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Affordable Housing Tax Abatement, Municipal Court Judge Top Agenda

The Barrington Town Council meets at 7 pm in the Council Chamber in Town Hall after starting at 6 pm with an executive session.

A request for a tax abatement for the proposed affordable-housing development at Sowams Nursery and the appointment of Barrington’s first Municipal Court judge head the agenda of tonight’s Town Council meeting.

The meeting starts at 6 pm in the Council Chamber in Town Hall although the first hour will be devoted to an interview for a Municipal Court bailiff and an executive session selecting a bailiff and the judge. In effect, the meeting starts at the regular time of 7 pm.

The councilors also will hear a report from the Conservation Commission on the town’s plastic bag ban, review guidelines for memorials on town property, act on the request from the Dellefratte family for a memorial, and hear an update on the proposed Community Center project.

East Bay Community Development Corporation is seeking a tax abatement for its proposed 48-unit “Palmer Pointe” rental development of of Sowams Road. The tax abatement is considered critical for the financing of the property by EBCDC. Without it, the development would probably not be financially feasible.

A petition opposing the tax abatement for the project will be presented by Gary and Mary Ann Morse of Barrington. It asks the councilors to deny the abatement primarily because it is seen as creating an unfair burden on property owners with similar incomes who are not given similar consideration on their property assessments. 

Two Barrington attorneys are being considered for Municipal Court judge: Francis “Frank” Connor and Dean Robinson. Each was interviewed by the Town Council on May 13 after being selected from among 10 attorneys who applied for the post.

Connor is a partner in the Taylor Duane Barton & Gilman law firm in Providence. He concentrates on medical professional liability defense, business disputes, insurance, and catastrophic personal injuries. He lives with his wife and three children on Harbour Road.

Robinson has been operating a private law firm since 2004 on Willett Avenue in Riverside. He concentrates on business law, probate and civil litigation. He lives with his wife and three children on New Meadow Road. 

See the Patch story for more information on the two candidates.

Here is the complete agenda for tonight’s Town Council meeting:

TOWN COUNCIL MEETING

MONDAY, JUNE 3, 2013 @ 6:00 P.M.

COUNCIL CHAMBER, BARRINGTON TOWN HALL

1. Call to Order

2. Interview Candidate for Municipal Court Bailiff 

3.  Executive Session in Accordance with RIGL 42-46-5 (a) (1) Personnel (Municipal Court Judge and Bailiff)

4.  Pledge of Allegiance – NOT BEFORE 7:00 P.M.

5.  Announcements: 

  • Girl Scout Gold Award Recognition to April Marion Harff, Carlene Niguidula and Molly Williams
  • Town’s Recycling Program

6.  *Adopt Town Council Minutes of May 6, 13 and 17, 2013 Meetings

7.  *Utility Petitions

8.  *Monthly Department Reports: 

Fire Chief, Police Chief/Animal Control Official, Building Official, Public Works Director, Town Planner, Town Solicitor, Finance Director, Tax Assessor, Senior Services Director, Library Director, Barrington Adult Youth Team Coordinator and Recreation and Leisure Services Director (Town Clerk report for May will be on July agenda)

9.  *Abatement List

10.  *Surplus Property

11.  Public Comment (two minute statement) –

To the public:  This agenda item is for members of the public to speak regarding a topic that is not already on the agenda. Please indicate that you would like to speak by raising your hand. When you are recognized, please approach the microphone in front of the Council.

12.  Bristol County Water Authority Report

13.   Appoint Municipal Court Judge and Bailiff

14.   Report from Conservation Commission on Reusable Checkout Bag Initiative (Plastic Bag Ban)

15.   Park and Recreation Items

  • Review Guidelines for Memorials on Town Property
  • Discuss and Act on Request from Dellefratte Family for a Memorial on Town Property
  • Public Hearing on Ordinance #2013-5 Amending the Code of the Town of Barrington Chapter 134 Parks and Recreation, Article I:  Private Tennis Lessons Prohibited
  • Resolution for Fees and Fines:  Tennis Programs and Land Use Processing Fee 

16. Resolutions: 

  • To Oppose Bills H5703 and S0544 which would Impose a State Mandate Requiring Property with Slopes be Measured a Certain Way Permitting increased Density
  • To Oppose Bills H5425 and S0672 Prohibiting Local Governments from having a Wetlands Buffer More Stringent than the State buffer
  • To Oppose Bill S0322 Occupancy Permit Legislation
  • To Support Bills H6060 and S0733 Historic Tax Credit
  • To Support Municipal Streetlight Investment Act
  • To Amend Sewer Use Rates 

17.  Public Hearing:  St. Andrew’s School’s Request for Zone Change

18.   Set Affordable Housing Workshop

19.   Discuss and Act on Palmer Pointe/East Bay Community Development Corporation Tax Abatement/Exemption 

20.  Update on Community Center Project

21.  Public Hearings for Ordinances Amending the Code of the Town of Barrington:

  •  Ordinance #2013-2, Amend Chapter 63 Alcoholic Beverages, Article IV:  Possession of Alcohol by Underage Persons.
  • Ordinance #2013-3, Amend Chapter 131 Disorderly Conduct.
  • Ordinance #2013-4, Amend Chapter 124 Licenses and Permits, Article I:  Peddling, Soliciting, and Transient Merchants.

