A petition has been making its way around the Hampden Meadows section of town, asking residents to oppose the creation of a multi-unit housing development on the Sowams Nursery property.
A group of people, some of whom live near the site for the proposed Palmer Pointe Neighborhood project, is spearheading the petition drive. According to Bill LeMoult, a member of the group, organizers were able to collect 80 signatures in less than two hours of work earlier this month. He said the group plans on collecting more signatures in the near future.
Despite the language of its petition, the group appears to be more opposed to the town’s designation of the Sowams Nursery property as “village housing” in the recently-drafted comprehensive plan. In the plan, the property was specifically mentioned as a suitable location for future affordable housing development.
“We’re really desperately concerned about the density of it,” Mr. LeMoult said in a recent interview. He added that his group plans to create a presentation for town officials that they will offer at a future meeting.
In a press release from the group last week, a laundry list of reasons was offered for the basis of the opposition. The list included, that the Sowams Nursery property was one the last remaining open spaces in town, that the density of the project would run contrary to the character of the Sowams neighborhood, that the construction of the homes would have a negative impact on the surrounding ecology, and that the new development would create “adverse health and safety issues regarding both vehicular and pedestrian traffic” in the area.
“This is really bewildering,” stated a group spokesperson in the press release. “The town has a 20-year plan involving ten distinctive strategies for achieving low and moderate income housing, and it has been doing a pretty good job of locating and managing the process.
“This leap into a completely alien category of zoning in an already densely populated residential area is completely inappropriate and unnecessary.”
Barrington Town Planner Phil Hervey said officials carefully studied the entire town before designating Sowams Nursery as an appropriate site for a future affordable housing development.
“They evaluated properties across the town, one was Zion, and there are not a whole lot of sites left that are more than five acres,” he said. “And it’s in a different area of town. It’s a larger site. There’s a fair amount of buildable upland.”
Mr. Hervey contrasted the Sowams land with that of the proposed Residences at the Preserve development pitched for land on George Street.
“George Street has large lots, but there’s no utility or sewer, and it’s not deemed suitable for higher density,” he said.
Mr. Hervey said trying to alter the designation of the Sowams Nursery property could pose challenging; if officials changed that site, then it would have a trickle-down affect on other lands and on the town’s overall plan to allow for more affordable housing.
“You’re going to tip a domino,” he said. “It’s going to affect another site and another. And if you don’t have a good basis for denying something, you open yourself up to appeals.”
Here’s the petition:
“We the undersigned are opposed to the creation of a multi-unit housing complex at the Sowams Nursery located on Sowams Street, Barrington, RI, and request that no further municipal governmental actions be taken to facilitate any such construction, based on the following considerations:
1. The Sowams Nursery is not an appropriate location for prospective multi-unit construction, and is not in the best interests of the Town of Barrington.
2. Prospective construction of dense-housing/rentals on the Sowams property is not consistent with the Comprehensive Town Plan.
3. Extensive further study and discussion is necessary at the local, state and federal levels regarding community concerns that exist or may arise in the course of exploring the appropriateness or viability of construction on the Sowams Nursery property.
Our opposition in this matter is not intended to interfere with the spirit of governmental objectives to accommodate state policy concerning the embrace of LMIH in our town.”