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Nockum Hill Among Rezoned Land

A new Conservation Development zone for Nockum Hill is approved by the Barrington Town Council as part of new zoning for a package of properties in 15 areas.

More than a dozen properties in Barrington’s only agricultural area, Nockum Hill, were given a new zoning designation on Monday night by the Town Council.

The new zoning was approved as part of a package of properties in 15 areas that the Planning Board asked to be rezoned. Most of the changes simply align the town’s zoning with the Comprehensive Community Plan.

“We’re just trying to catch up to what is already happening out there,” said Planning Board chairman Mike McCormick at a workshop with the Town Council on the zoning maps a couple of weeks ago.

A variety of parcels in Plat 37 in Nockum Hill, however, were selected for R40 Conservation Development -- a new technique for land use that is intended to preserve a neighborhood’s character without limiting a property owner’s rights. Those parcels sit along the border of Swansea, Seekonk and Hundred Acre Cove; many are used by Four Town Farm.

Town Planner Phil Hervey, who made a presentation to the Town Council for the Planning Board, said the area was selected for Conservation Development primarily because it is the only remaining rural area in Barrington. And this zoning designation seems to be the best way to preserve its character.

The goal of this type of zoning is to protect at least 50 percent of a parcel of land as open space at no cost to the town, which in many instances is the only way to preserve land.

A handout given to the Town Council several weeks ago from the RI Department of Environmental Management states that Conservation Development zones protect natural and cultural amenities that can add value to a property and quality of life. It touts economic, environmental and social and recreation advantages.

Nancy Letendre, a solicitor for Barrington, said: “Open space has a positive impact on property values.”

Letendre had told the Town Council previously that Conservation Development zoning has been used in Rhode Island for about 10 years, particularly in South Kingstown, North Kingstown and Charlestown. A property owner who develops land with this type of conservation easement would get a 40 percent density bonus, she said.

Most of the rezoned land states the obvious.

School properties were rezoned from Open Space Active to Recreation and Education.

The Police Cove site, being designed as a park, was rezoned from R25 to Open Space Active.

The Barrington Town Hall, Public Safety Building, Public Works Facility and Public Library were rezoned from Open Space Active to Government and Institutional.

Several Bayside YMCA lots were changed from Open Space Active to Recreation and Education.

Several town-owned parcels were converted from R25 to Conservation.

Several R10 parcels on the fringe of the business zone were rezoned from R10 to NB (Neighborhood Business).

The Sowams Woods property owned by the Barrington Land Conservation Trust was rezoned from Recreation and Education to Open Space Passive.

One lot near the Bayside YMCA was pulled from the package and tabled for future consideration by a 5-0 vote of the councilors. The vote followed a request made by Marc Zawatsky of Half Mile Road, who owns properties adjacent to the YMCA site.

“You are creating a more intensive use,” Zawatsky said of the YMCA property, “surrounded by less intensive use.”

For the complete list of properties that were rezoned, click here and then click on Zoning Map Amendments to see a PDF.

