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Housing Board Seeks More Power

The Barrington Housing Board of Trustees would like to review all proposed developments that include affordable housing.

Barrington’s Housing Board of Trustees would like a bit more power.

At least when it involves a proposed housing project that includes affordable housing – the reason the advisory board exists.

A letter is being drafted by housing trustee Richard Staples that will request the housing board be given the authority to review all proposed developments with an affordable aspect before they go to the Planning Board.

“We would like to make sure developers meet the guidelines of the (affordable housing) mandates,” said Staples.

“We don’t have that authority now,” said Steve Martin, chairman of the trustees. “Some projects get to the Planning Board and we never hear about them. Right now, applicants do not have to go before us.”

The board sees this new role as similar to the role played by the Technical Review Committee (TRC), which reviews requests that go before the Zoning Board.

“It’s kind of the same thing,” said Martin.

“Maybe we can have a joint meeting on certain projects with the TRC?” said Staples.

The housing board would review projects sent to it from Town Planner Phil Hervey that have affordable housing elements to make sure they meet the mandates of the law for income, subsidies, appearance and other standard requirements.

The housing board might actually make things easier for a developer before they get to the Planning Board, Staples said.  All the affordable housing ducks could be in a row.

The trustees plan to review the draft letter at their next meeting in August. The request could go before the Town Council as early as September.

Gary Morse July 22, 2012 at 03:35 PM
The Housing Board should not be granted additional authority until they become advocates for residents first, affordable housing second. The current problem is the biased advocacy on one side of the argument by the Board members. At the last Housing Board meeting, I asked the Board if they would consider in their request for more power that the town council obtain an independent legal opinion on whether the property tax subsidies provided to affordable housing are in fact a legal mandate under RI law, or a discretionary action by the town council. Currently, nobody seems to know the answer. Not a single member would second the motion in spite of the fact that residents are the ones picking up the costs for the property tax subsidization, not the state. Developers love it that residents are picking up this tab on their behalf. This is a controversy that clearly demonstrates that this board has taken a role of advocacy on one side. The Planning Board has also been remiss in not completing an impact study in this area despite the fact that Barrington pays for a full time Planner to do this work. We have a full time legal counsel who at the same time is representing the interests of the developers. A recent submission of one memorandum on this matter was to rewrite the language of the statute so that it looked favorable to developers. This is a mess and we should not be granting additional authority before this is cleaned up. Gary Morse

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