22. Bids: 

Department of Public Works: One (1) Four Wheel Drive Loader

One (1) Tub Grinder Services

Tax Assessor for 2014 Revaluation

Town Planner for Wayfinding/Streetscape Consultant Proposal 

23. Discuss and Act on Establishing Charter Review Committee

24.  Discuss and Act on  RFP for Assessing Standards Expert Consultative Services

25. Introduce Ordinance #2013-6

Amending the Code of the Town of Barrington Chapter 45 Salaries and Compensation, Non-Union Employees 

26.  Set Agenda for July 1, 2013 Council Meeting 

27.  Adjourn

steve primiano June 03, 2013 at 12:46 PM
I strongly encourage everyone who cares about the future of Barrington to attend tonight's meeting to demonstrate their opposition to the Palmer Pointe affordable housing project. It is our collective apathy that has allowed this to get this far. We can no longer sit back and assume that our elected officials are looking out for our best interests.
Gary Morse June 03, 2013 at 01:53 PM
Does the question of tax abatements for affordable housing rise to a constitutional issue in Barrington? Are Barrington Town officials acting contrary to the best interests of town residents? The facts show that our town officials have not been completely honest about this so-called 10% affordable housing state mandate. Fact: Barrington has already fully complied with all mandates under the Low and Moderate Income Housing Act. Town officials don't want residents to know that. The initiatives that are now being taken in Barrington (contrary to the benefit of town residents), are totally unwarranted and being promoted by affordable housing activists. Residents have been misled. Please show up tonight to have your voices heard!
steve martin June 03, 2013 at 03:36 PM
Gary, your "FACT" in clearly untrue. It certainly appears that you are the one trying to mislead here. As you well know, the LMI Housing ACT requires 10% of a Town's dwelling units to be deed restricted to LMI occupants. Barrington has approximately 2.5%. So no, we are not in compliance with this "So called mandate". We can all have our own opinions as to what is in the best interests of the town. But lets at least try and be truthful.
Gary Morse June 03, 2013 at 03:59 PM
Steve, You need to read the statutes. Fact: the affordable housing statutes only refer to the 10% numerical objective as being a "goal". In no place is the 10% ever referred to as a "mandate". There were only two mandates required by Barrington under the LMI Housing Act: 1) create an approved Comprehensive Community Plan (already done) 2) create inclusionary zoning and land use ordinances, requirements, and regulations to implement the approved comprehensive plan (also, already done). The 10% goal is strictly to assess the time that (2) inclusionary zoning ordinances can be lifted. The statute in no way, shape, or form mandates that the 10% "goal" must be met by Barrington, or any other town. There is zero penalty for not meeting the 10% "goal". Can you point to any part of the LMI Housing Act that supports your position that Barrington is in any way penalized for not meeting the 10% "goal". There is nothing, so Barrington is now fully compliant as far as the state mandates are concerned. One last point, Barrington's Comprehensive Community Plan has absolutely no reference to property tax subsidies beyond the Senior "circuit breaker" program that exists today. So why are we even thinking about these additional subsidies? Please help out with some references if you can.
Gary Morse June 03, 2013 at 04:07 PM
One last point. I have talked with legislators from around the state who have commented to me: "What is Barrington's problem" They know this entire issue is little more than a goal that does not require jumping through hoops to please developers, as we seem to be doing in Barrington. Our problem in Barrington is simply that we have too many "activists".
Bill June 03, 2013 at 04:47 PM
According to the 2010 census we have 49,788 vacant dwellings in RI. http://providence.craigslist.org/apa/
Bill June 03, 2013 at 04:49 PM
Our problem gary is our "Hero" of affordable housing!
readmylips June 03, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Gary, Thank you for helping me to understand this affordable housing debacle. I'm finally beginning to get the link between full day K (my sore spot) and this affordable housing insanity. At the FTM, the argument was largely that town officials have lost sight of how to prioritize their spending. What Mr Martin's above comment appears to be doing, like all of our town officials now seem to be doing, is trying to justify actions that have caused Barrington to lose it's way. We cannot go on by saying everything can be done. Some priority in spending please!
Gary Morse June 03, 2013 at 05:55 PM
Thanks for the comment. Because many appear to be reading my comments on affordable housing, let me be clear on what I am against. Some of the affordable housing initiatives make sense. Where common sense fell apart was when Barrington took on the role of activists for affordable development and developers. The process should have worked independent of local activism. One huge "shoot yourself in the foot" Barrington initiative was to write an add-on town ordinance that ALL development be affordable inclusionary development when over 3 units. There is no comparable demand under state statute that everything be "inclusionary". Residents are now deprived of tax revenues from upscale development because ALL must be affordable in size and style. (e.g. the Bluemead development problem in Rumstick). Then there is the Sweetbriar tax assessment break where the town council misapplied an assessing statute. Lets not forget that our Town Planner spends town time getting CDBG grants for affordable developers. How else is the EBCDC is paying for the Palmer Pointe subject matter experts in all these meetings? I won't go into detail on the Spencer Trust issues. Town officials have created burdens where none should have existed. Barrington's contribution should have ended after we finished the Comp Plan and created inclusionary zoning ordinances. Activism has been Barrington's biggest headache, and it needs to end. It's not helping the town.
