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Nockum Hill Condos Slammed

The Barrington Planning Board holds a public information meeting for 'The Residences at the Preserve' on Nockum Hill off of George Street; opponents lined up.

The condominium development proposed for Nockum Hill in Barrington next to the wildlife sanctuary off of George Street got its first public airing Tuesday night, June 5. The response was less than supportive.

The Planning Board held a public informational meeting in the Council Chamber in Town Hall to allow the developer to present the plan for “The Residences at the Preserve.” The presentation, led by attorney Bill Landry, was followed by responses from nine George Street neighbors and several conservationists.

Richard Brooks of George Street made one of the shortest comments during the three-hour session. But his analogy seemed to sum up all the other responses.

Brooks described the rural area next to the wildlife refuge as a classic suit. He described the condos as “hot pink.”

“Hot pink doesn’t fit with a suit,” Brooks said. “It simply doesn’t fit.”

Peter McCalmont, of Bluff Road and the Nockum Hill management group, said the condo proposal “undermines the town's Comprehensive Plan and all the decisions made over the years to advance those goals."

“The Town Council has taken significant steps to keep this area an open space,” he said, including putting a conservation easement on the 82 acres that make up the Doug Rayner Wildlife Sanctuary.

Charlotte Sornberger, of Wildacre Lane, who has spent many years working to protect the endangered terrapins that breed and live in Hundred Acre Cove off of Nockum Hill, said the area is “an endangered species area.”

Sornberger also said: “This development will impact the character of this rural pocket of Barrington.”

Landry led the pitch for the condo development -- a project of North End Holdings of Wakefield, RI, operated by Ron Chofay, who owns the land that used to be an equestrian center. But Landry got help from a professional engineer, a landscape designer, an authority on affordable housing, and a traffic engineer.

Two plans actually were put forth. One would build 27 condos, 7 of which would be built for low- and moderate-income owners. An alternative plan calls for 24 units with 6 of the condos as affordable housing.

The condos in either plan would be set on a C-shaped road and run east to west just west of the wetlands and pond on the site. Wells would provide water. Two cisterns would hold water for firefighting. A septic system built on the south side of the site would handle wastewater.

Scott Moorehead, a professional engineer, said the wastewater treatment system would be designed to exceed regulations of the RI Department of Environmental Management and Coastal Resources Management Council.

“There would be no adverse environmental impacts,” Moorehead said.

There would be common ownership of the land around the condos by a homeowners’ association. Landscaping would include a variety of native plants and trees, including white pines, sugar maples, crabapple trees, and juniper, said Holly Bachman, the landscaper. A walking path would run around the edge of the property.

Michael Desmond, a traffic engineer with Bryant Associates, said a traffic study does not forecast a large increase in vehicles using George Street. Perhaps 18 to 21 vehicles per hour, he said.

Landry said the alternate plan was developed because of some concerns raised by Barrington’s Technical Review Committee. TRC did not like the rear of several condos facing George Street in the original plan. TRC also preferred more open space in front of vehicles driving south on George Street.

Other opponents of the development questioned its compatibility with the farm land around it, some drainage issues in that area, and the loss of more open space.

Landry also got into a rather testy exchange with Edgar Adams of the Planning Board and Andrew Teitz, solicitor to the board, about Barrington’s affordable housing strategy.

He claimed the strategy in the Comprehensive Plan has not been approved by the state and is out of touch for a town that needs to develop more affordable housing. They said the strategy has been approved by the state and it will be used in assessing this development.

Gary Morse June 06, 2012 at 11:24 AM
Residents need to find out exactly what Barrington's affordable housing strategy is? It's called "infill". On page 2 of the Barrington Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for the Sowams Road project, it states as an objective: "Affordable housing should be infill development, revitalizing underused sites". The CDBG goes on to say: "The Sowams Road proposal meets this objective in that it utilizes vacant land and will infill nicely into the existing residential area". Sowams Road land is not vacant land since the tax assessor currently classifies it as productive agricultural land. The town needs to come to terms with the fact that our current planning board is fixated on a wrong-headed goal to infill the entire town. It is wrong-headed in that the original legislative goals for affordable housing have already been met through the market itself. The town's Comprehensive Plan is now obsolete thinking. The Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED) website confirms in their data that at a time just before the affordable legislation was enacted, RI real estate was surging at a rate faster than every other state in the region, and also across the US. However, since 2008, we have equally crashed faster than every other state. You can chart these historical "home price" statistics for any state at: http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/ The market itself has corrected RI's affordable problem. We need to put an end this developer boondoggle.
Rocky June 08, 2012 at 09:56 PM
I'm beginning to think that building an affordable housing complex is a great way to fund my retirement, now that private developers have access to the government incentives that used to be reserved for non-profits. Expedited permitting in towns that fall below the 10% requirement, not much space needed to cram everything into....and, hey, only a few really have to be affordable. The rest is pure profit! Plus, I'd get a happy-all-over feeling, know that I'm providing affordable housing....or at least the bare minimum required to help my project along. Yep, that's definitely my new business plan.
Ignorance is not bliss June 10, 2012 at 03:19 AM
R.I. Senate Finance recommends passage of $8.1-billion state budget which includes $25 MILLION Affordable Housing bond. We really need to pay attention this time around. http://news.providencejournal.com/politics/2012/06/ri-senate-finance-recommends-passage-of-81-billion-state-budget.html

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