Letter: More transparency on west side plans, please

Posted 12/2/19

To the editor:

The lack of transparency about the plan for Aquidneck Island’s west side, including the toxic Navy tank farm area, continues.

Remember, last May, the Aquidneck Island …

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Letter: More transparency on west side plans, please

Posted

To the editor:

The lack of transparency about the plan for Aquidneck Island’s west side, including the toxic Navy tank farm area, continues.

Remember, last May, the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC) a private organization, held a West Side Summit. That meeting included Sens. DiPalma and Seveney, and Rep. Cortvriend. The public and press were excluded from the Summit.

Following this AIPC meeting, a last-minute bill (H-6242) was passed in the Assembly allowing the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank (RIIB) to address federal property in our state. This bill was sponsored by Rep. Ucci of Johnston. Rep. Ucci does not represent a district on Aquidneck Island, but his day job is legal council for Raytheon. Raytheon stands to benefit from any infrastructure changes on the west side. One would expect someone in Rep. Ucci’s position to recuse himself from voting on such a bill, much less be its sponsor.

The RIIB is now providing $300,000 of state money to investigate and make recommendations on the Navy installed infrastructure on the west side of Aquidneck Island. This may be in preparation for it to be taken over by the state or municipalities. None of this was mentioned in the press release AIPC put out after its May meeting, nor at any council meeting, until this resident questioned it. It took a Herculean research effort to uncover these facts.

Most recently, AIPC developed a west side PowerPoint presentation, including a helicopter flyover video. (Who paid the bill for this and what was their motive?) AIPC presented this to Statewide Planning in an effort to promote their west side plans. AIPC is not authorized to represent Portsmouth, Middletown, or Newport. This presentation was neither shared with the public, nor discussed with the municipal councils, before the meeting. Only AIPC knows what was told to Statewide Planning or requested of them. AIPC has proven once again that the residents of Aquidneck Island cannot trust AIPC to be transparent about their dealings.

Portsmouth’s own West Side Development Advisory Committee (WSDAC) voted at its Nov. 20 meeting to hold only quarterly meetings next year instead of their bylaw mandated monthly meetings. Could the WSDAC chair Bob Andrew’s decision to propose substantially reducing the public meetings have been influenced by the fact that he is also a board member of AIPC?

My fear is that this present west side process is completely bypassing the public. A development project could be implemented before we know what It contains, or are able to give input and contribute to these plans for our own neighborhood. Why would our legislators allow a major planning effort to be highjacked and promoted in secret by a private organization ? This is not how our government should work. This is how a special interest group would like our government to work for its benefit.

This lack of transparency continues. I am appealing to Sens. DiPalma and Seveney and Rep. Cortvriend to publicly address and fix this process, since our local council seems unable or unwilling to manage this.

Nancy Grieb

110 Thayer Drive 

Portsmouth

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