Proposed changes for long-vacant State Road lot near Walmart

Jan 19, 2021

An overgrown patch of thicket next to Walmart on State Road may be getting a facelift in the near future, as Rhode Island retailer and property owner Ann and Hope plans to work on the site to sell it for commercial development.

Plans to fill in and replace three isolated wetlands to create a larger buildable area will make the lot more attractive to potential buyers, according to environmental consultant Brandon Faneuf, who outlined the project at a Jan. 12 Conservation Commission meeting.

Ann and Hope has owned the 38-acre property since 1967, when there was still a drive-in theater next door, Faneuf said.

But an idea to put in a store on the spot never came to fruition; instead, the owners built up their Faunce Corner Mall Road property, which closed last summer (along with all remaining Ann and Hope Curtain and Bath Outlets) due to the pandemic.

“Ann and Hope has been trying for years to sell the land but nobody’s wanted to touch it because of the wetland situation,” Faneuf said. “After almost four years of talking and planning and planning and more talking, we’re finally here.”

Replacing the wetlands would involve filling in three existing spots, which are dotted around the center of an otherwise buildable area near State Road, and creating new wetland areas of exactly the same size near the border of the lot, Faneuf explained.

He added that the area is not of critical environmental concern, with no vernal pools, no priority habitats, and no rare wildlife or fisheries.

“By all accounts, the quality of the wetlands is low,” he noted. 

Dartmouth Environmental Affairs Coordinator Marc Garrett agreed. 

“While these are wetlands by definition, they really are not functional wetlands in any sense of the word,” he said, adding that the replacement wetlands may actually be of higher quality.

Once work begins, the timeline for the project is a maximum of two months, Faneuf said. The owner may sell or lease the land following completion of the work.

Another public hearing on the project will take place on Feb. 9 at 7 p.m.