R.I. Building Trades Council seeks another review of Fane tower project

THE RHODE ISLAND Building and Construction Trades Council has asked the Providence City Council for a second hearing by its ordinance committee on a request to change zoning for the Hope Point Tower, citing the absence of a representative for developer Jason Fane at the committee's recent hearing. / COURTESY THE FANE ORGANIZATION

PROVIDENCE – The president of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council has asked the Providence City Council president for another hearing by the city’s ordinance committee on a request to change zoning for the Hope Point Tower.

In a letter, Michael Sabitoni, the Building Trades president, cited the absence of a representative for developer Jason Fane at the recent hearing held by the council’s ordinance committee.

After listening to public comment for several hours, the committee voted July 18 to recommend the City Council deny a zoning request needed for the project.

Sabitoni represents some 9,500 members of construction trade unions. A large contingent of laborers attended the public hearing on the project and spoke in support of the luxury high-rise.

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In his letter to council president David Salvatore, Sabitoni said information presented at the public hearing was “not accurate” and the committee members should have had an opportunity to listen to a presentation of the project by the developer.

“I am writing to respectfully request that at its next meeting or at a call of a special meeting, the City Council send the project back to the ordinance committee for a fair hearing on the merits for this mega project and afford the developer (who has already spent an estimated $3 million) the opportunity to make a full presentation,” Sabitoni wrote on July 26.

“Anything less would be a dereliction of the council’s duty to Providence taxpayers,” he said.

The meeting was posted in accordance with state law. The developer had a scheduling conflict, according to council members who attended.

In a response distributed to media, a prominent opponent of the tower project said the city should follow its established process, and not send it back to the committee for reconsideration.

“It is reasonable to expect that an organization promising to build a $300 million project would have at least one person on staff able to attend such an important meeting,” wrote Brent Runyon, executive director of the Providence Preservation Society.

Dante Bellini, a spokesman for the Fane Organization, said key members of the team were not available to work on a presentation to the City Council committee in the short time frame they had, and noted the public hearing had been requested by 50 people who petitioned the council and scheduled to accommodate their request.

“The usual practice, particularly for a [$250 million-plus] construction project, would have allowed the Fane Organization the time and opportunity to put together a thoughtful and informative presentation,” Bellini said.

The company informed the council that its key members could not work on a presentation in the available time frame and petitioned for an opportunity to appear at a later date to make a presentation, Bellini said, but the “request was not accommodated.”

A spokeswoman for the City Council said Salvatore has not made a decision on the request by Sabitoni. The council’s next regularly scheduled meeting is Sept. 6.

The body is on recess in August.

Mary MacDonald is a staff writer for the PBN. Contact her at macdonald@pbn.com.