Letter: A response to ‘David vs. Goliath’ piece

Posted 6/27/24

Bullying shouldn’t be used to affect change...Goliath needs to extend the hand of cooperation.

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Letter: A response to ‘David vs. Goliath’ piece

Posted

To the editor:

The state is mandating more ‘affordable housing’ through the Comprehensive Permit process, usurping municipal zoning authority without regard to impacts on natural, historic, or infrastructure resources. This is setting the stage for a power struggle between RI’s communities and the state.

Ironically these new laws, allowing developers to bypass and expedite the normal review process, has encouraged developers to submit out-of-scale and place proposals, enflaming abutters, neighborhoods, and municipalities, resulting in litigation and long delays. Conversely, the more compatible a development proposal is with its surroundings, the faster the review process would be.

Municipal input was not sought for this new legislation, potentially doing irreversible damage to RI’s natural and historic resources. Plus, many of these laws don’t conform to the State Guide Plan, which directs RI’s planning and development and which every town’s Comprehensive Plan must follow.

The Comprehensive Permit option was originally offered only to non-profit developments with 100% affordable units in perpetuity. However, when non-profits weren’t meeting the demand, the state allowed for-profit developers to submit Comprehensive Permit proposals. Unfortunately, this only required 25% of the units to be affordable and only for 30 years. This adds three market rate units for every affordable unit, making it a windfall for developers, but more difficult for municipalities to satisfy the state’s 10% quota.

Regrettably, RI’s 10% quota only counts housing units that are deed-restricted for 30 years, leaving out vouchered, elderly, veteran, handicapped, and Naturally Occurring Affordable Housing (NOAH), which are neither deed-restricted nor vouchered, but remain affordable. Plus, in places where 30-year restrictions have expired, unit rents are now skyrocketing.

Warren is unfairly being criticized for not embracing the ‘affordable housing’ mandate. Yet, Warren is focused on affordable housing, and its new Comprehensive Plan and Affordable Housing Task Force reflect that.

Until recently, people of all economic strata have enjoyed a good quality of life in Warren. If all of Warren’s truly ‘affordable housing’ were counted, it may be 20% or more. Warren’s housing stock is currently being professionally surveyed to include ALL affordable housing. This will inform policy moving forward.

The 10% quota should be amended to be statewide, not required of each town. Some towns may better handle the population increase and infrastructure needed to provide more housing than others, and they should receive incentives.

Bullying shouldn’t be used to affect change. Towns and boards don’t like proposals being forced on them. Goliath needs to extend the hand of cooperation. The input of each municipality’s wants and needs is now being sought, but this should’ve been done before, not after these laws were enacted.

Representing RI’s municipalities, The League of Cities and Towns and the American Planning Association’s RI Chapter are pushing back against the more egregious of these laws. Their voice will increase as more towns gain momentum to protect their autonomy and unique resources.

Warren’s and RI’s population are actually declining, so this rush for politicians to score points shouldn’t ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’.

Warren Citizens for Appropriate Development is an organization formed to empower residents of Warren to promote sustainable development, while preserving our town’s unique character, without overwhelming our natural, historic, and infrastructure resources.

David Oliveira
President
Warren Citizens for Appropriate Development

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