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Barrington Subdivision Gets Another Nod

The Planning Board reaches a consensus that indicates the master plan for 'Bluemead Farm' in Rumstick, with three affordable homes, will be approved next month.

The “Bluemead Farm” subdivision in Rumstick got another nod from the Barrington Planning Board Wednesday night, Jan. 2.

There were some definite concerns raised by members of the board, a member of the Housing Board of Trustees and affordable-housing critic Gary Morse about the location of the affordable housing units on the nine-lot, 13.6-acre site off of Chachapacasset and Beach Roads.

But the six members of the Planning Board at the meeting in Town Hall reached a consensus that is expected to lead to a vote to approve the master plan at the next meeting in February. Chairman Mike McCormick asked Town Planner Phil Hervey to draft a motion for approval. 

The plan presented Wednesday night by engineer David Gardiner and attorney Bruce Cox was an “alternative application” that boosted by one unit to three the number of affordable homes in the subdivision. The affordable units will be built as a single-family home and a two-unit duplex.

The two lots set aside for the affordable homes both sit off of Chachapacasset Road. The lots are not seen as being integrated into the subdivision as both Barrington and state law mandate. 

Molly Lee, a member of the Housing Board, said she does not feel that the developer, Bluemead Family L.P. of 211 RumstickRoad, is blending in the affordable units so they would not be recognizable from the market-rate homes to be built on the other seven lots.

Morse said he believes the development is in direct violation of the law, which mandates that affordable homes be integrated throughout the development. He also questioned the “timing” of the construction of the affordable homes, which under the law are to “be built and occupied prior to or simultaneous with the construction and occupancy of any market rate units.”

Andrew Teitz, the solicitor for the Planning Board, said restrictions can be imposed that address the timing, location and architectural style of the affordable units. But the board walks a fine line of imposing restrictions that are so onerous that they might be ignored. 

McCormick indicated that a vote of approval next month might involve placing some restrictions or conditions on the developer for the affordable homes.

The subdivision previously was referred to the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission for a possible archeological study because it sits adjacent to a spring-fed pond along Beach Road that dates back to pre-Colonial days.

A response from the heritage commission indicates that although there is a reasonable assumption that the site might have some historic significance, it did not advise that an archeological study be completed.

The development’s infrastructure – water, sewer and utilities – will be built by the developer. The subdivision includes a new 623-foot long street at Lewis Street that ends at a cul de sac.

