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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Is it a Trojan Horse or a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

They won’t stop until they can control every aspect of your property.

By Margaret L. (Maggie) Hogan, Esq.

UPDATE: The first hearing on the CCA's proposed new development ordinance (actually, non-development since the ordinance is designed to create conditions making new developments virtually impossible) was held on July 11. Even with their 3-2 majority, the CCA was unable to bull their plan through. Thus, on Thursday, July 14, the Council will hold Part 2 of the hearing. 

The Town is giving the absolute minimum required notice since the CCA obviously wants to get this done with the least amount of public hassle. The original writing critiquing the CCA proposal appears after this notice:

Here is that notice:



Notice is hereby given that the Town Council of the Town of Charlestown has continued a public hearing, opened on Monday, July 11, 2022, open to the public, to Thursday, July 14, 2022 at 7:00 p.m. 

**This meeting will be held in person at the Charlestown Town Hall, Council Chambers, 4540 South County Trail, Charlestown RI 02813. Comments from the Public will be accepted in person only.** 

At the continued public hearing noted above, the following proposed amendment to the Code of Ordinances will be considered. Opportunity shall be given to all persons interested to be heard upon the matter of the proposed ordinance. The following proposed amendments are under consideration and may be adopted and/or altered or amended prior to the close of the public hearing without further advertising, as a result of further study or because of the views expressed at the public hearing. Any person interested in viewing the proposed amendment may view same at the Town Clerk’s office of the Town of Charlestown or at prior to said hearing.  

The proposed ordinance may be accessed through the following link:

The CCA used to HATE conservation developments but now say they love them.
This is the plan for a conservation development proposed in 2011. The Planning
Commission stomped it to death, leading to the "Y-Gate" scandal discussed
below. - W. Collette

This article ran as a Letter to the Editor of the Westerly Sun and is reprinted here with the permission of the author.

There’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing creeping into Charlestown under the cloak of the seemingly benign and friendly title of a “Conservation Design” amendment to the zoning ordinance.” 

There will be a Public Hearing on this scheme on Monday, July 11, 2022 at 7:00 PM at the Charlestown Council Chambers. 

Proposed by the Planning Commission, the long-standing cluster subdivision regulations (which also had problems) would be repealed and replaced.

The following changes would be enacted:

(1) From 50% to 70% (depending upon the zoning district) of a property owner’s developable property would be required to be set aside for “open space” owned by the Town, or a third party such as a non-profit. This is an increase from 40%, with no stated rationale.  

This land grab would be in addition to restrictions against development on “constrained lands” such as wetlands or slopes.  So, if you have a property with 10% undevelopable land, you will be left with only 20% land that you can develop.

(2)  Of the land that will be required to be “open space” only 10% of the land could be used for active recreation. This is a reduction from thirty-five percent under the current regulation, with no stated rationale for the change. 

And, only 5% of the land in open space will be permitted to be impervious (think basketball courts or tennis courts) which is a decrease from 25% under current regulations.  And, the type of recreation allowed will be determined by the Commission and may be disallowed if it finds the recreational uses “negatively impact the conservation values.” Again, no rationale for this change.

(3) Land which the Planning Commission deems to be “environmentally disturbed or damaged” will not be accepted for a conservation development until the land has been “restored to a condition satisfactory to the Planning Commission. 

The term “environmentally disturbed or damaged” is not defined in the ordinance and could easily be interpreted by this Commission to mean land that has had some or all trees previously removed.  Far too much “discretion” vested in the Commission will undoubtedly result in denial of rights.

(4)  Maximum lot coverage for 20,000 square foot lots will be 15%, whereas the same size lot in other areas of the town permit up to a 20% lot coverage.  No reason provided for treating the same size lot differently.

(5)  The Planning Commission proposes that it retain the right to limit private ownership of the open space and reject a homeowners’ association “where necessary to contribute to a connecting greenway system or to provide public access to open space.” This is clearly a taking of private property for a public purpose, without compensation!

(6) Only single family homes permitted, no duplexes. 

These enumerated items are simply the “highlights” of this overt land grab.  If you own land in Charlestown that you hoped to develop someday, you need to read this ordinance and take appropriate steps to protect your property rights.

The CCA's peculiar land use practices

Sidebar by Will Collette

In 2011, Ted Veasey proposed a 10-unit conservation development at the site of a derelict summer camp owned but abandoned by the Westerly YMCA. The site plan is shown above.

Not only did the CCA-controlled Planning Commission kill this proposal but their leader, Planning Commissar Ruth Platner, then embarked on a bold initiative to buy that same land for almost a million dollars in town and state funds which would be given to the Charlestown Land Trust.

This was the first major CCA scandal after the CCA consolidated its power after the 2010 election, power they have held ever since. 

The scandal was marked by bogus assessments, secret back door deals, conflicts of interest galor, political kick-backs - grifting on a grand scale. These practices have set the pattern the CCA has followed ever since: buying land the town doesn't need for incredibly inflated prices (CLICK HERE for a recent example) to benefit CCA-favored cronies (CLICK HERE for a recent example).

The Y-Gate scandal that emerged from Ted Veazey's conservation development proposal was Progressive Charlestown's first major series on a town scandal. The scheme was blocked by a lawsuit brought by the much-missed late Dr. Jack Donahuerepresented by Maggie Hogan,  the author of this article.

That the CCA would today embrace the "conservation development" concept, though with the CCA's special twist of imposing such Draconian conditions that it's doubtful anyone would apply, is ironic considering what they did to Ted Veazey's conservation development proposal ten years ago.