Gary Morse August 01, 2012 at 05:09 PM
What was disturbing was the lack of debate from the Conservation Commission on the impact to the sensitive Nockum Hill ecological area. Exactly what is the position by the Conservation Commission on Nockum Hill high density development? And to anyone who believes that the conservation space in this so called R-40 Conservation Development can't be rezoned later by affordable housing advocates, you had better take a closer look at the Barrington Comprehensive Community Plan.
Gary Morse August 02, 2012 at 11:48 AM
To anyone who thinks it's OK to plow under rich local farmland to put up unneeded affordable development, watch Drought: The "new normal"? http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nightly-news/48452522#48452522
P. Dulchinos August 02, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Unfortunately, your concerns about affordable housing development in the Town of Barrington are misguided and your anger towards the Town Council is misdirected. You need to lobby your state legislative delegations and get the “RI 2004 Affordable Housing Act” repealed or amended so that Barrington can receive an exemption based on the town’s “build out” status. Until that happens all future housing development in our town (regardless of location) will require compliance with the affordable housing act. Even if we attempt to restrict affordable housing development through the comprehensive permitting process, we will still be at the mercy of the State Housing Appeals Board (i.e. Sweet Briar). In this emotionally- charged debate about affordable housing we need to re-focus our energy towards correcting the root cause of the problem and/or try to mitigate the negative impacts of forced compliance. The RI 2004 Affordable Housing Act is yet another example of the over reach of government and the usurping of local control.
Gary Morse August 02, 2012 at 01:13 PM
I am not against affordable housing. I am against affordable housing policies that are put in place primarily to enrich developers. Such local policies are inefficient to serve the true needs of those needing affordable homes, and widely viewed by the rest of the state as poor public policy (I've talked to other towns on this). One example is our local town ordinance that provides local taxpayer subsidized 30 year deed restrictions. This is one reason developers love Barrington. Our citizens are asked by the town council (who approved the local ordinance) to subsidize a local policy (it's not a state mandate) to put in affordable housing that disappears in 30 years when the deed restrictions are removed. How does that help long term affordable housing on the limited space we have available? Instead it creates distortions in the true long term objectives for affordable housing. If you did some research, you would understand this is not a state issue, it is a matter of how our local ordinances and taxation policies have been implemented by our majority town council.
Gary Morse August 03, 2012 at 10:59 AM
Mr. Dulchinos, As a member of the town Planning Board, could you please explain mathematically what an "affordable home" actually is here in Barrington. I've read through the statutes and local ordinances and it has the appearance the town Planning Board is rigging the numbers to favor more development, not rehabilitation. And could you please help residents understand the alleged statutory requirement for a deed restriction as being the sole criteria to be considered as a countable "affordable home". Finally, why hasn't the Planning Board done a comprehensive review of this specific matter to account for exactly how many homes are already "affordable" in town? It is my impression these numbers have been rigged to the disadvantage of residents. If you can show me where I am wrong, I offer my apology. And finally, could you please explain how we are "at the mercy of the State Housing Appeals Board (i.e. Sweet Briar)". If you actually did research in your role on the Planning Board, you would find that the Sweetbriar lawsuit was more contrived rainmaking than a legitimate legal challenge. The issue of the Sweetbriar lawsuit had to do with high density zoning in a Barrington business district, a matter the town never should have bothered to fight. But the Town Council, and people like yourself, love to bring up "Sweetbriar" in an effort to convince residents that nothing is worth challenging when it comes to affordable housing.
Gary Morse August 04, 2012 at 11:04 AM
Mr Dulchinos, Given you may be having a difficult time answering my above questions to you, I'll help you out. Regarding the 10% count for Barrington's total "affordable housing", you can find the statutory definition of what "Affordable Housing" means under the “Comprehensive Housing Production and Rehabilitation Act of 2004” (RIGL 42-128-8.1. Housing production and rehabilitation). Please note that there is no mention of a requirement for a "deed restriction". Now I already anticipate that you will point me to RIGL 45-53-3 definitions which was also written at the same time in 2004. So how did the town Planning Board resolve the ambiguity in the law? By asking the Ursillo Law Firm, who also represent the developers, for an opinion. I trust you will understand why residents should be suspicious of what is going on at the town Planning Board.
Gary Morse August 04, 2012 at 12:04 PM
Mr. Dulchinos, Did it ever occur to the Planning Board that when the Barrington Comprehensive Community Plan was created, that to get to the 10% affordable mandate, you add the combined mandates under the "Comprehensive Housing Production and Rehabilitation Act of 2004" and the "Rhode Island Low and Moderate Income Housing Act". In fact, what the Planning Board did was to exclude the requirements under the Comprehensive Housing Production and Rehabilitation Act of 2004 which defines any affordable housing housing already existing in town regardless of any deed restriction. The Planning Board might want to read again the full statutory text of § 45-22.2-6 being the "Required content of a comprehensive plan".
Gary Morse August 05, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Mr. Dulchinos, I am disappointed that you, as a member of the Planning Board, are willing to level accusation's, and then lack the conviction to debate your point of view on an intellectual level. The affordable housing debate has nothing to do with "emotion" or "anger" (your words), but whether or not the Town Council and Planning Board are subverting the current RI General Laws to push a development agenda in Barrington that puts developers first, residents second. I repeat the primary issue you have refused to respond to: 1) RI General Law § 45-22.2-6 requires that the Barrington Comprehensive Community Plan recognize two Acts, not just one, when making the Comprehensive Community Plan and counting the 10% affordable housing in Barrington. The two Acts are the "Comprehensive Housing Production and Rehabilitation Act of 2004" and the "Rhode Island Low and Moderate Income Housing Act". (§ 45-22.2-6 "The comprehensive plan ..." shall include an affordable housing program that meets the requirements of § 42-128-8.1, the "Comprehensive Housing Production and Rehabilitation Act of 2004" and chapter 45-53, the "Rhode Island Low and Moderate Income Housing Act".) Why is the Planning Board and Town Council ignoring the Act that does not require a "deed restriction" when counting existing affordable housing in Barrington? 2) Why does the Planning Board and Town Council rely on a legal opinion from a law firm who represents both the developers and the town?
