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Monday, March 7, 2011

Class War in Charlestown, Part Three: Closing the Borders

As Charlestown and shoreline RI became prime places to live, those who have their places in paradise want to close the door behind them. Or as Planning Commissar Ruth Platner puts it, “preserve Charlestown’s rural character.”

Exclusionary zoning is an effective way to “preserve Charlestown’s rural character.” Set minimum house lot sizes, micro-manage what types of structures can be built and severely limit the number of building permits issued each year. Peg residential permits to classroom size in the Chariho school system. Block rental property building permits by any means necessary.

Charlestown is 96% white, household incomes exceed the state average by 24% and we have 60% less poverty.

Platner and her six CCA-chosen colleagues on the Planning Commission are the defenders of the gate, determined to make sure Charlestown stays white and wealthy.

In addition to existing ordinances, Platner has created her own criteria to ensure that no new affordable housing will be built in town. She doesn’t want any families with kids –
those kids will go to school and cost the town more in Chariho fees.

She doesn’t want renters because they don’t pay property taxes. She doesn’t want senior citizen (+55) housing because older people are more likely to own cats. Cats might run free and if they do, they might eat the birds. Her Planning Commission colleague Linda Fabre wants to give low-income residents vouchers to move to Westerly. In short, if you don’t meet Ms. Platner’s means test for worthiness, get out and stay out.
* White (definitely NOT Narragansett)
* Past child-bearing years or certified sterile
* Not so old that you are a compulsive cat lover
* Able to buy your own home at market rates
* Allergic to asphalt, vinyl and all other man-made building materials. And wind turbines.
* Out-of-state second home buyers, especially from Florida, are welcome! As long as they don’t have cats.
* And finally, no cats.

If Charlestown was in Mississippi, circa 1965, there would be a platoon of US Justice Department civil rights lawyers crawling all over town. Or maybe the ASPCA.

The Planning Commission and a majority on the Town Council want the state to change the affordable housing law so it doesn’t apply to Charlestown. This was the tack George Tremblay, one of Platner’s Planning Commission underlings, took in a Westerly Sun letter, March 5 (pay-wall protected, though CCA also sent the letter out to its list).

If you watch and listen to our CCA-controlled town officials, a picture of the ideal Charlestown resident emerges:

Author: Will Collette


  1. As a crazy cat lady wannabe Platner should learn that younger folks also have cats!
    Oh, and 2 out of my 3 stay indoors. :)

  2. Patricia Curry AlmeidaMarch 8, 2011 at 2:37 PM

    I cannot believe the cheeky comments that have come from this blog. Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but this is just down right mean. FYI - Ruth Platner loves cats.. last I knew, she and her husband had a couple. It seems to me that the planning board is doing what it was set up to do, and that is to make sure development follows the CHARLESTOWN COMPREHENSIVE PLAN! The citizens of Charlestown want that compliance! Job well done Charlestown Planning Board.

    Patricia Curry Almeida
    Born and raised in Charlestown
    White, Independant and have run the gammet of income levels.

  3. Thank you - sincerely - for your comment, especially for putting your name on it. I hope this will set a trend.
    It doesn't surprise me that Ruth and Cliff have cats. My point is that Ruth doesn't like OTHER people's cats, especially if they belong to potential inhabitants of 55+ affordable housing.
    I object to Commissar Platner's habit of inserting her own personal set of rules on town public policy. Her use of a "means test" (or a no-kitty test) to determine who gets to live in Charlestown is wrong and could get the town into trouble.
    Her hope that the state will either exempt Charlestown from RI's affordable housing law (or not enforce the law) is not what we should expect from elected officials.
    Now back to Ruth's cats - are they indoor-only or are they de-clawed?
    Also, thanks for calling my blog post "cheeky." That's pretty much the style I was shooting for.

  4. Patricia, I would like to add my thanks for your comment, adding to the conversation. And many thanks for giving Will the compliment of being cheeky. That's the kind of praise that motivates him to write more columns.

    I didn't know that Ms. Platner loves cats but that enhances their value as an allegorical device (though we know someone who claims, whether in jest or not I don't know, to have heard her warn of an increased cat population terrorizing birds as a reason to be concerned about senior affordable housing).

