This coming Monday, the NK Town Council is being asked to consider a new Compact Village Development (CVD) zone for the town. In essence, they will be creating a whole new village center at , over our prime groundwater protected land that the taxpayers have spent millions to preserve and protect.
Our planning department has convinced the Rolling Greens developer to patiently wait while they draft a “town-wide” CVD zone to fit the Rolling Green area. The developer will retract his proposed multi-use zone request upon its passage and reapply under the new CVD. The town will feel obligated and certainly not deny the developer CVD zoning after convincing him into waiting through this process. Therefore, they essentially will be creating a new village center against local residents' wishes if approved as is.
Over the course of the past year, the town has brought in a until the town involves the local stakeholders in the process to determine what they want this area to be. The town then hired a second consultant (Consensus Building Group) to start a consensus project, but pulled the plug before it began. This pivotal decision delivered a huge blow to the local community and sent a clear message that the town has made up its mind with this area and does not want to hear from or have the residents interfere, many of whom have called this home for the last 15 to 20 years.
When town residents voted on the open space bond to buy development rights on the Schartner (Bald Hill Nursery) property, they certainly wouldn’t have approved it if they knew the town council was going to bring in a retail center to be built in the area five years later. The residents weren’t setting aside and buying the rights for one specific property: they were buying up rights to start protecting the area as a whole. A mall was proposed there a few years earlier.
Creating an entire new village center (from seven to eight) will be the largest modification to the 2013 Comprehensive Plan. Although not “technically” approving Rolling Greens to be re-zoned to CVD at this meeting, approving the CVD will essentially create this new village. The underlying issue remains. Will the town council allow more commercial or not in this area?
Creating a new village center will affect the property values of approximately 300 residents and should be a community decision and comprehensive plan decision, not a five-member council decision. With all the land in NK, commercial vacancies all across town, creating a new village center on groundwater protected area is irresponsible. With mandates of protecting and preserving the groundwater throughout all of the town documents in North Kingstown, how can creating a whole new village center – where no village currently exists, over groundwater protected land – possibly be construed as protecting and preserving our number one resource?
While we are not opposed to the CVD zone for the town – we actually support it – and are in favor of it, there are several major flaws.
There needs to be a requirement that all eligible properties should be located inside the state-defined Urban Boundary Zone, which by definition encourages commercial building within and discourages commercial outside. The Urban Boundary Zone runs along Route 4 with the east side designated as commercial. We’ve been told by planning commission members that the Urban Boundary Zone used to be farther west, encompassing the Rolling Green property, and previous NK officials asked the state for it to be moved east to protect the area. Town officials have already created a major problem over this exact issue when a 10-acre property in that area was re-zoned to commercial, (with the intent of selling the development rights and preserving the land).
One of the underlying arguments we have heard is that creating this village will solve that poor decision which has led to the state not accepting our comprehensive plan. While this quick fix may solve the immediate problem, it opens the door for more developers outside the Urban Boundary Zone to request fair and equal treatment to them, creating even more villages. Solving one bad decision with another.
There also needs to be equal or more stringent groundwater protections put in place than currently drafted, limiting sewage flow rates. There should be no more sewage flow allowed in groundwater protected areas than current standards allow. Groundwater protected areas should also have a max limit of 50 percent less impervious cover than non-groundwater areas. nd all intra-TDR’s should be removed from the CVD.
Fix the current TDR (transfer of development rights) problem. Don’t allow a new substitute that will deteriorate the original TDR program (which sends development rights to Post Road where the sewers will be) even more. Under no circumstance, without these requirements, can any of this be considered preserving and protecting our groundwater. Standards are supposed to get more stringent over time as technologies improve, not more lax.
Simply put, the majority of the residents that consider this area their home do not want any more commercial development and they do not want a new village center located here. This is the gateway to the farmland, not Bald Hill South or Wickford Junction West. Creating a new village center should be a community decision. Finish the consensus study first to determine if the town wants a village center here, and then approve the CVD.
With all the land in NK, creating a new village center on groundwater protected area is irresponsible, and not something five individuals should rush into in one or two nights. Please attend Monday 7 p.m. at the and help preserve this area.
78 Wickham Road
North Kingstown, RI 02852