steve martin June 03, 2013 at 05:56 PM
Gary, you are correct in that there is no stated penalty in RIGL 45-53 and 10% is a goal. However, until and if we ever get to 10%, Barrington is penalized in that we lose local control, ie: developers can appeal any denial to build their housing project to the State (SHAB). This is what happened at Sweetbriar and we are still subject to this State level interference. So yes, there is a penalty.
Gary Morse June 03, 2013 at 06:14 PM
Steve, You have to get your ideas in order. Barrington will NEVER reach the 10% goal, and Barrington will ALWAYS be under the rule of inclusionary zoning up to 2025. No matter how fast we pedal, or how many tax abatements we give out, Barrington cannot reach the 10% mandate. Per the October 25, 2012 Hummel Report on Affordable Housing: Hummel: ``Is the 10 percent achievable?'' Speakman: ``I don't think it is, no. I think it's a noble goal and one that we've been moving toward diligently, and the state has acknowledged that, but it's very hard in this community to get to 10 percent given that it's built out" The problem is that we are doing things that rational people don't do when we hold a developers hand and escort them into town to build projects that harm the community. We cannot stop affordable development (mostly), but we should definitely not be helping them with property tax abatements or CDBG grants. There is absolutely no need for activism in Barrington since all the activism in the world won't change the reality that Barrington cannot meet the 10% mandate. If the developer cannot handle a project on their own, they should not be doing it. Affordable activism needs to stop! It is harming the town, not helping it.
Gary Morse June 03, 2013 at 07:27 PM
Steve, I had to go back to the EBCDC (Sweetbriar) vs Barrington case to get the specific arguments in that case (summarized) 1) That the space was needed for business zoning to "to expand the town's economic base" to which the court pointed out that - "lot No. 110 has remained vacant for three decades, is surrounded by residential neighborhoods, and does not have access to any major highways-factors making commercial demand for the site “extremely limited." 2) Barrington's use regulation prohibiting two-family dwellings in all but the diminutive percentage of the site zoned for “Neighborhood Business” (lot Nos. 106 and 147) frustrated the development of any consequential affordable housing on the site. 3) The town argued that the only alternative to business use for the site suggested in the plan was for elderly housing to which the court rightfully noted that there was no "rational explanation for why the parcels were suitable for affordable elderly housing, as the town conceded, but not affordable non-elderly housing". In short, the town's case was foolish and should have been lost. That is not equivalent to where the town is today.
B/STOCK June 03, 2013 at 09:23 PM
Could someone tell me why the two previous private plans for the Sowams road property were denied? It seems to me the plans were denied because of the cozy relationship EB housing has with the hero's of the the town council. Am I wrong?
Manifold Witness June 03, 2013 at 09:40 PM
Excellent point, B/STOCK. Please see: http://barrington.patch.com/articles/some-history-on-sowams-nursery Excepted: "On January 11, 2006 the Barrington Planning Board denied an application for a Major Subdivision consisting of 8 privately owned residences (“Osprey Landing”) on the Sowams Nursery property on Sowams road. This is the same property on which the East Bay Community Development Corporation (EBCDC) seeks to construct 48 units of low and moderate income rental housing. In their decision denying the “Osprey Landing” application, the Board (none of whose members are on the present Planning Board) included the following rationale for their denial: •“The applicant sought to maximize the number of house lots at the expense of good planning design: alternative configurations with fewer lots could have reduced the number of requested waivers;” •“The Master Plan proposal does not conform to the following aspects of the Comprehensive Plan: •“Insure that future residential development is done in a manner that preserves Barrington’s character* and quality of life, including sensitivity to important open space areas and significant natural resources”. •“Insure that new residential development addresses Barrington’s housing goals by rigorously meeting all subdivision and zoning regulations”.
Jo Ellen Ojeda June 03, 2013 at 11:54 PM
Steve, I am only a PT resident now but deplore another affordable housing development and oppose any tax abatement. We have many seniors being forced out of town because of the astronomical and disproportionate tax burden. The value of property on the three points of land has been destroyed and people cannot sell their homes because of the tax burden. Let me know how I can help. Jo Ellen Ojeda, 247-4749
Equity June 04, 2013 at 01:29 AM
Manifold: Was this project supported by the neighbors/residents of Barrington?

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