Judge Upholds Coventry’s Denial of Green Development Project

Correction (Aug. 13, 2019): ecoRI News originally reported that the town of Coventry’s final cease-and-desist order to the developer required the removal of all pilings illegally installed on the site. The final order only required that the pile driver be removed from the property.

By FRANK CARINI/ecoRI News staff

COVENTRY, R.I. — A Rhode Island Superior Court judge recently validated the town’s denial of a ground-mounted solar-energy project off Route 117 and Carr’s Trail.

In late November 2017, the Planning Commission denied WED Coventry Seven LLC — a subsidiary of North Kingstown-based Green Development LLC, formerly Wind Energy Development LLC, founded by Mark DePasquale — a special-use permit to build a 5.22-megawatt solar project on two parcels with a combined total of 107 acres, saying the project wasn’t consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan.

The eight-person commission noted that the property, at 394 Carr’s Trail and 5641 Flat River Road, is in a low-density residential zone in rural western Coventry, where fragmentation and development are negative factors.

The commission also noted that language in the both the town’s comprehensive plan and its zoning ordinances “limit the scale and intensity of large commercial projects in the very low density residential zone in western Coventry in order to preserve the rural and agricultural character of the zone.”

The five-member Zoning Board of Review ultimately supported the Planning Commission’s decision.

In late May 2018, DePasquale filed an appeal in Superior Court.

In his Aug. 7 ruling, Judge Jeffrey Lanphear wrote that the decisions “of the Planning Commission and the Town of Coventry Zoning Board of Appeals are affirmed. Appellant’s request for attorney’s fees is denied.”

“I was extremely happy to see that Justice Lanphear affirmed the decisions of the Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals,” interim town manager Edward Warzycha wrote in an e-mail to ecoRI News. “The affirmation confirms that the Town of Coventry correctly handled the application and subsequent denial of the Master Plan for this solar farm project.”

Despite the fact the project was denied, DePasquale began prepping the two properties for the installation of solar arrays anyway.

In early June, the Department of Planning & Development issued a cease-and-desist order for DePasquale’s unauthorized solar installation. A week later, on June 10, the town issued a finalized order, requiring that DePasquale cease all work on the property except for seeding, loaming, and related landscape clean-up activities and remove the pile driver used for the installation of the I-beams on the property.

The town’s original cease-and-desist order required the removal of all pilings. The second order allowed them to stay.

Warzycha told ecoRI News that DePasquale is in compliance with all the final order’s requirements.

Neither DePasquale nor a Green Development representative responded to an ecoRI News email request for comment.