Look to science in wetlands battle

It may not have gotten a great response so far, but a plan to increase Warren’s development buffer deserves to be heard on its merits (see story, page 1).

For the past few months, a town plan to increase the development buffer adjacent to Warren’s wetlands has faced steady and heavy criticism from opponents, several of whom own property near wetlands and worried that increased buffers would cut down on the value of their property. That may be the case, and one can understand their frustration. But the science behind the proposal should be heard before it is dismissed outright as big government trying to tell the little guy what to do.

For many, many years in Rhode Island, anyone who wanted to build a home, factory, garage or anything else next to a body of water or swamp had to do nothing but raise the money and start building. The result was houses built right up to water’s edge and factories that dumped their effluent directly into the bay. Wetlands filled in by developers may have brought in development dollars, but there are subdivisions in Warren and Bristol that suffer from water issues every time it rains, mostly because the area’s geology wasn’t considered when foundations were poured.

Several towns in Rhode Island have recently increased their wetlands development buffers in response to science that shows the need for it, and Massachusetts already has beefier regulations than Warren and many Rhode Island towns.

Warren’s town planner said the town will likely revisit the development buffer issue as the town heads into its Comprehensive Community Plan update this Spring. We believe it deserves a look, and the town’s support, if the science shows the need for an increase in the buffer. If not? Dismiss it.

Balancing property rights with the need to protect Warren’s environment and future taxpayers may be a tall order. But history in this state has shown the need to be careful with Rhode Island’s finite natural resources. If there truly is a need for increased protection of Warren’s sensitive wetlands, there’s really no other discussion needed.

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