NEWPORT — The Planning Board on Monday night granted permits to Colbea Enterprises to demolish its Shell gas station convenience store, car wash, gas pump canopy structure and an abandoned warehouse on the property at the JT Connell Highway roundabout.
The Bishop’s Diner was left out of the demolition process — for now.
Colbea owns the land on which the aluminum diner car and an attached building sit and has made clear it wants the diner removed and building razed. Steve and Vicki Bishop own the diner and the building.
Attorney Danielle Dufault, representing Colbea, said during Monday night’s meeting she understood the board could not issue a demolition permit for something the applicant does not own. She said the Bishops would continue to occupy the property on a month-to-month lease until the “landlord-tenant matter” is resolved.
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Patricia Reynolds, the city’s director of planning and economic development, said the city would not get involved in a civil matter.
“At least they’ve accepted that they can’t just come in and demolish my property,” Steve Bishop told The Daily News on Tuesday. “We’ve hired an attorney who told us to keep running the business as usual.”
Bishop said he would contest the eviction notice in Superior Court.
Colbea’s plan for the property at the intersection where Connell Highway meets Admiral Kalbfus Road includes an entrance drive to the new Seasons Market and gas station that would be where the diner now sits.
Since the state Department of Transportation is now reconfiguring the rotary and the adjacent curbing and curb cuts, the planned entrance to the new gas station complex off Admiral Kalbfus Road now can be seen. The exit would be on the JT Connell Highway side of the property.
Previously:Bishop’s 4th Street Diner ordered to leave in January. Here’s the plan for the property.
Dufault is an attorney with the Adler Pollock & Sheehan law firm that has an office in Newport. Attorney John Russell, chair of the firm’s Corporate Department in Providence, sent in November the Bishops an eviction notice effective Jan. 31, 2022.
“Colbea will be pursuing any and all necessary permits and approvals in connection with its redevelopment of the Premises, which, if not removed by Bishop’s, will include a demo permit for any portion of the improvements remaining at the Admiral Kalbfus Parcel,” Russell wrote.
If the Bishops have not left the property by Jan. 31, “Colbea shall take all necessary and appropriate action and shall pursue all remedies available to Colbea, at law or in equity, against Bishop’s, including without limitation, claims for trespass and action for possession,” Russell wrote.
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Requests for comment were left with personnel at the offices of Dufault and Russell that were not returned Tuesday. Russell said in an email he would comment Wednesday.
What would be next for the rare diner?
“We’re trying to find a buyer for the diner,” Bishop said. “I have no place to move it to. It would cost $50,000 just to move the diner, and I would have to build new. I don’t have that kind of money.”
The current addition to the diner holds the kitchen, additional seating and the restrooms.
If someone buys the diner, the buyer would carry the costs of moving it, Bishop said, and he is optimistic there will be a buyer.
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“This is one of the only 20 O’Mahony diners left in the country and there are a lot of people that want them,” Bishop said.
The Jerry O’Mahony Diner Company of Elizabeth, New Jersey, manufactured about 2,000 roadside diners from 1917 to 1952. The long, narrow metal buildings are similar to railroad cars. They were prefabricated and then trucked to their locations.
“If I sell the diner, let them demolish the building,” Bishop said about Colbea’s intentions of razing his property.
Development plan approved, but with conditions
The Planning Board approved Colbea’s Development Plan Review on Monday night, but with several conditions, including the firm eventually receives an approved demolition permit for the parcel on which the diner sits.
Guest View:Bishop’s 4th St. Diner situation should be a wake-up call
The board also asked Colbea to install underground electrical conduits for perhaps one or two electric vehicle charging stations. Andrew Delli Capini, a Colbea principal, said he would put in the conduits and explore the possibility of a charging station. He said a single charging station could cost more than $400,000. The board is not requiring a charging station be installed as part of the development plan.
Other conditions imposed by the board, at the recommendation of the city’s Technical Review Committee, include:
• Landscape design shall be approved by the city’s superintendent of parks, grounds and forestry.
• There must be adequate vehicle queuing space for the car wash to ensure waiting vehicles do not extend onto the street.
• Pavement painting/markings must be installed on the site for safe pedestrian access, including crosswalks at the driveways and pathway marking within the parking field of 19 spaces.
• “Dark sky compliant site lighting” must be installed for safe pedestrian access. Dark sky lighting minimizes skyglow and focuses the light beam.
• Colbea must continue to work with RIDOT on the construction project.
The city’s Zoning Board of Review will have the last word on Colbea’s application for new development because the firm needs a special-use permit under the former Commercial Industrial zoning for that area.
After Colbea submitted its application, the City Council approved new Urban Village zoning for the area that does not allow new gas stations.
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