Shades of Gray January 04, 2013 at 04:12 PM
Gary, left you a long note on your home page a couple of months ago. Hope you got it ...it continues to read "pending approval".
Gary Morse January 04, 2013 at 04:33 PM
Shades, I didn't see anything. Could you re-post?
Irish Temper January 04, 2013 at 06:38 PM
Both Peter Costa and Manfried Diel ran (in part) on reforming affordable housing in Barrington. To those of you who voted Democrat because of your adherence to the party line, you have no right to post your complaints here.
Seth Milman January 04, 2013 at 10:18 PM
Gary - I did not backtrack from anything. I did not want to answer your legal questions because I am NOT a RI attorney and thus am not qualified to provide legal opinions on RI law. But the Planning Board does interpret, administrate, enforce, adopt, modify, and amend town rules and regulations relating to development and land subdivision. The planning board also reviews and votes on comprehensive building permits. Therefore, interpretation of whether low income housing units are properly integrated into a development or have compatible architectural style, as per the town code, likely falls to the Planning Board. However, for a difinitive answer, you will have to ask someone else, like an RI attorney. D. In accordance with Chapter 200, Subdivision of Land, and § 45-23-51.52 of the Rhode Island General Laws, as amended, the Board shall adopt, modify and amend rules and regulations governing and restricting the platting and subdivision of land and land development and shall control such subdivision and land development pursuant to such rules and regulations. Additionally, the Board shall adopt or repeal, and shall provide for the administration, interpretation and enforcement of, land development and subdivision review regulations. All such regulations and amendments thereto shall be consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, Chapter 185, Zoning, of the Code of the Town of Barrington and all provisions of Chapter 23 of Title 45 of the Rhode Island General Laws, as amended.
Seth Milman January 04, 2013 at 10:56 PM
Additionally, the comprehensive permit process is designed so that the Planning Board can hear and act on any and all concerns regarding the application. For a project to move forward, the Planning Board must approve a master (conceptual) plan, and a preliminary (detailed) building plan. The Board recently approved Bluemead's master plan, which does not include any details on architectural style, and only conceptual, non-detailed information about integration of low income housing units in the development. If there are concerns regarding particular units within a project, the Board will hear them, they will become part of the record and part of the Board's decision. In my experience, the Board does everything within its power to make sure building projects not only comply with the affordable housing rules that you've cited, but also with the Comprehensive Plan, town zoning ordinances, and requests from people and neighbors concerned with the project. It is often a balancing act, as Andy Teitz implied with his "fine line" comment. The best way to address these concerns is for the concerned person to attend the planning board meeting or write to the board with specific requests and evidence that can be put on the record as to the concern.
Gary Morse January 04, 2013 at 11:56 PM
Seth, As an attorney (in Mass), you should understand the legal significance between rules and regulations, and Town ordinances and State statutes.
Seth Milman January 05, 2013 at 11:58 AM
That's true. And I do understand those differences. I also understand that you've asked for a specific interpretation of particular RI laws, which I cannot provide. If you'd like a more detailed explanation as to why, please send me an email.
Shades of Gray January 05, 2013 at 12:03 PM
Hi Gary, I just reposted. The original was posted Nov 2 in response to your TV interview. The re-post I just did also reads 'pending approval'. I don't know who is in charge if approving, but I hope the post is delivered this time.
Gary Morse January 05, 2013 at 12:42 PM
Seth, The affordable housing issues for the town include the issue of property tax subsidies for developers. The Palmer Pointe (Sowams) developer has already stated in their Nov 27th public meeting: "...to make the entire project feasible, EBCDC needs the Town Council’s support of taxing the project at 8 percent of its affordable rents – as the town does for Sweetbriar, EBCDC’s other project in Barrington. Palmer Pointe would be "infeasible” without that support from the town, Spinella said." http://barrington.patch.com/articles/palmer-pointe-described-as-filling-barrington-s-need-for-affordable-housing Given the sweeping powers of the Planning Board that you've described above, it would appear the Planning Board has the authority to tackle even taxation questions when it comes to project approvals. I think residents will now want to know if indeed the Planning Board has the sweeping authority to set criteria for approval of the Palmer Pointe project based on the "onerous" property tax subsidy question. This appears to be what you've described above. I know many residents who will look forward to that Sowam's debate when the issue comes before the Planning Board.
Seth Milman January 05, 2013 at 02:46 PM
