Letter: We can do better at Robin Rug

Posted 6/16/22

To the editor:Our town leaders, based on the will of the people, have created laws regarding density and affordable housing. Friends of Historic Bristol (FHB) is in favor of the rehab of Robin Rug, …

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Letter: We can do better at Robin Rug


To the editor:

Our town leaders, based on the will of the people, have created laws regarding density and affordable housing. Friends of Historic Bristol (FHB) is in favor of the rehab of Robin Rug, but it must not come at the expense of Bristol’s residents’ protections afforded by those laws and the Comprehensive Plan. Therefore, FHB proudly joins neighbors in appealing the Bristol Yarn Mill decision.

For over 25 years, the Town has allowed Robin Rug’s owner to create an eyesore and now is acting in desperation, ready to “do anything” to get it developed. False narratives of “no one else wants it, this is our last chance, the developer needs 127 units” circulated to Planning Board members between March 16 and April 14, culminating in three members’ stunning turnaround from their prior vote on density from 105 to 127 units. Relying on the expired Robin Rug Decision from 2008 as “grandfathered in” is also in error.

Based on real estate values in Bristol, taxpayers funding up to 45 percent of development costs and tax shelters for investors in the Opportunity Zone, Robin Rug is a great investment and would be a windfall for any developer. Bristol waterfront property with 101 units and 15 deeded boat slips is a no-brainer. Several other developers have expressed keen interest but were rebuffed.

At their May 12 meeting, one member asked the Town Solicitor if the approval agreed with the Comprehensive Plan, and he answered, “That is up to the Planning Board members to decide.” With no further discussion about the Comprehensive Plan, they voted yes in a 3-2 decision.

It is our opinion that the decision does not agree with Bristol’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Laws and the decision written by the Town Solicitor and Planner circumvented the legal process. Recommendation that the Town Council change our laws in reaction to one developer’s application is not allowed, under state law, our Comprehensive Plan or local laws.

False narratives are driving our decision-making appointed and elected officials to act out of desperation and a position of weakness. In moving this forward, they abandon the needs of Bristol’s residents, specified in our laws and Comprehensive Plan, instead of keeping their commitments to all of us. Using these, they can act from a position of strength.

Our laws state that the density is up to 101 units, not 127 units, to avoid overcrowding; that 21 of those units are to be affordable housing on site, to give Bristol’s young people priority for housing;, and that commercial space is at least 17,680 sq. feet, not 6,300, to support a vibrant waterfront scene that enhances the marina.

Imagine an open promenade from Thames Street to the waterfront bordered by commercial spaces, opening air circulation and views. Our town can require it.

FHB will be submitting additional letters to explain our stand on density, affordable housing, and more commercial space. Our entire Town’s quality of life depends on it. For more information, visit FHBRI.org

Marianne Bergenholtz
Friends of Historic Bristol

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