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Zoning Board to Continue Airstrip Discussion Following Site Review

The controversial Special Use Permit application for a private airstrip in Western Coventry sparked much debate at the most recent Zoning Board of Review meeting.

 

Dozens of Coventry residents turned out to Wednesday night's meeting of the Coventry Zoning Board of Review in response to a Special Use Permit application submitted by Thomas Miozzi, owner and operator of Green Light Farm, LLC on Town Farm Road. 

Miozzi wishes to complete a 2,000' x 30' private airstrip and construct a 40' x 50' accessory hangar to store his two small planes in addition to a single family residence that he would reside in. He also plans to grow organic vegetables on either side of the airstrip which will be sold at a roadside farm stand.

The 75.5-acre plot of land is located on Coventry Assessor's Plat 330, Lot 30 and is currently home to a gravel bank utilized by Miozzi's asphalt company, T. Miozzi, Inc., located at 75 Airport Rd. in Coventry. If his airstrip application is approved, Miozzi has agreed to surrender the rights to the gravel operation on that property. The property is zoned Rural Residential 3 (RR-3) - a classification that was recently updated to allow for a private airstrip. 

Click here for a detailed summary of the proposed project. 

Miozzi spoke to Board members about his aviation history, having been a licensed pilot since 1985, with commercial licenses for land and sea. He explained how he is required to take a reexamination every two years as well as an in-depth physical examination annually.

"I've had an extensive amount of training and airtime and my planes are meticulously maintained," he said. "Aviation is a very, very safety conscious profession. I know there are a lot of questions from the people that showed up tonight but I hope we can address some of their fears." 

Miozzi was accompanied by Attorney John Pagliarini who spoke on behalf of the permit application and the plans for the property.

"There is a huge benefit to eliminating the gravel extraction use on this property," he said. "It will be decades before a 75-acre site is exhausted and stopping it now will eliminate truck noise, dust - all the evils of gravel if you will."

Pagliarini went on to discuss other benefits that Miozzi's airstrip would have, including a break in the wooded property that fire apparatus could utilize in the case of an emergency, as well as a place to land emergency aircraft if the Town ever needed to.

"Should there be a medical emergency or disaster, the airstrip would allow for numerous types of flight to get in and out of the area quicker than in any other vicinity," he said.

Zoning Board members were assured that there are no flight restrictions in the area and that Miozzi would be required to fly at a minimum of 500 feet above ground level at all times. They were also told that there would be no requests for zoning relief in the future, no signage, airstrip lighting, excessive trash, de-icing operations, airplane fuel on-site other than what is in the airplanes or mechanical work done on the aircraft on the property. 

Chuck Smith of Coventry's Department of Public Works and Emergency Management Agency, has been a pilot himself for 18 years and spoke in favor of the airstrip, reiterating its benefit in the case of an emergency.

"To have access to a closed airstrip to bring in support or supplies when critical infrastructure is damaged or hard to get into would be a huge asset to the town," he said.

Despite these points, many residents voiced their opposition during the three-hour discussion. Topics of concern included noise from Miozzi's 1931 Waco Biplane, decrease in neighboring property values, decreased privacy, risk of plane crashes or accidents, lack of town regulations in regards to an airstrip, additional noise and safety issues if Miozzi allows fellow pilots to land on the property, environmental concerns, property insurance requirements and an overall disturbance of the rural setting that many of the neighboring residents enjoy.

One of the last to speak was James Warcup, Aeronautics Inspector for the Rhode Island Airport Corporation and the authority who will either approve or reject Miozzi's airstrip proposal on the state level at the conclusion of what he referred to as a very long process.

"Nobody is getting anything forced on them without due diligence," he said. "If the Zoning Board grants the application, it's only the beginning of a process that will take months to get through. This meeting is step 3 of a highly regimented 27-step process." 

Warcup stated that among the many issues concerning the proposal that have not yet been addressed, one is that Coventry police and fire officials need to be involved in the entire process. He also assured all those in attendance that any issues or complaints brought to his attention if the proposal does come to fruition will be addressed immediately.

"If I get multiple complaints and they are not addressed to your satisfaction, I will shut him down," he said. "I want to accommodate the land owner but I'm not going to allow adversity."

Zoning Board Chairman Robert Crowe concluded the discussion by requesting that Miozzi work with Zoning Enforcement Officer Jacob Peabody to secure a time, date and location for a site review and walk-through, complete with a noise demonstration from the louder of Miozzi's two airplanes. Once confirmed, the information will be advertised in the local newspaper and on Coventry Patch for any residents who wish to attend.

