foot facility on the 3.34-acre lot.
“Based on what we see as a need, 72 beds will remain as the size,” said Dr. Jeffrey Rubin, co-founder of Post Acute Partners, during Tuesday’s Planning Board hearing. Board members had asked if the company was willing to reduce the size of the building, which is substantially larger than the 19,998-square-foot inn and its outbuildings.
“Based on what we’re trying to accomplish from the patient care perspective, we feel the need for the square footage,” Rubin continued. “We did have extensive discussion of the possibility based on the feedback that we got from the Planning Board.”
Since February 2014, the company has sought master plan approval for the project. On March 10, the Planning Board granted it for the proposed $12 to $15 million building, but May 27, the approval was nullified by the Zoning Board of Review, acting as the Planning Board of Appeals, on the grounds an abutter was never notified about the hearings.
The inn closed in 2005 and has not reopened, though it has had a series of owners since that time. In 2006, L.W. Properties LLC purchased the property with plans to renovate it as a boutique inn. In 2008, that owner donated the property to a Chicago-based nonprofit, which subsequently sold it in 2009 to developer Roland Fiore, who lives next door in the William Davis Miller House (also known as The Beeches), 571 Main St.
The master plan approval process began anew last week, though the prior hearings and documents were incorporated into the new record. The hearing continued Tuesday, and was continued again to Aug. 18.
Approximately 50 people attended the hearing.
“If you were to put this building in replacement of businesses on Main Street, it would cover an area from Brickley’s to El Fuego,” said resident Karina Burston, referring to businesses at 322 and 344 Main St., respectively. Her statement elicited laughter from members of the audience. She presented her own topical rendering of what the proposal would look like to the Planning Board.
“There is no building from this time period [of the current Larchwood] that closely relates to this size,” she added.
The size and historic impact of the proposed facility have remained a concern for its opponents, who have argued the proposal is inconsistent with the town’s comprehensive plan. The National Register of Historic Places lists the Larchwood Inn, which was built in 1859, as a contributing building in the Wakefield Historic District. That registration carries no legal protection.
“That building should be treated just as important as an environmental feature on this property,” said Richard Youngken, a consultant who specializes in planning issues regarding historic preservation and sustainable communities. “We have a property that’s on the National Register of Historic Places; that means it has national significance. For all the ponds and wetlands in this town, they don’t have any national significance.”
Some residents questioned the facility’s potential benefits to South Kingstown’s economy. Residents argue jobs at the facility would pay too low a wage to afford living in South Kingstown.
“Many people I have talked to are questioning the benefits of this,” said resident Lisa Votava. “I really have to question the location. If you [the Planning Board] approve this, you are setting a precedent of tearing down a historic property.”
“I’ve seen properties in far worse condition than the [current] Larchwood Inn,” said Shantia Anderheggen, who works as an architectural historic preservation planner. “There is potential for reuse and rehabilitation.”