Middletown zoning board approves special permit for beachside hotel

MIDDLETOWN ZONING officials approved a new 23-room hotel development on the border of Newport and Middletown. / COURTESY CORDTSEN DESIGN ARCHITECTURE

MIDDLETOWN – The Middletown Zoning Board of Review on Tuesday unanimously approved a special use permit for Atlantic Beach Suites II LLC to construct a 23-unit four-story hotel on Wave Avenue, located on the border between Newport and Middletown, paving the way for a project first proposed in 2018.

The development required a special permit for its location in the Limited Business Zone and proximity to Zone 1 of the Watershed Protection District.

ABS principals Harry and Peter Kyriakides are commercial developers and the owners of the Atlantic Beach Hotel and Suites, which neighbors the development property, Ticket’s sports bar and the former KJ’s pub on Aquidneck Avenue.

The board held the special hearing to vet and vote on the proposal due to the significant public interest and requests from an organized opposition to the plan. A group of surrounding residents had expressed concern that another hotel in the area would increase traffic and stormwater runoff at the site, which sits adjacent to Easton’s Pond reservoir, part of Aquidneck Island’s water supply.

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“There have been some material changes to the areas,” said attorney James Callaghan on behalf of abutters opposed to the hotel seeking a vote to toss the petition back to the Planning Board for another review. “This application was filed prior to the pandemic…I think the Planning Board should get another crack at it.”

Middletown Solicitor Peter Regan disagreed and advised that a vote should proceed.

“The passage of time in and of itself is not a sufficient reason to remand something back to the Planning Board,” he said.

A late meeting amendment to the motion mandated that ABS compile a report from a registered engineer analyzing the flow of groundwater on the property and submit it to town officials.

On Wednesday, Middletown Town Planner Ron Wolanski said the Zoning Board approval was the final step in the regulatory process. The Planning Board gave a positive recommendation for the petition back in 2019. However, Callaghan could still appeal the Zoning Board decision within 20 days.

Construction will likely be held off until the appeal deadline passes, he said.

“Typically, [developer] will wait until the appeal process runs out,” he said. “Otherwise, they put themselves at risk.”

The combined lots are located at 42-44 Wave Avenue and 56 Wave Avenue which currently includes the popular beachfront bar and restaurant Rusty’s Bar and Grille, as well as three single-family cottages that will all be torn down and replaced. The Kyriakides purchased the lots in 2003 for $1.2 million.

During closing statements, ABS attorney David Martland told the board it was “uncontroverted” that all the regulatory elements had been met to proceed with hotel construction, arguing it would improve the site and the surrounding neighborhood.

“The buildings have come to the end of their useful life,” he said. “Something needs to be done there.”

In 2021 the Middletown Town Council approved an amendment to the town ordinance that limited the number of hotel rooms allowed in the Atlantic Beach District to 260. However, the new rules do not apply to the Wave Avenue hotel, or others submitted before the amendment was adopted.

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