That's a good question. The planning board does not set taxes and, in my experience, does not get involved in tax policy. Typically the Planning Board reviews applications on the basis of adherence to the town's Comprehensive Plan, technical building issues like drainage, zoning, etc. I do not know if the Planning Board can take tax burden into consideration when reviewing a comprehensive permit. I will make sure to raise this question at the next meeting.
Gary Morse January 05, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Seth, I'm not talking about affordable tax policy, but approval of the Sowam's project only on condition that the town council deals with the property tax abatement issue first. What EBCDC did with Sweetbriar was to build the project first, then after completion, they came to the town pleading for property tax relief. If the Planning Board had done a thorough job back when Sweetbriar was in the planning phase, they would have asked about any needed tax abatement's BEFORE the project went up. They didn't, and residents got stuck with the bill to this day. Barrington already has the highest property tax burden per capita in the state (I don't count the summer colonies of Block Island and Jamestown). The Planning Board needs to start thinking about residents.
Seth Milman January 05, 2013 at 04:32 PM
I understand. But I don't know whether the planning board can take those tax issues into consideration. Somewhere in the RI statutes there is an enumerated list of reasons for which the planning board can deny a low income application. I do not think the list explicitly includes tax issues, but it might implicitly include tax issues. So I will raise this question at the next meeting. Specifically, I will ask whether the Planning Board can take tax subsidy and funding issues such as these into consideration during the comprehensive permit process.
Gary Morse January 05, 2013 at 05:02 PM
Seth, I assume we are still talking about affordable housing laws here. This is exactly my earlier point. The Planning Board is either going to be consistent with application of the affordable laws, or treat them all as pliable. The Board should not be using the weight of the law against town residents, and in the same breath, apply legal latitude on behalf of developers. This will eventually hurt town residents, not help them.
Seth Milman January 05, 2013 at 06:23 PM
Hi Gary, I'm not exactly sure what you're asking for. If you have a specific request or concern, please bring it up to the Board. I don't really know how to help you if you just make broad assertions that the Board uses the law against the residents. There's really no actionable request there. In my experience, the Planning Board has never tried to use any law against town residents, or for that matter tried to do anything 'against' town residents. From what I have seen, the Planning Board is extremely deferential to specific concerns that people raise. Of course, that has to be balanced against the property owner's rights as well. Again, if you have a specific request or concern regarding an application before the board, please raise it. Broad assertions that the Planning Board isn't acting on behalf of the residents are not helpful, and are not true.
Gary Morse January 06, 2013 at 11:45 AM
As far as affordable housing, the Planning Board is not working in the best interests of residents. This is an observation, not a question. Take for example the Comprehensive Community Plan. You might try actually reading what the full law says about how to write the "Plan". There are lots of issues on the so called mandate that point to the Planning Board falling in line with a regime called RI Housing, who benefit from expansion of these programs. There is little in the way of push back by the Planning Board on behalf of the towns interests. The Planning Board needs to get some backbone. Then there is the issue of who the Planning Board gets its legal advice from. Are you aware that the Ursillo law firm is doing legal work on the side for Ms Bazinet? (EBCDC). As an attorney, I'm sure you can understand the issues with that. The observations are that the Planning Board itself has morphed into part of a regime that eventually will create higher property taxes, reduced property values, and a reduced quality of life for residents. They need to get some courage to ask the simple questions residents want answered, and push back when the answers make no sense for Barrington. The board might try starting with those "onerous" property tax subsidies.
Seth Milman January 06, 2013 at 12:13 PM
I respectfully disagree with your observations. As I said, if you have a specific concern or request, bring it up to the board and it will be heard. Broad assertions that the Board isn't doing its job, without specifics, are not helpful or actionable. I've already said that I will find out about whether the planning board can take tax issues into consideration, so I'm not sure what else you're asking for with respect to onerous property tax issues.
Manifold Witness January 06, 2013 at 12:26 PM
Gary -1. Seth - 0.
Local Mom January 06, 2013 at 12:27 PM
