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COD 02806 Recap of Pre-Application Meeting on Sowams Affordable Housing

Here is an outline put together by COD 02806, the citizens' group opposed to 'Palmer Pointe', the affordable housing development proposed for Sowams Nursery in Barrington.

Submitted as a letter to the editor by Pam Van Ness for COD 02806:

AN OUTLINE OF DISCUSSION AT THE PRE-APPLICATION CONFERENCE CONCERNING THE PROPOSED 48 UNIT RENTAL APARTMENT COMPLEX PROPOSED FOR THE SOWAMS NURSERY ON SOWAMS ROAD

HELD ON JANUARY 15, 2013

  • Approximately 60 residents of Barrington showed up.  a standing-room-only crowd.  All in all it was very worthwhile, and we thank the planning board for making it possible.
  • The meeting was well run and was attended by members of the Planning Board, Technical Review Committee, and Housing Board of Trustees.  All members were given the opportunity to ask questions prior to public comment.
  • Many questions went unanswered because this was a “pre-application” meeting, and the EBCDC hasn’t filed for a comprehensive plan yet.  But it was good for board and committee members to get a sense of the many reasons for public opposition to this project.
  • The questions asked by residents were outstanding and went directly to the heart of concerns of the 500 + residents who have signed a petition opposing the project.
  • Once again, however, only about a half-hour was available for public comment, and this also limited our ability to obtain answers. here’s an outline of questions posed by residents at the meeting:
  • Several questions concerned the process for appointing and paying for experts.  Town Counsel said the Planning Board had authority to hire its own experts.  Counsel stated that the public could also hire experts.  (we feel, or wish, that the town boards, councils and committees would be representing our interests). We are preparing a memorandum to the Planning Board concerning this and other aspects of the construction permit process.
  • Issues were raised concerning sewer line location, condition, capacity and accessibility (it is located  in the wetlands;  Potable water availability and current inadequate water pressure; Traffic and transportation particularly with upcoming Massasoit bridge construction (which was acknowledged to be a problem), impact on property values (also a known problem); Property elevations, ecology, wetlands etc.; Sidewalks (the EBCDC said sidewalks on Sowams road were not their responsibility, but rather the town’s), Flooding of adjacent properties; Taxes and tax abatements;  The requirement of public funding for the project;  The cost impact for schooling (a spokesperson for EBCDC said school populations were declining and the project would actually help the community by adding more students (this drew Booos and laughter from the residents attending).

A couple of public comments stand out.  One person said the process appeared backwards.  i.e. an application is submitted and the studies and evaluations follow.  Why not have the evaluations first to determine if the project is appropriate and feasible? (we agree). Another person asked how Barrington would benefit if the project was allowed? A prolonged silence ensued. 

  •  Board members and Town Counsel explained the application process which is multi-tiered and offers at least two more opportunities for public input. (the next phase is the “master plan” followed by a completed plan which is voted on by the Planning Board.  The process may last for a year or more. COD 02806 is drafting recommendations for public input throughout the process.  This document will be ready soon and will be shared with town residents.

Many have asked “what can I do” or “how can I help” in the fight against this new development.  There are several ways: 

  •  Sign the petition opposing it.  Contact  barringtonresidents@gmail.com and ask for a petition.  One will be e-mailed to you or delivered to your home.  Tell us your address and a member of our committee will pick up the signed copy. Also, get signatures on the petition from your Barrington friends and neighbors.  The more the better.
  • Attend as many public meetings as you can.  There will be at least two more prior to approval or disapproval of the permit application.
  • Read theBarringtonTimes newspaper or online at eastbayri.com – click on Barrington.
  • Read the Barrington Patch at Barrington.Patch.com.
  • When we resume door to door canvassing with our petition (when it gets a little warmer) contact barringtonresidents@gmail.com and help us out. 
  • Provide your e-mail address to  barringtonresidents@gmail.com and you will be  notified of events and happenings.
Gary Morse February 01, 2013 at 03:25 PM
This issue should include a question of why our Town Planner (salary and benefits paid by local residents) is working Community Development Block Grant applications on behalf of the affordable developers. My conversations with other towns is that the developer does that heavy lifting themselves on CDBG applications, not the Town Planner. The record shows that our Town Planner has submitted CDBG applications with the state for the Walker Farm land for $500K, a $100K grant for the George St affordable project, and a $125K grant for the Sowams project. Not only has 80% of the Spencer Trust Fund money been applied to support affordable development, taking money away from the poor and unfortunate in town, but we are also providing part time services with town employees to the affordable developers to take CDBG grant money away from other worthwhile projects. I suggest residents compare Smithfield's town website to see how they advertise CDBG allocations for those in need, against Barrington's, which I could not locate: http://smithfieldri.com/planner/cdbg/ We have to get better at serving the needs of residents, not developers.
Gary Morse February 01, 2013 at 03:30 PM
One note - where the Smithfield website shows "Rehabilitation of Low and Moderate Income Housing", that does not mean "deed restricted" housing only. It applies to any homeowner in financial need living at low income levels.

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