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Board Sets Forum on Sowams Housing

The Barrington Housing Board of Trustees is holding a public forum Tuesday evening on the proposed affordable housing development at Sowams Nursery.

Expect to get answers to most of the questions you have about the proposed Sweetbriar-like affordable-housing development on Sowams Road in Barrington on Tuesday evening.

The Barrington Housing Board of Trustees is holding a public forum about the proposed development at Sowams Nursery as part of its agenda. The meeting starts at 7 pm in the Council Chamber in Town Hall.

Last month's meeting of the Housing Board drew almost 100 people to the Council Chamber. But just about everyone left without being able to ask questions because the meeting was not advertised as a public hearing and there was concern about the board violating the Open Meeting Law.

Steve Martin, chairman of the Housing Board, promised to schedule a public forum on the project at the May meeting.

At least two other public hearings also will be held on the development – one by the Barrington Planning Board and one by the developer – East Bay Community Development Corporation, said attorney Stephanie Federico of DeSisto Law Associates, which represents EBCDC.

A sketch of the project developed by Don Powers, the architect for EBCDC, was made public several weeks ago. But it was never intended to be the final plan, Power said at the April meeting.

“It was done to show the character of the project,” he said. “Public discussion is needed. We haven’t had input on it.”

The next sketch will be done in cooperation with all the stakeholders in the project, he said, including Barrington and the Coastal Resources Management Council.

What is known about the project is that approximately 56 units are proposed for the 9-acre site – all of them 100 percent affordable housing with rents ranging from $500 to $900, according to EBCDC. They will be open to any potential renter of any age.

EBCDC also is buying the property for $1.2 million from the owners of the nursery land, Joseph and Maria Silveria.

EBCDC Executive Director Kathy Bazinet describes the development as “very much like the Sweetbriar development" off of Washington Road in Bay Spring. See previous Patch story.

The developer does not expect to break ground for at least a year, probably longer. Completion is not expected until 2015.

Gary Morse May 15, 2012 at 11:04 AM
Question: Do these projects rely on financial subsidy on their property taxes in order to be viable? Ans: yes But is that subsidy paid directly by Barrington property tax payers and not the State compliant with the State of RI Constitution which requires that "burdens be equally distributed"? That question has not been addressed by the town council and should be. Currently, the average taxpayer in Barrington owning a similarly valued home as one of the units at $150,000 will pay $2415 per year in taxes. A similar in value unit renting for $500/mo will only pay $480 per year in property taxes (i.e. 8% of last years rent). The state law in this matter is ambiguous in that the section 44-5-13.11 of RIGL covers only rehabbed housing. So how is it that the tax assessor is only charging 8% of last years rent on new construction? This matter must be addressed.
Ignorance is not bliss May 15, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Help save Barrington’s land and surrounding ecology. Task our town council to integrate low income housing within the community by diligently researching alternatives to construction of dense housing projects. Let’s conserve what little natural resources that we have left in Barrington. You have an opportunity to voice your questions/concerns tonight at the Housing Forum.
Gary Morse May 15, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Your point is right on. When this legislation was first proposed, real estate was red hot and there seemed no end to the speculation and lack of supply. Thus there were tax incentives to rehab existing infrastructure (see RIGL 44-5-13.11). Now we appear to be subsidizing developers to plow under every inch of available land. The town appears to have misinterpreted property tax policy and is treating any new structure as being available for property tax reductions. Consider that the policy currently being used in town to assess affordable property is based on 8% of last years rent as opposed to it's actual assessed value like everyone else in town has to pay. Do the cash flow, it is a developers dream come true with low income loans to back up any project. No wonder we are now being bombarded with "affordable" projects. The town has to reexamine what the statutory and constitutional requirements are. Is the State of RI obligated to make up the property tax shortfall, and if not, is a reduced assessment legal?
Gary Morse May 15, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Great article on the history of the Sowam's land and missed opportunities. http://www.eastbayri.com/news/2012/may/15/denied-plans-spur-development-sowams-road/?c=1721
Ignorance is not bliss May 15, 2012 at 06:39 PM
I find it very interesting that the owners (Silveira's) sought guidance from their attorney (Tony DeSisto) on what to do with the land. DeSisto introduces them to East Bay CDC as a solution to their problems. Seems like DeSisto had only his best interest in mind as he also represents Easy Bay CDC, It was an attorney from DeSisto's office that would not allow the approximately 100 people in attendance at the last Housing meeting to ask questions about the proposed housing development. I wonder if DeSisto took the time to explore other options that would have preserved the land such as open,space, Barrington Land Trust, conservation, Audubon Society, etc. There are so many other uses of the land which would have not only been good for the Silveira's but also for the town of Barrington. DeSisto is a Barrington resident. Shame on him.

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