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Sunday, November 7, 2021

CCA bends truth on how fast Charlestown is growing

Charlestown needs more affordable housing

And fewer over-priced town land purchases

By John Hacunda, Charlestown

CCA's Ruth Platner
Mr. Hacunda's article also ran as a letter to the editor to the Westerly Sun

In a recent letter to the editor (“Charlestown one of R.I.’s fastest- growing towns,” Nov. 1), Planning Commission member Ruth Platner contends that Charlestown is one of the fastest-growing Rhode Island communities, but according to the U.S. Census this is not true. U.S. Census data shows that Charlestown had a population of 7,859 in 2000 and in 2020, the population was 7,997, essentially no growth in 20 years. 

According to town information, Charlestown’s total area is 59.3 square miles with 22.5 square miles (37.9%) being water. Tax assessor data indicates that 59.7% of Charlestown’s land area is either tax “exempt” or undeveloped. 

So approximately 75% of Charlestown total area is open space (45 of Charlestown’s 60 square miles). 

What should be of concern to residents is that taxpayer money is being used to buy open space (not needed) at inflated prices. A recent open-space purchase (66.5-acre Tucker Woods) was orchestrated by Platner. The land was assessed at only $333,600, but $900,000 of taxpayer money was used for the purchase. 

The CCA has controlled Charlestown government for over 10 years and has done little to address affordable housing. While 48 affordable units were added, only eight units address the needs of younger families. In 2005 Charlestown had 28.17% of the enrollment in Chariho, while in 2022 it declined to 24.61%. 

Rhode Island law mandates that each community needs 10% affordable housing, which leaves Charlestown 239 units short. We have working-class people, URI graduates and homebased workers that would benefit from affordable housing. This is crucial to the future economic growth and stability of Rhode Island, as well as to create a balanced, sustainable Charlestown.