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Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Ignore the CCA propaganda on "accessory dwelling units" (ADU)

Charlestown is NOT ending single-family zoning despite what the CCA says

By Will Collette

How the CCA sees ADUs
You’d have to be living under a rock not to be aware that there is an ongoing affordable housing crisis suffocating virtually every community in America.

Then, of course, there is the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA), dba Planning Commissar Ruth Platner and former CCA-sponsored Town Council member Bonnita Van Slyke, hunkering down in the CCA’s fabled secret clubhouse to regurgitate furballs of hyperbolic nonsense.

Their latest litterbox conclusion being that Single Family Zoning no longer exists in Charlestown so everyone needs to head to their fallout shelters.

A more realistic example of an ADU
(RI Home Store)
Our state capitol building’s famed marble dome notwithstanding, even Rhode Island’s body politic finally awakened to the basic dollars-and-sense reality of affordable housing, adjusting state law to allow for expanded, simplified family housing termed "accessory dwelling units," often referred to in the past as "mother-in-law apartments." 

If you look below (⏬) at current town policy, adjusted to comply with state law, these are labeled "ADU #1."

The CCA is most concerned about "ADU #2," which are units that may be detached from the main house and could theoretically be occupied by someone who is not a disabled/elderly family member of the property owner. Charlestown has had something similar on the books called I-RADUs – I’ll explain what those are shortly.

Accessory dwelling units are not new to Charlestown

Actually, the CCA has ALWAYS been against the concept of accessory dwelling units (ADUs). It was one of the very first issues covered in Progressive Charlestown, starting in February 2011 just one month after PC's launch.

In 2011, as now, Ruth Platner talked about ADUs as a major step on Charlestown's road to perdition, claiming - without evidence - that ADUs for family members were being rented to outsiders.

Despite that, Platner proposed two ordinances, one called AFDUs for close family members and another new category called I-RADUs, standing for "Income-Restricted Accessory Dwelling Unit." 

Platner’s plucky planners had worked on these ordinances for five years, starting in 2006.

In theory, these ordinances allowed just about every residential property in Charlestown to build either an AFDU or I-RADU, though when you get into the details, it's pretty clear Ruthie's ordinances were designed to fail.

In fact, Platner told the council that neither ordinance was likely to work or be enforceable. Nonetheless, the 2011 CCA-controlled Town Council enacted them anyway. 

And fail they did. According to our veteran Building and Zoning Officer Joe Warner, Charlestown has never issued a permit for an I-RADU and only 2 or 3 AFDUs get built every year. That’s over a period of 12 years. Has anyone seen any negative effects from these units?

Now in 2024, the CCA is again condemning the new ADU ordinance claiming it will open the floodgates for all kinds of people, including (clutch your pearls) "People From Providence."

Except the only hard evidence we have is Charlestown’s actual experience with I-RADUs and AFDUs between 2011-2023. The 2011 ordinances didn't cause the end of the world as we know it as Platner and CCA broken-spoke Bonnita Van Slyke would have you believe.

ADUs can be a relatively simple way for coastal and rural towns like Charlestown to generate affordable housing with low impact and low cost. But count on the CCA to find a line of attack.

A neat rhetorical trick

There’s a device in logic called reductio ad absurdum where you destroy any proposal by taking it to the ultimate extreme, suggesting that if something CAN happen, it WILL happen.

Thus, if every residential property owner can build an ADU, everyone WILL build an ADU. But ask yourself: how likely is it that YOU will build an ADU? Twelve years of experience tells us the CCA doomsday vision ain’t gonna happen.

The CCA uses reductio ad absurdum on every one of their imaginary threats, claiming that whatever the threat, it will be catastrophic and only the CCA can protect Charlestown. Each of the CCA’s claims fall apart when you look at the facts and probabilities and apply a little common sense.

I am sick of the exodus of Charlestown kids who must leave town because they can't afford housing (ex-CCA Council member Cody Clarkin is a prime example). 

Same for older residents who need to downsize but can't afford to buy new housing. They must instead seek help from friends or leave town. Does that sound familiar, Bonnie?

The CCA had no affordable housing proposals of its own during its decade of control over Charlestown, but you can always count on them to come up with lots of objections larded with lies and exaggerations for ideas proposed by others. 

To read the Rhode Island General Laws regarding accessory dwelling units, CLICK HERE and scroll down to §45-24-72 through 76.