To the editor:
As reported, the Warren Planning Board voted four to three to deny demolition of the two historic buildings at 113 and 119 Water Street and build a large inappropriate apartment …
To the editor:
As reported, the Warren Planning Board voted four to three to deny demolition of the two historic buildings at 113 and 119 Water Street and build a large inappropriate apartment building in their place. Last week, Warren’s three preservation groups that hired a lawyer to fight the proposal held a meeting to recap this victory and discuss the next steps.
To be clear, these buildings are still not safe, and vigilance is still required until they are. The campaign to save these buildings is not over and will not end until the buildings are truly safe.
The community of Warren should be very proud of the concentrated effort to educate residents and board members about the proposed development and ultimately convince enough members to vote against it. If anyone believes that the community did not have an effect, then imagine the opposite, that there was no reaction from the community at all. Imagine that nobody showed up to any of the hearings, that nobody wrote any letters to the planning board or newspaper, that there was no petition with over 1,200 names on it, that there were no flyers or signs, that the historic commission submitted no report, that Warren’s historic groups were indifferent, that there was no money raised or lawyer hired, etc. Had the planning board felt that nobody was concerned, they may very well have voted to approve the development.
The ad hoc group, Save Water Street, would like to express its gratitude for all of the above effort, small and large, that cumulatively carried the day. Whether or not the owner appeals the decision, the Town is currently figuring out what steps to take next. The buildings cannot wait for the years-long appeal process to play out before the buildings get stabilized and repaired. Since their demolition is now off the table, the buildings must be repaired or, if the owner is not interested, put up for sale.
Looking forward, there are plans to request improvements to Warren’s ordinances, like strengthening the Demolition Ordinance to include historic buildings outside the historic district. This would give the community a chance to weigh in on proposed demolition of any historic building in town, to avoid what recently happened in Bristol, where a beautifully restored Russell Warren masterpiece was demolished outside their historic district. In addition, Warren currently has little oversight of new construction in the historic district, which would have prevented the proposed out-of-scale apartment building, as well as the recently built out-of-scale apartment building at American Tourister.
Warren currently has a 1% meal tax at our restaurants, which generates over $400,000 a year for the Town. That means over forty million dollars is being spent at Warren’s restaurants every year! Since many of these restaurants are located in the historic district, maybe some of those funds should go to a ‘restoration fund’ for the district. The meal tax is intended to help ease the burden on taxpayers, so any funds from it should come from expanding it by a half or full percent so it would not negatively impact taxpayers.
Meanwhile, there is still a need for truly affordable housing in Warren, so there should be incentives for owners of historic properties who provide that, through vouchers or ‘naturally occurring affordable housing’, where landlords charge fair rents. Many of the bills recently proposed at the State House are intended to weaken towns’ authority to oversee these developments, so there will need to be ongoing vigilance to make sure that there is a balance between the rights of developers and towns.
53 State Street