Letter: Another big box plan not what Tiverton needs

To the editor:

Here we go again. Another developer has come forth to “save the town” by creating a mixed-use mall with the pleasant-sounding name of “Tiverton Crossings.”

There’s a 100-room hotel in back of a restaurant with conference center which abuts the Osborne-Bennett National Register Historic District, including one of the oldest houses in town. Then there are the multiple three-story mixed use buildings in the center, with retail on the first floor, office on the second, and housing on the third – and a garage below, which actually makes them four-story buildings.

Will the developer pay for the $1.2 million ladder firetruck to protect his buildings or will he leave it for Tiverton taxpayers? Don’t forget the huge strip mall that backs up along Route 24 on the south, with buildings much larger than the new CVS – and matching asphalt parking lots. And last, but certainly not least, the twin 45,000-square-foot boxes adjacent to Viti’s car dealership to the east.

These developers and their lawyers will try to sway you with persuasive phrases like “retail will bring in more tax dollars and lower the taxes on homeowners” or “look at all the jobs that will be created during construction and later with the shops.” What they don’t say is “this is a money-maker for us and after we get it built, we don’t care what happens to your town, because we’ve gotten our money” and they leave the town high and dry with empty big boxes and a lot of asphalt where woodlands, brooks, and wildlife once flourished.

What they don’t say is “you’ll have to hire more police and rescue personnel and equipment to cover the problems associated with a large retail development,” as the two public defenders living in Tiverton, working for Warwick, testified to at several public hearings on the last go-around with New England Development’s mall concept on the same property.

What they don’t say is “your value of your house will decrease and vandalism and theft will increase in the neighborhood adjacent to the mall”, as another homeowner in Swansea testified at the same public hearing. Malls are crime magnets. Will the developer pay for the additional detectives and rescue personnel needed or will he leave it for Tiverton taxpayers?

Currently, this acreage is zoned residential. The surrounding streets cannot withstand the amount of traffic associated with such a huge complex, as the previous developer discovered. One of the divided four-lane openings is right on Main Road, within the Osborne-Bennett National Register Historic District. The other is on Souza Road, just shy of other small houses across the street.

The developer and lot-owners want to change the zoning and also change the town’s Comprehensive Plan which states that the people of Tiverton want to keep Tiverton’s historic small-town character for their quality of life. I agree that the taxes are a problem, and I agree that we need businesses in town to bring the homeowners’ taxes down. However, this is not the way to do it. One just has to look at Middletown – they have all the big boxes you could want, but their taxes are just as high. Big box retail does not lower taxes.

There are at least a dozen empty business/office buildings from Stone Bridge up to the Fall River line on Main Road alone, not counting commercial land for sale, nor those on the east side of town. If you’ve been to Harbor Mall in Fall River lately, you know how empty that is – and will be even more so once Wal-Mart moves out to their new superstore on Route 6. We need to address why we do not have businesses occupying our empty buildings, not create more.

Starwoods, the original developer of The Villages on Mount Hope Bay, was approved for a hotel and mixed-use retail shops next to the Boathouse Restaurant on the waterfront, but they opted out because they didn’t think it was economically feasible for them – and that was before the economy crashed. They have also not continued with Phase 3 or 4, building the rest of the housing in the original plan, because of the economy. If an approved plan for a mixed-use retail and hotel is not economically feasible right on the waterfront, what makes this developer think his plan will work?

I’m not even addressing the environmental issues this proposal will inflict, nor the Native American influence, as seen on old maps and read in the history of the area. If the owners must build something, and can’t stand to see their property used as a natural habitat for displaced wildlife from surrounding developments (like those living in Starwoods), then they can build houses like those on the other side of Route 24 in the Gray and Beechwood developments, maintaining a lot of green space, much less traffic and light pollution – and quiet.

Please come to the Tiverton Town Hall at 7 p.m. on Monday, April 29, and show your disapproval of this badly-timed proposal so the Town Council and Planning Board know this will destroy the small-town historic character of Tiverton – the main reason why tourists come and why we live here.

Susan E. Anderson

Tiverton

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