Sticking points aside, it's up to Barrington taxpayers need to reach out to their state representatives and Town Council to help stop this "progress". For us common folks, the reason these types of developments are blossoming in town is because they can under State grace - the statute needs to be changed. Contact your state reps, but also your Town Council which seems to be rubber stamp happy on this issue right now. Newest development off Chachapacassett now moving quickly - am surprised our Rumstick neighborhood bretheren aren't out there in force over this issue. Regardless of your part of town, this is a small town and your voice can be heard. Please make every effort to attend the monthly Town Council meetings (next is Mon Jan 7 @ 6p), and bring as many friends as you can. There is a public comment section at every meeting - limited to 2 minutes, but step right up. If you can't attend the meetings, contact your State reps and Town Council reps directly and let them know your opinions on this or anything else going on. Here is the Barrington Town Council website which includes email addresses: http://72.46.3.26/towncouncil.php. You can review past meetings, upcoming agendas, etc. Posting your opinions on Patch is helpful to vent, but doesn't have the power of you reaching out to your state or local representatives. Remember - these folks are voted in, and are beholden to their communities.
Fred Diel January 06, 2013 at 12:36 PM
Residents and voters of Barrington need to stop complaining about affordable housing! This is what you asked for and deserve by voting in the same old people last November. Our current general assembly legislators are at fault for voting for original affordable housing bill or not trying to change it over the last few years. You need to look at what is OUR legislators first priority this legislative cycle You think they would maybe work on improving the economy? Affordable housing law reform? No not either one of those issues, it is gay marriage. I wonder if that would have been the first bill out of the gate Peter Costa Jr. and myself would have sponsored or co-sponsored? Maybe we would have kept our promise that we ran on for repealing the affordable housing act and improving the business climate. Elections mean thing!
Gary Morse January 06, 2013 at 01:06 PM
Seth, Where affordable housing and the Planning Board is concerned, I expected you to label my points as "broad assertions" in your previous comment. So to narrow it down, here is a short "to do" list for the Planning Board. It's just a starting point. 1) If the 10% mandate can never be met in Barrington (Councilor Speakman's words in the Hummel interview), what is the Planning Board doing to amend the Comprehensive Community Plan? 2) The Planning Board should raise the question of whether the Ursillo Law Firm is serving two masters in their legal opinions when it comes to affordable housing and Planning Board legal guidance. 3) The Planning Board should get an impartial and written legal opinion to confirm their authority to bend ordinances and state statutes in their decisions. 4) The Planning Board should address the full financial impact to the town on growth. There is no current impact study, and the board appears to be flying by the seat of its pants on these matters. This includes infrastructure upgrades. For example, at the Palmer Pointe presentation, the developer would only acknowledge that a water line ran past the development, but would not say if proper testing had been done on the drop in pressure to the surrounding neighborhoods from the added load . 5) The Planning Board needs to address financial impact (i.e. property tax abatement's) as a part of project planning, something that was not done for Sweetbriar and cost residents a lot.
Gary Morse January 06, 2013 at 01:18 PM
Fred, I don't think you would disagree that the first order of business is to deal with the affordable laws as they are currently written. They are a rats nest of confusing cross references, and we need to hold our town officials accountable for interpreting them in our interests, not in the interests of a regime called RI Housing (the EDC's twin).
Lorraine F January 06, 2013 at 02:04 PM
Mr Diel, Please don't imply that because I may be a Democrat, I agree with the affordable housing push in town. I am very much against it from the impact on what little remaining open space we have left, and the financial cost to the town! Consider that Councilor Strong ran as a Democrat, and has shown a common sense approach to this issue that the laws must be challenged (thank you Councilor Strong). Also, Councilor Coyne appears to have expressed a need to take a second look at the financial impact to residents as part of the review (thank you Councilor Coyne). This is a town wide effort, and I hope you will remain in the fight as much as you expressed before the election.
Kristine January 06, 2013 at 02:29 PM
Not all ppl who hope to be a homeowner in Barrington in "these types of developments" are bad..I'm a single parent, I've worked for the govt for over 15 yrs and served 12 yrs in the Army. I truly like Barrington and moved here 3 yrs ago...the hopes of owning a home for my son and I are bleak due to the fact that I make a little over the medium income for Barrington. The medium income for RI is so low I appear to be a millionaire...so instead of being a taxpayer in town due to the outrageous houseing costs and taxes I rent...I'm fine w/ that but Affordable Housing doesn't always draw deadbeats or irresponsible residents.
Local Mom January 06, 2013 at 02:44 PM
