CRMC Denies Request to Build Stilt House on Narrow River in Narragansett


The Narrow River flows about 6 miles through three Washington County towns. (Grace Kelly/ecoRI News)

PROVIDENCE — Coastal regulators have denied a proposal for a single-family home on a parcel along the Narrow River in Narragansett that frequently floods during storms.

Bonnet Shores resident Nicholas Veltri submitted an application to the Coastal Resources Management Council in 2022, to build a 603-square-foot, two-bedroom residence, elevated on stilts, on a piece of property at the corner of Wilson Drive and Pettaquamscutt Avenue. After a nearly three-hour meeting on June 25, CRMC rejected the proposal.

The proposal has been dogged by controversy since its inception. Neighbors to the site opposed the project, alleging if built it would exacerbate a flooding problem that already exists for abutters and other nearby residents. Narragansett’s Planning Board voted to deny approval of the project in March 2022, but the Zoning Board approved the plan later that year.

CRMC staff recommended the council deny Veltri’s application, writing in its final report that “substantive objections have been received for this project, and that a new residence on the subject parcel is likely to increase stormwater flooding impacts to the area, already a burden for the existing Town stormwater BMP and neighboring landowners.”

It wasn’t the first time an application to develop the Wilson Drive property was submitted to CRMC. Prior to Veltri’s purchase of the property in 2022, the parcel was part of a preliminary determination report from agency staff in 2017 and again in 2020, both of which cited similar concerns regarding flooding impacts from development.

CRMC also received letters of opposition from Save The Bay, the Narrow River Preservation Association, and the Pettaquamscutt Terrace Improvement Association.

In testimony to the CRMC council, Veltri said he had tried his best to reduce the size and footprint of the house after comments from agency staff.

“I tried to maximize the distance from the coastal features, so the house is now located at the very northeast corner of the lot,” Veltri told council members. “That’s the highest point in the lot.”

Veltri said it was his intention, if the Wilson Drive project was approved, to sell his current home in the Bonnet Shores neighborhood and move with his wife to the new home proposed in his application.

In his opening remarks to the council, Veltri’s attorney, John Garrahy, said the application met all the requirements to be awarded the variances from CRMC that were requested, and if the agency chose not to award the variances — essentially making the lot undevelopable — it would decrease the property value of the lot, and constitute a taking. What’s more, said Garrahy, the house’s impact on flooding would be minimal if built.

“The house will be built on structure piles,” Garrahy said. “Water will be able to pass and repass over the property as it does today, having minimal impact on floodwaters.”

Veltri’s final application also proposed the construction of a rain garden on the property to help mitigate flooding.

Veltri’s proposal received extensive opposition from abutters and neighboring homeowners who told council members in public testimony that any construction on the lot, one of the only remaining undeveloped lots in the area, would worsen much of the riverine flooding coming from the Narrow River during heavy rains.

Patricia Federico, another homeowner on Wilson Drive, told council members she had witnessed the banks of the Narrow River eroding over the past 25 years.

“Wilson Drive serves as a natural buffer for abutting homeowners of the property,” Federico said. “Once the buffer is gone, other homes are at risk of greater inundation.”

Others highlighted the visual impact of the project. Unlike many of the surrounding homes on Wilson Drive, Veltri’s application, in order to mitigate the flooding impacts of development, proposed to build the new home on stilts to avoid displacing stormwater onto neighboring properties.

Narragansett resident Jim Roche told council members it would have dramatic visual impacts on the river view for abutting homeowners.

“The first floor starts at the roofline of neighboring cottages close by and goes up from there,” Roche said. “You’re going to have a roof level that is so much higher than other houses it will impact the view from other houses.”

In their final vote, council members voted to deny the application, on the grounds it did not meet the requirements of agency regulations, and the Narrow River Special Area Management Plan.


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