Sandy D February 08, 2013 at 05:42 PM
Shame on the Town Officials for not posting the most current zoning regulations online before taxpayers are asked to attend a public hearing. Hmmm isn't it funny how after the meeting the zoning regulations are now off line because they are being updated. What else is outdated on the website? The Town Charter? Ordinances? How can Town taxpayers be expected to do their "due diligence" and make educated/informed decisions when the Town website is so outdated that it is rendered useless!
John D. February 08, 2013 at 06:10 PM
Why isn't the patch reporting that the runway has been completed and paved?
Lauren Costa (Editor) February 08, 2013 at 06:37 PM
I did actually, Mark. In this article, I wrote: "Miozzi wishes to complete a 2,000' x 30' private airstrip and construct a 40' x 50' accessory hangar...", which I agree, doesn't convey very well that the runway is already "installed", although it has been. However, in the initial article I wrote about the issue, I stated: "The applicant has completed the process of converting the gravel pit into a private gravel airstrip - a project that did not require a specific permit." Sorry for the confusion!
Diane February 08, 2013 at 06:50 PM
For those of you that did no attend this meeting. Miozzi is planning on having what he calls "Pancake Breakfast" where twelve or more, yes I said 12 will fly in for the so called breakfast. Aso one of the neighbors broght in pictures where miozzi is already flying and landing his plane on his runway and mr. Warcup was not concerned nor did he make a comment so are we to believe he is going to shut him down if he gets many phone calls, No!!
Diane February 08, 2013 at 06:53 PM
I totally agree with you Sandy and I wondered who voted on the change in our zoning because I heard nothing about this till this meeting on convenient!
Lauren Costa (Editor) February 08, 2013 at 06:54 PM
Mr. Warcup did say that the "pancake breakfast" scenario would not be allowed.
Diane February 08, 2013 at 06:56 PM
Lauren Mr. Warcup won't be around to monitor this.
Sandy D February 08, 2013 at 07:47 PM
If I heard correctly, Jacob Peabody is helping "Tom" work with the USDA. I assume Jacob means Tom Miozzi? Did I hear correctly he is assisting "Tom" with a grant? Lauren do you have info on the help being provided by Jacob Peabody to Mr. Miozzi with a USDA grant? I would like to know if this is part of Jacob's job description. Is this a problem given that the Town taxpayers pay Jacob's salary?
Lauren Costa (Editor) February 08, 2013 at 09:47 PM
No, I believe the town is working to get the grant. Mr. Miozzi would obviously be involved in regards to the land, but he is not seeking the USDA grant.
Lauren Costa (Editor) February 08, 2013 at 10:37 PM
Here's an email comment from reader Susan Howe: "We're being railroaded. Given Miozzi's proven methods of running his gravel bank, failing to adhere to best practices and without an iota of consideration for the neighborhood, do you seriously believe he can be trusted to close down a lucrative operation with 'decades' of viable product extant? If so, I have a bridge to sell you... and the very offer of closing it to leverage his plan for an airstrip so he can play with his toys, is OFFENSIVE IN THE EXTREME. How can the gratification of one rich man trump the concerns of an entire neighborhood--when will the Zoning Board and Town Council meet their obligations as guardians of town ordinances and the rights and welfare of its citizens? To illustrate further his disingenuousness, he has already made the runway, paved it with asphalt and is flying planes in and out. What we like to see in the sky are hawks circling and calling, and turkey vultures silently riding the thermals with such effortless grace."
Stop whining February 08, 2013 at 11:24 PM
I love how certain people feel they can tell him what to do with "his" property. If its not Miozzi you're fighting with, I'm sure you find somebody else. It was embarrassing seeing how "adults" were acting at the meeting. I've seen more appropriate behavior from my kids. I understand it can be emotional at these meetings, but some people were just pathetic. Nothing but disrespect was shown to the board and people who were there to try and learn more. If you want you're opinion to be taken seriously, then don't act like a child and heckle. I will thank god everyday that I'm not one of your "neighbors".
Sandy D February 09, 2013 at 01:51 AM
Stop whining, did you see the childish display by Mr. Miozzi after the meeting? Apparently not!
Stop whining February 09, 2013 at 05:17 PM
Hawk, you're right. Lets ban all lawn mowers, barking dogs and of course tell people what day they are able to make some noise on their property. The only point I was trying to make was the behavior of some in the audience was embarrassing. Whatever happened to both sides being able to present their case? I couldn't hear half of what wa being said because everybody around me was swearing, yelling and heckling. I wish you well in your fight and hope for your sake that nobody tries to tell you how and when to use your property.
Justin Serbent March 06, 2013 at 11:53 PM
Let's see, a guy wants to put an airstrip on HIS private property on AIRPORT Rd. The nearby streets are Wright Way, Lear Drive, Airehart Lane and O' Hare Court. The irony of this protest is so rich. Seems to me there once was already an airport here. Lauren Costa, is this true? Justin
Lauren Costa (Editor) March 07, 2013 at 12:05 AM
Justin, Mr. Miozzi currently operates a paving company located at 75 Airport Rd. - the former site of a small airport. The airstrip in question (along with a small hangar, farm and single-family house, if approved) is located on a portion of his Town Farm Rd. property.

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