Sample Review Criteria
 ~ Courtesy of the North Smithfield Conservation Commission ~

One job of the Conservation Commission is to render advisory opinions on environmental matters to other town boards as part of the-building application review process.

The following are a set of general guidelines with sample questions that express the concerns of the North Smithfield Conservation Commission. They are used to discuss possible and potential impacts of a given proposal on the Town with regards to its human and natural environments. They are not exhaustive but represent typical questions and issues. The relevance of each concern will vary in each individual case. The idea is to think ahead, plan with the environment in mind, and prevent problem rather than correct damages, short range and long range, later on. Every building proposal in some degree affects the whole town, its character and its quality of life. Give some thought to these concerns in relation to your overall plan. They will serve as focal points for review and will form the basis of our recommendation.

Note: At the Conservation review, the applicant should be prepared to discuss his/her master plan with helpful and supportive materials such as site specifications, design layout, lot and vicinity mappings, DEM wetland and ISDS approvals, etc.

General Guidelines for Site Reviews – 7 Major Concerns

  1. Is this an appropriately sited, well-designed project or proposal? See checklist of questions.
  2. What is the nature of the surrounding area, neighborhoods, terrains? Are there any sensitive features?
  3. Is this project/proposal in harmony with the way the town wants to be and grow? (i.e., Comprehensive Plan)
  4. Is the project/proposal in conformance with the Town’s zoning standards? (i.e., Zoning districts, regulations, grids, etc.)
  5. How will this project/proposal likely affect the entire town now, and in terms of long-range effects? (i.e., precedents, patterns, and trends? an encouraged path of growth? Hidden costs to the Town?
  6. How does this project/proposal fit into the social, economic, transportation, housing, recreational, ecological profile of Northern Rhode Island? (i.e., does it threaten or enhance watersheds, natural resources, density, scenic and cultural treasures, etc.?)
  7. What are the truly long-term effects of this project/proposal and/or projects/proposals like it? What are/would be the result of widespread and/or cumulative use or usages of this type? (i.e., is this ultimately a sustainable pattern?)

Concern One: Is this an appropriately sited and designed project?

(A) Placement and appropriateness of the site:

  • topography and terrain
  • soils
  • stoppages and elevations
  • presence of streams, ponds, wetlands, watershed, etc.
  • above and below ground water profile
  • presence and distribution of plant and animal habitats
  • – peculiar needs and requirements of this/these building structure(s)?

(B) Construction and design

  • spatial
    • placement of building(s) in relation to lot size/total acreage
    • proper setbacks, buffers, vegetation, coverings
    • blend with surroundings, minimal disturbance
  • waste disposal: proper ISDS or advanced treatment system necessary
  • stormwater, erosion, and run-off controls
  • construction materials and techniques: hazardous materials
  • possible sources of pollution (visual sound, odors, etc.)
  • adequate access to and egress from site; movement and traffic pattern generated
  • innovative design, energy efficient, environmentally friendly features?

Concern Two: What type of environment immediately surrounds the proposed project?

  • residential neighborhood
  • recreational space
  • natural resource
  • animal habitat area
  • viewscape, or site of scenic, cultural, or aesthetic interest

Concern Three: Is this proposed project in conformity with zoning regulations?

  •  If request for variance, what is the reason?
  • Is this an truly an exception or does it represent a trend or pattern?
  • What might be some of the implications of this as a trend?
  • Does this suggest a new zoning or land use designation or technique?
  • (i.e. a special district, cluster zoning, mixed use, etc.)

Concern Four: Is this proposed project in general harmony with the town’s vision of how it wants to grow?

  • Does the town’s Comprehensive Plan explicitly reject or encourage this type of activity, enterprise or development?
  • How does this proposal help preserve rural character and atmosphere?

Concern Five: What might be the proposed project’s likely effects or long range impact on the town as a whole?

  • Does this project affect the availability of natural resources? (i.e. clean water, etc.)
  • Quality of life?

Concern Six: What might be the impact on the region?

  • How does this proposal small or large, fit into the social, economic, transportation, housing, recreational and ecological profile of Northern Rhode Island?
  • What is the effect on watersheds, infrastructure, cultural and scenic Treasures?
  • Continued sprawl? tourism? farmland? open space?
  • Growth in harmony with the surrounding countryside and clean industry?

Concern Seven: National and/or global impacts?

  • multiplied many times, is this a sustainable pattern?
  • a source of systemic pollution, hazardous by-products?
  • does this cumulatively enhance, or threaten, the biosphere?



Name of Applicant _____________________________________________________________

Address _____________________________________________________________

Location of Project Site _______________________________________________________

Project Description ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I. Existing Site Conditions / Development Suitability

1. Soil Type ___________________________________________________

2. Topography _________________________________________________

3. Wetlands ___________________________________________________

4. Ground Cover ______________________________________________

5. Natural Heritage Areas________________________________________

6. Distance from 100 yr. Flood plain_______________________________

II. Development Proposal Assessment

1. Approval of OWTS _____________________________________________________

2. Depth to ground water _________________________________________________

3. Perc Rate ____________________________________________________________

4. Distance of OWTS to fresh water wetland __________________________________

5. Drainage patterns ______________________________________________________

6. Erosion control ________________________________________________________

7. Site buffering _________________________________________________________

8. Proposed extent of impervious areas ______________________________________

9. OWTS distance to existing wells___________________________________________

(OWTS = Onsite Wastewater Treatment System))

III. Compliance with Applicable Town Plans

1. Comprehensive Community Plan___________________________________

2. Well head Protection plan________________________________________

3. Water Supply Management Plan ___________________________________

4. Groundwater Protection Overlay District ___________________________________
IV. Recommendations

1. Approved _______________ 2. Disapproved ________________

3. Additional Information Requested ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

4. Special Conditions / Stipulations

(1) _______________________________________________________________

(2) _______________________________________________________________

(3) _______________________________________________________________

(4) _______________________________________________________________

(5) _______________________________________________________________

(6) _______________________________________________________________

( ) _______________________________________________________________

( ) _______________________________________________________________

( ) _______________________________________________________________

( ) _______________________________________________________________

V. Comments


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