Barrington residents have a lot of questions about Palmer Pointe.
Roughly 40 people from around town attended an informational session on the proposed affordable housing development at Barrington Public Library Tuesday night, and many of those folks had questions or concerns about the project.
Sean Andrews lives adjacent to the property. He wanted to know who is responsible for sidewalks in the area.
“I can see my front lawn turning into a defacto sidewalk for everyone who lives there,” Mr. Andrews said.
Union Studio Architecture and Community Design is the project’s architect. President Don Powers said the developer typically handles sidewalks within a project though Sowams Road is a state highway.
Mark Hosford asked about access and egress to the site. He referenced Sweetbriar which borders both Bay Spring Avenue and Washington Road unlike Palmer Pointe, which is only accessible from Sowams Road.
Mr. Powers said the only way to add a secondary access or exit point would be to utilize one of two parcels at the front of the property that are scheduled to be rehabilitated and sold at market rate. Mr. Powers also said he doesn’t believe the state would allow two curb cuts so close together but the developer intends to work with local public safety officials to ensure the design allows for adequate coverage.
Mr. Hosford also asked about bringing RIPTA service to Palmer Pointe. Frank Spinella, development consultant for the EBCDC, said developers have tried in other areas and while the EBCDC would love to have it, the state typically doesn’t allow it.
Gary Morse wanted to know if the EBCDC would pay taxes at the residential rate or 8 percent of rental revenue. Mr. Spinella said the project would be “unfeasible” without the 8 percent of rental tax rate. Mr. Spinella said the developer could appeal to the State Housing Appeals Board should the town deny a request for that rate.
Other inquiries touched on everything from laundry to potential public Palmer River access.
Palmer Pointe is the EBCDC’s latest affordable housing initiative in Barrington. The 48-unit development is slated for the eastern side of the Silveira Farm property between Sowams Road and the Palmer River.
Mr. Spinella said the rental units will include 12 one-bed apartments, 23 two-bed apartments and 13 three-bed apartments with rents ranging from $688 to $922. The project is slated to be funded through RI Housing’s Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program, which was also used for the EBCDC-developed Sweetbriar.
Mr. Powers said the site is about one-quarter of a mile from nearby bus stops and even closer to the East Bay Bike Path. The proposed development is also limited to the front half of the site, Mr. Powers said, with a wetlands at the back of the property.
Mr. Powers said the apartment design will use traditional forms and details similar to Sweetbriar and other Barrington homes.
“We’re not trying to do anything witty,” Mr. Powers said.
Mr. Powers also said clustered units can still express the scale of single family homes using features such as gables and porches and the overall design of the development is aimed at creating a sense of community and opportunities for neighbors to gather.
“It’s the opposite of a gated community,” Mr. Powers said.
“It’s designed to be open.”
Additionally, Mr. Powers said the plan has a lower density than other local developments. He said Palmer Pointe has 5.2 units per acre compared with Sweetbriar (5.4 units per acre) and non-EBCDC developed projects such as Walker Farm Lane (6.6 units per acre). EBCDC attorney Stephanie Federico later pointed out Barrington Cove Apartments has 22.1 units per acre.
But one of those on hand argued against Mr. Powers’ density number. She said it utilizes several acres of unbuildable land. Mr. Powers said Palmer Pointe would probably have a density of about 8 units per acre on buildable land only but he cautioned that density isn’t a measure of whether a place is livable – it’s a matter of design.
The plan, however, is far from concrete. Developers still have to sit for a pre-application meeting with the town’s planning board/technical review committee. There are also public hearings to be held, engineering work to be performed and permits to be obtained from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Coastal Resources Management Council.
Mr. Spinella said the town targeted this site for affordable housing through its comprehensive plan, which must show how Barrington intends to reach a state required 10 percent affordable housing stock.
“We’re responding to the town’s want for affordable housing,” Mr. Spinella said.
Town councilor William DeWitt didn’t entirely agree. He said the town is responding to a mandate and Mr. Spinella agreed.