    Certainly a Comprehensive Plan is a good thing but we should worry when the high priests interpreting it tell us that it means we should not permit any nice rental housing that young families, yes with children, can afford. Converted chicken coops should not be considered adequate.

    And, Patricia please excuse me for one last thing, I don't mean this personally. Though I make plenty of typos, like "independant" for "independent", I always work to improve my spelling and I can't help calling out others. The correct word is "gamut".

  5. As someone who, last fall plucked a feral kitten from the woods and later had him fixed and keeps him as a pet on the other side of Charlestown (up in the woods, north of route 1). The cat is out of control when it comes to hunting and killing. Cats were never a natural part of the ecosystem. This is a problem and has been one for years. So far he has only taken a couple of wrens and a handful of mice since the snow has melted. He has the potential to really thin the flock so to speak. DEM has been on this subject for a couple of decades. My sweet kitty does not have the right to take an owl's dinner in our ecosystem. Try controlling a cat on that playing field. I am a delinquent cat owner.

    As for the alleged elitist name used towards Ms. Platner. I work with my husband a licensed shell fishermen and we dig steamers together. We have come under attack by the waterfront members of Charlestown who think they have the right to throw the licensed diggers out of their areas. They have gone as far as to call the DEM on us, only to have us walk and sell our catch much to their dismay. A DEM biologist told me of a study being done in Quonnie Pond because of low clam numbers. The waterfront rats are really lousy diggers. I can get a peck in less than a half hour. Funny thing, I see their out of state larvae in the water digging too. I never see a permit on any of their kids ( adults) who are digging. Hmmmn. Do they really think they own the water? Also, alot of algae and plant life has increased due to nitrate run off into the ponds from lawn fertizers. If you doubt this check out who has the incredibly green lawns during a heatwave/drought.

    Let us discuss house size again. It seems that around Quononchontaug you can't make your place big enough to block out everyone's view. All spring and summer hammering, hammering and blocking the view. It is a community of lawn chemical spraying Connecticut and New York interlopers who want the dirty locals banned from their God given acres.

    Tina Shea Clam digger /costume designer/ dirty white trash

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. After some self-debate I decided to remove the previous anonymous comment.

    We enjoy receiving comments that make critical points and move the discussion forward. We enjoy seeing some friendly "edge" within that context, for instance calling us "cheeky" a few days ago. I was drafting tag-lines around that to replace the Westerly Sun quote at the top of the page.

    However, the removed comment was clearly written to insult and demean and added nothing else. Thus the reason for the removal. I thought I should explain.

  8. South County nativeMarch 12, 2011 at 9:07 PM

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. I would like to explain why I removed the previous comment. I read many comments to posts on other blogs and I'm disgusted by commenters who think they are clever to substitute insults and wild associations of a person for reasonable debate on a topic.

    The removed comment was clearly inspired by the likes of Glenn Beck as a role model - everything they don't like is an evil conspiracy and they use trigger words like Marxist that they clearly do not understand but they repeat because their hero uses them.

    Attacking the ideas expressed here with reasonable arguments is welcome; personal attacks and insults on the writers, whether posters or other commenters, just makes such as attacker seem incapable of intelligent discussion, like the student failing classes but being the bully on the playground.

  10. I'm not sure how I feel about "affordable housing." I think theoretically it is a good idea, but I also feel committed to preserving open spaces, woodlands, wetlands. My concern is that affordable housing units will be built at the expense of those places. What if we took a different approach and said that for every affordable housing unit, there must be one-quarter acre of land set aside for a community garden? This would help to make a stronger local community and economy. At this time in our economic struggles and in our history, we need to think differently. We need to come together, find a creative and possibly radically different solution to the "affordability" issue.

    Before you make a guess at my socio-economic demographic: Single mom, three kids, low income, renting, farming, working.

  11. Anonymous: I agree with you about wanting to maintain the character of the town as far as wetlands/woodlands/open space is concerned. It's one of the things that I love about living here. That being said, I don't see anything wrong with your proposal. The town is definitely lacking in affordable housing,and that's a problem. If, in order to build affordable housing, we have to allow space for something that would provide people with food, that would serve as a gathering place of sorts for neighbors and that would act as a source of pride within the community, I can find no fault in that whatsoever.


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