Manifold Witness August 05, 2012 at 05:22 PM
Thank you, Gary. Keep in mind that some on the Planning Board may be innocent victims of their own lack of independence. But the current status of Barrington build-out is "thanks" to Kate Weymouth, June Speakman & Jeff Brenner. Make no mistake about that. To anyone who says that Kate, June & Jeff were simply at the mercy of state government.... Here's a few things to remember: Remember how aggressively the EBEC legislation was pursued because June & Kate, et al, pushed for it. Remember the recent liquor store legislation that went through at the state level lickety-split. Remember the special reval exception for Barrington. And now they are pushing the state legislature for a Barrington Municipal Court. State-level legislation by & for the town government: Kate, June & Jeff know how to do it when THEY want something. Speaking of all the build-out…. have you had deer in your yard lately? More squirrels than ever before? Raccoons? Groundhogs? Maybe wildlife is eating your foliage or even getting inside your house? There are hungry, innocent victims all over town. That’s what happens when the town is all built out. Thanks to Kate, June & Jeff.
Howard Johnson August 05, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Fortunately, those of us now living have great technology to film and photograph Nature so future generations will have an idea of what the word means. We truly are a thoughtful and generous generation! Congratulations to everyone, especially the land owners. Here's an exercise for the Tea-Party: Research the original colonists' concept called "The Common" (which comes from the same root as Communism, oddly enough!)
Gary Morse August 05, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Manifold, I do understand that Mr Dulchinos, and many other Planning Board volunteers, are new and thus in a learning curve on the issues they must regularly vote on. I had hoped that this would have opened a constructive debate on the matters in this blog. Hopefully, that debate will still emerge. BTW, I am seeing more deer, fox, etc.. No moose yet!
P. Dulchinos August 06, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Gary - I suggest you read the law - Here is its definition of affordable housing: SECTION 10. Sections 45-53-3, 45-53-5 and 45-53-6 of the General Laws in Chapter 45-53 entitled "Low and Moderate Income Housing" are hereby amended to read as follows: 45-53-3. Definitions. -- (5) "Low or moderate income housing" means any housing subsidized by the federal, or state, or municipal government under any program to assist the construction or rehabilitation of housing as low or moderate income housing, as defined in the applicable federal or state statute, or local ordinance whether built or operated by any public agency or any nonprofit organization, or by any limited equity housing cooperative or any private developer, that will remain affordable for ninety-nine (99) years or such other period that is either agreed to by the applicant and town but shall not be for a period of less than thirty (30) years from initial occupancy through a land lease and/or deed restriction or prescribed by the federal or state subsidy program but shall not be for a period less than thirty (30) years from initial occupancy through a land lease and/or deed restriction.
P. Dulchinos August 06, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Gary - This is the section that restricts all future developments (once again a deed restriction is required on the affordable units): SECTION 9. Chapter 45-24 of the General Laws entitled "Zoning Ordinances" is hereby amended by adding thereto the following section: 45-24-46.1. Inclusionary zoning. -- A zoning ordinance requiring the inclusion of affordable housing as part of a development shall provide that the housing will be affordable housing, as defined in subsection 42-128-8.1(d)(1), that the affordable housing will constitute not less than ten percent (10%) of the total units in the development, and that the units will remain affordable for a period of not less than thirty (30) years from initial occupancy enforced through a land lease and/or deed restriction enforceable by the municipality and the state of Rhode Island. You are correct that the net result of these deed restrictions is in fact a property tax subsidy for the affordable housing home owner - but, it is the state law that directs it this action - thus another unfunded manadate. and until we have 10% of our affordable housing under a deed restriction and/or as defined above - developers will be able to use the comprehensive permitting process to force higher density developments under the auspices of the affordable housing act.
Gary Morse August 06, 2012 at 10:15 AM
Paul, There is nothing in your citations above that creates a state mandate to count the total Barrington 10% affordable housing stock exclusively from "Inclusionary zoning". Here is the problem with your argument. If inclusionary zoning was always mandated, then once a town reached the 10% affordable quota, a developer would still be required to implement more affordable units. I'm not disagreeing that for a new development to be categorized as "inclusionary zoning", there is a deed restriction required. This might be the case if the new development were subsidized for affordable housing. What I'm saying is that there is no state mandate saying that the 10% affordable count must be derived exclusively from "inclusionary zoning". Where are you getting that legal premise? You are still ignoring the fact that the Comprehensive Community Plan must, by state law, be derived from two state Acts, both written in 2004. There is a different definition for affordable housing in each Act. One has a deed restriction requirement, and the other doesn't. The General Assembly makes clear that to count the total 10% affordable homes in town, you read both Acts, not just one. You need to read § 42-128-8.1(d)(1) being the definition of "affordable housing" under the "Comprehensive Housing Production and Rehabilitation Act of 2004" which has no "deed restriction". You can find this at: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE42/42-128/42-128-8.1.HTM
Gary Morse August 06, 2012 at 10:56 AM
Paul, You are reading the statute incorrectly. There is nothing mentioned here that the General Assembly intended that all future residential zoning be exclusively "inclusionary zoning". The statute only requires that each town create this category of zoning by town ordinance, not how to implement all future zoning.
Gary Morse August 06, 2012 at 11:00 AM
Paul, You are applying only half of the statutory mandate. The other half comes from § 42-128-8.1(d)(1) being the definition of "affordable housing" under the "Comprehensive Housing Production and Rehabilitation Act of 2004" which has no "deed restriction". You can find this at: http://webserver.rilin.state.ri.us/Statutes/TITLE42/42-128/42-128-8.1.HTM My point is that you add both Acts together to arrive at the total 10% affordable mandate.

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