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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Platner’s Plucky Planners get ready to party

Yes, it’s that time again
By Will Collette

It’s the third Wednesday of the month and that means it’s Planning Commission time. If you ever find yourself with nothing to do and are looking for a good time, this is the place to be.

Last month, the Planning Commission had a remarkably light agenda with no old business and no new business, yet they somehow managed to fill two hours of meeting time anyway. The big excitement last month was the delivery of their new I-Pads – yes, taxpayers, we’re all paying to outfit our plucky planners with I-Pads.



This month, they’ll be able to compare how many levels each member has reached playing Angry Birds.

Planning has several major priorities going before the Town Council on June 11 – the long-running dark sky ordinance for example, and the sleeper, Ordinance #349, which would subject businesses and other non-residential property owners to being tortured by the Planning Commission – but neither of these issues is on the Planning Commission’s May 23rd agenda.

There is one “minor subdivision” on the agenda under new business – the Botka’s Hillside Acres 5-unit proposal. This project would go on King’s Factory Road. Whenever the Botkas have a project in front of the Planning Commission, there’s fireworks. This item might be the main event for tonight’s meeting.

Here’s the remainder of the agenda:

A.     Review of deficiencies in approved Site Plans. Comments: this is where Commissioners discuss deviations from the norms the Commission has tried to establish for the town. Before Kate Waterman retired from the Planning Commission, you could always count on her to complain about Dave’s Coffee (at Galapagos on Route 1) setting out two sandwich boards, instead of one. It will be interesting to see if the Commissioners discuss the Nordic Lodge’s new “billboard” on Route 1 at the Flea Market site.

B.     Affordable Housing Advisory Review. Comment: this is an on-going matter involving the Affordable Housing Commission’s interest in commenting on comprehensive developments that are not actually not part of Affordable Housing’s jurisdiction. The Planning Commission generally isn’t interested in advice from other Commissions, so this item keeps getting carried forward.

C.     LMIH Analysis. This is Commissioner George Tremblay’s project. He wants the town to hire a consultant to look at affordable housing data to prove the Planning Commission’s bias against the state’s affordable housing law is correct. Only one person applied to be the town’s consultant. And that was Melina Lodge who, despite being eminently qualified, is politically unacceptable to Platner and her plucky planners (read all about it HERE). So George will have to settle for a student intern to cook the numbers for him.

D.    Discussion/Review  House Bill H7866  & H7804. This is some pretty bad legislation proposed by the RI Builders Association (and discussed in this recent Progressive Charlestown/EcoRI.org article - click here). The legislation is going no where fast. The General Assembly intends to adjourn on June 8, leaving very little time for this legislation – which has been pretty much universally panned by the state’s environmental organizations – to have any chance of enactment. But strange things happen at the end of legislative sessions. After all, it was at the very end of the 2010 session when the 38 Studios deal slipped through.

E.     Rewrite of Subdivision/Land Development Regulations & Zoning Ordinance. Comment: no documents attached, so this item could simply be a placeholder. But, that said, Platner’s plucky planners always seem ready to re-write Charlestown’s ordinances, learning them the reputation of being Charlestown’s second legislative body.

F.     Public Comments Specific to Agenda Items

G.    Planner Comments

H.    Solicitor Comments

I.       Workshop (time allowing)

14 comments:

  1. Re: the iPads, that's actually not such a controversial thing to me. Narragansett did a cost-benefit analysis a year or so ago, and determined they'd probably save around $10,000 a year by switching over the five TC and three staffers that attend every council meeting. A town council packet runs 50 to 200 pages normally, so you're saving around 400 to 1,600 pages per meeting.

    Of course, this brings up a secondary argument - Why the brand new, expensive iPads instead of a more generic and cheaper tablet?

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  2. Beth Richardson comments
    As I was interested in hearing about "Conservation Development", I was at the last Planning Commission meeting. Ashley (Town Planner) told me that the PC was getting ipads because in the long run, it would be more efficient than the reams of paper documents that the PC is always getting. I believe she used the term "cost neutral". I can well believe ipads would save the town money. I am on the Wastewater Commission and our last few hand-outs for the meetings were about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. PC has got to have more paperwork by far than we on Wastewater do.

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  3. That billboard masquerading as a tractor trailer is totally outside the sign regs for Charlestown and is a blight on the landscape.I would think that you would be as offended by it as you think the planners might be!

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  4. The Nordic Lodge's advertising gimmick certainly is an eyesore. I would certainly not patronize a restaurant that pulls a stunt like this, especially on a Scenic Highway.

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    Replies
    1. Tacky and repulsive as the billboard may be, it fits right in with "Scenic Rte 1." Not sure what makes the road so scenic anyway...Perhaps is is the lovely Lobster Pot restaurant, or the abandoned S & M Gas Station, or maybe the beautiful flea market with a lovely view of the mini super, or the boat yard in the field, or maybe it is the abandoned driving range, Mike' Shell or the mini-golf?
      G.W.

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    2. If anything, I think the billboard is an improvement seeing as how it at least partially blocks the view of the flea market.

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    3. I nominate Linda Felaco for the Planning Commission!
      G.W.

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    4. I appreciate the vote of confidence, G.W., but as it happens, I suffer from an affliction that makes me unsuited for public office: I'm allergic to meetings.

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  5. Beth Richardson comments
    Hmmmm... So there is a variety of opinion on what is attractive and what is not. How about that! So, maybe we should leave off the esthetic regulating seeing that in the real world people don't agree on what is worthy and what is not.

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    Replies
    1. I'll even go as far as to say that all the "eyesores" GW lists are precisely what gives the Charlestown stretch of Scenic Rt. 1 its charm, as opposed to, say, the stretch in Westerly, with its endless strip malls and big-box stores.

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  6. From Charlestown Planning Director Ashley V. Hahn:

    If you will check the meeting where we discussed iPads (April regular meeting and May workshop) you will note that I did the math and the reason they are getting them is because it is cost neutral. Your blog yesterday indicates the tax payers are buying the PC iPads and I would appreciate it if you would amend your article to reflect the fact that the choice is to buy them iPads and save some trees, or mail them oversized heavy paper packets twice a month. The cost is the same. We opted for technology and tree preservation. Also, one member is using their own iPad and one member is using their own laptop, and two members chose not to receive them, so the Town did not purchase them for everyone. In the case of the two using their own equipment we are actually saving money for the Town. Your blog is misleading that there is an additional expense to tax payers. I hope you will amend your blog to reflect the actual situation. Thank you.

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    Replies
    1. I can think of another good reason for the Planning Commissioners to computerize: It will cut down on the amount of paper rustling during meetings, which tends to make it difficult to hear what the commissioners are saying when you're watching on Clerkbase.

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  7. I don't buy the cost argument. Sure, there are lots of records involved in Planning Commission proceedings. Sure, it's great to cut down on the amount of paper used - and the trees cut and energy used.

    But roughly comparing the retail cost of an I-Pad versus paper (I assume the town gets discounts on both) and it looks to me like the break-even point is roughly 150 reams of paper.

    But the I-Pads are a side issue. One that I struck me as funny, I admit, but a side issue when compared to the PC's continued efforts to undercut affordable housing, consolidate its power and usurp the legislative and regulatory powers the Town Charter assigns to other bodies.

    Rather than debate the cost-effectiveness of I-Pads versus paper, let's talk some more about the Planning Commission's practice of a blacklist.

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    Replies
    1. Look on the bright side, Will; perhaps the planners will be too busy playing Angry Birds to harass the supplicants that come before them for planning review.

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