Town to consider exemptions to drinking water protections

Town to consider exemptions to drinking water protections

The areas outlined in a thicker black line on the map show the sections of town that will become exempt from certain drinking water protections under the recommendations.

NORTH SMITHFIELD – The Town Council will consider changes to the town’s drinking water protections after the Planning Board took up the issue last Thursday, Sept. 3.

The board recommended that certain already developed areas become exempt from the town’s Water Supply Protection Overlay District, a defined section of town with stricter regulations to protect groundwater.

According to Town Planner Tom Kravitz, only specific areas identified on a new zoning map will become exempt from the regulations. These include portions of Industrial Drive and Branch Village and an industrial-zoned area near Buxton Street.

“What we’re trying to do is try to target those areas where we want to continue industrial growth where it makes sense,” he said.

In some cases, he said, the newly exempt areas have been targeted for industrial growth in the town’s comprehensive plan. In others, such as the Stamina Mills property, groundwater has already been contaminated, making the drinking water protections unnecessary.

“You would never utilize that area as a drinking water source anyway,” he said. “The idea is to try to nurture and encourage investments in these existing industrial areas which isn’t going to further compromise groundwater.”

The exemptions, he said, will make it easier for businesses to develop in certain areas.

In addition to the exemptions, board members recommended some slight changes to the town’s Water Supply Protection Overlay District map to clear up confusion about the location of certain watersheds. That confusion became an issue recently when the town considered an expansion of North Smithfield Auto Body, which is located within the Crookfall Brook Watershed.

Several board members also recommended language that will require the town to inform its neighbors of any potential effects on their drinking water.

“I think going forward we should consider language that encourages us to play nicely with all of our abutting towns whenever a project is going to affect them,” said board member Megan Staples. “I think that’s something I’d like to consider much more broadly.”

In a separate matter, the board also recommended the council pass a historic preservation ordinance geared toward preserving historic buildings. The measure, proposed by the North Smithfield Heritage Association and the North Smithfield Historic District Commission, will offer tax breaks to property owners who make improvements to their historic buildings.