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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/ 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)