Kristine, I apologize for my apparent insensitive inference above, and I thank you for your time and service in the government and the Army. The true issue is that the economics of the way this is being done locally is a huge problem. If the affordable housing developments continue to be inserted into the community at the town's taxpayer expense, you and many others will continue to be priced out on taxes alone - defeating the purpose of the entire concept.
Kristine January 06, 2013 at 03:27 PM
In the Moment...I'm not offended by your original post and I appreciate the reply...it's very frustrating in a sense and I agree, the town taxpayers should not bear the brunt of any program like this.I appreciate that as a renter in town, my son is benefiting from THE best Special Ed services in the state and the school system. I'd not choose any other school district in RI. Working in Providence I see the downfall of Affordable Housing....and I have a friend who bought a home at Walker Farm, she continues to urge me to apply but NO WAY would I pay the full price of those homes...there is truly nothing special about them - size, price, land size...especially knowing the issue w/ one home and the water issue.
Kristine January 06, 2013 at 03:48 PM
with probably 1/2 of the homes still for sale at Walker Farm I'm not sure how those that are pushing for another affordable housing project think they will sell those homes anyway.
Fred Diel January 06, 2013 at 03:48 PM
@Lorraine. I would not have even known you were a Democrat. It doesn't matter what party you are affiliated with or not affiliated with. Hopefully you didn't vote straight party ticket. By your passion for personnel property rights it looks to me you did not. In regards to your statements about Counselors Strong and Coyne. Words or phrases mean nothing. Only actions and results. The problem with the whole affordable housing is that it was legislated by the Progressive Republican and Democrats in the RI general assembly. If you have time you should read the following book by a Liberal Democrat Harriot Parke. Agenda 21
Lorraine F January 06, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Fred, Most Democrats are in favor of private property rights in the the same way most Republicans endorse the "velocity of money" economic theory (i.e the economy runs more efficiently when those at the top are not hoarding the cash). Call me a moderate Democrat who also believes that hard work deserves it's privileges. Taking a line from an earlier comment, thank you for your service to our country, and for the hard work of campaigning in the last election.
Seth Milman January 08, 2013 at 02:29 PM
For all those interested: JOINT MEETING BARRINGTON PLANNING BOARD BARRINGTON TECHNICAL REVIEW COMMITTEE BARRINGTON HOUSING BOARD OF TRUSTEES 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, January 15, 2013 Library Auditorium Gallery Room, Barrington Public Library 281 County Road, Barrington, RI AGENDA 1. Call Meeting to Order 2. Housing Board: Approve Minutes - December 18, 2012 Meeting 3. Pre-Application Meeting: Palmer Pointe Neighborhood – Plat 28, Lots 72, 73, 246, 248, 249 and 263 (Sowams Nursery property, east side of Sowams Road). Development of 48 new affordable housing units on property totaling approximately 7.5 acres. Proposal would be filed under the comprehensive permit process. 4. Adjourn The Town of Barrington will provide accommodations needed to ensure equal participation in all meetings. Please contact the Town Clerk’s office prior to the meeting so arrangements can be made to provide such assistance. A request for accommodations can be made in writing to 283 County Road or by calling 401-247-1900, Ext. 301 (voice) or call 711 “Relay” if you are a TDY OR TDD user. The Barrington Town Hall, Barrington Public Library and Barrington Public Safety Building are accessible to the disabled. Posted on January 8, 2013 at Barrington Town Hall, Barrington Public Library, the Town of Barrington Website and the R.I. Secretary of State Website
Gary Morse January 08, 2013 at 03:10 PM
Two important questions on affordable housing should be addressed at this meeting: 1) Why hasn't the Planning Board pushed back on the issue that RI Housing demands that only "deed restricted" houses count in the 10% mandate? When the RI Supreme Court recently ruled on the "fee-in-lieu" question for affordable developers, they looked at the affordable definitions under the Comprehensive Housing Production and Rehabilitation Act of 2004 and said: "First, § 42-128-8.1(d)(2)-(3) provides definitions for the terms “[a]ffordable housing plan” and “[a]pproved affordable housing plan” as used in the Comprehensive Housing Production and Rehabilitation Act of 2004, but these statutory subsections make no reference to the imposition of fees." http://www.courts.ri.gov/Courts/SupremeCourt/OpinionsOrders/opinions/09-93.pdf The same definitions section, § 42-128-8.1(d)(1) defines "Affordable Housing", and equally, makes no reference to the words "deed restriction". http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/title42/42-128/42-128-8.1.HTM Why hasn't the Planning Board asked RI Housing about this deed restriction requirement given the recent statements by the RI Supreme Court? 2) Will the Planning Board make their decision for Palmer Pointe with a requirement that EBCDC first get town council approval for the property tax abatement's?

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