FEBRUARY 3, 2021
At a JOINT WORK SESSION of the Town Council, Planning Board and Affordable Housing Collaborative Committee of the Town of South Kingstown, County of Washington, in the State of Rhode Island, held via video- and tele-conference, in and for said Town on the 3rd day of February 2021 at 7:03 PM.
PRESENT: Town Council
Abel G. Collins, President
Rory H. McEntee, Vice President
Deborah D. Bergner
Deborah J. Kelso
Jessica L. Rose
F. Steven DiMasi, Chair
Maria Mack, Vice Chair
Affordable Housing Collaborative Committee
Joshua Daly, Chair
Also present: Robert C. Zarnetske, Town Manager; Jamie Rabbitt, Director of Planning, Brian Wagner, Senior Planner, Jason Parker, Principal Planner, and Amy Goins, Assistant Town Solicitor.
Jamie Rabbitt, Director of Planning briefly discusses the Horsley Witten Report on multi-household development and inclusionary zoning. The Planning Board has draft revisions of Cottage Zoning regulations. Appropriate areas for this type of development must be identified.
Mr. Rabbitt notes that the Planning Board approved updates to the Comprehensive Community Plan in December with edits currently being done. The Town Council wants this completed within 3 weeks, then it will be presented to the Town Council for review and adoption. The Comprehensive Community Plan updates are better articulating how land development occurs, standards for performance, resiliency, climate change, public infrastructure, affordable housing, policy and regulatory provisions. The Comp Plan is a map, a guideline encompassing more than 300 pages.
Council President Collins notes that the Town Council will conduct a Public Hearing to approve the plan, and once approved it will be submitted to the Office of Statewide Planning for official adoption.
Mr. Rabbitt notes that the draft Comp Plan is available on the Town’s website. The cottage zoning regulations recommended by Horsley Witten and the Affordable Housing Collaborative Committee (AHCC) provide for denser development, smaller units around a common area. A future service district would be centered in Wakefield and Peace Dale.
The Town Manager notes the Town is working on strategies for land use and housing policy in the Town Council’s Goals and Objectives, including accessory dwelling units and administration of the Affordable Housing Trust. Housing should be safe, affordable, accessible, located in neighborhoods and villages. South Kingstown has dark skies, due to preservation of open space. The measures of housing affordability are purchase affordability, repayment affordability and income affordability. Rhode Island’s Comprehensive Permit Program allows for more density than municipal zoning if Towns don’t meet State Low and Moderate Income Housing requirements. To meet affordable housing goals we can preserve existing affordable homes, improve substandard homes, and construct new units.
Josh Daly, AHCC Chair comments that they are looking at the middle piece, what type of housing we have and the needs it meets. There is a larger question of affordability in Town.
Jen Krueger, AHCC member states the community wants us to change our objectives. New affordable housing or preserved affordable housing can be beautiful, it should be integrated into the community, not on large tracts of land separated from the community. We need to update family housing, we have done a good job with senior housing.
Council President Collins notes that we need policies to encourage development of affordable housing.
Christian Blaney, AHCC member comments that reduced school enrollment is a reflection of who is buying property, larger lots lead to larger homes. Mr. Blaney discusses how to increase units in general, perhaps by allowing lots to be split into smaller parcels.
Paul Jordan, Planning Board member suggests to look at zoning around apartments, they are in short supply in South Kingstown.
Council Vice President McEntee asks about implementation of cottage zoning, and in which areas.
The Director of Planning notes that development occurs by private developers, government, non-profits or a partnership of those, and individuals. The Town can add tools such as cottage zoning. The Planning Board is struggling with where cottage zoning is appropriate. Anything within the future service district, they have to look at Peace Dale and Wakefield more closely, near URI, and lower Tower Hill Road.
Councilwoman Kelso expresses concerns with maintaining the economic diversity of living here, and discussion ensues relative to various loan programs.
Maria Mack, Planning Board Vice Chair discusses the challenges of practical implementation, noting that partnerships with non-profits make good projects, there are Community Reinvestment credits. Ms. Mack suggests reinstatement of the fee-in-lieu of requirements.
Peter DiStefano, Planning Board member comments that affordable housing units should be spread out to remove the stigma of low income developments. The Town sets the plan, builders will build to that plan.
Discussion ensues relative to rehabilitation of existing units for affordable housing, and the potential to break existing house lots into smaller sizes.
Steve DiMasi, Planning Board Chair notes that many merged lots were in small summer communities that are in sensitive areas that don’t have public services. We need more dense housing in the core, higher density units.
Discussion ensues relative to the number of low and moderate income units required in developments and Comprehensive Permit regulations. Discussion ensues relative to making financial agreements with homeowners to make their properties deed-restricted, but the state may not recognize those as qualifying as affordable units.
Discussion ensues relative to Old Tower Hill Road as a location for mixed use, and more student housing near URI which will have a transportation hub.
Josh Daly notes the Horsley Witten study was very measured in assessing ways to fit in with our town regarding missing middle housing. They considered land and housing prices, Old Tower Hill Road potential and accessory dwelling units.
Discussion ensues relative to the State’s 10% low income housing requirements. If the State requirement is not met, a Comprehensive Permit can allow a developer to alter the zoning restrictions.
Cottage regulations were up to 12 units per acre, they are now looking at a maximum of 10 units per acre, it would require a perfect piece of property. A three-tiered plan allowing for 6, 8 or 10 units will be considered.
Discussion ensues relative to accessory dwelling regulations. Brian Wagner, Senior Planner notes they are aimed at easing restrictions especially in sewered areas. Those units are state recognized. It is proposed to abate taxes for 5 years after issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy for a 750 square foot unit with one bedroom, or a tax exemption if the unit is deed restricted for 30 years under the State LMI law. Discussion ensues relative to the number of bedrooms, and size of the units up to 1,000 square feet. These units can facilitate multi-generational households, they can be rentals or family units. A pilot program may be launched to assess the consequences, and limit the number of permits allowed per year. Discussion ensues relative to tax abatements versus tax exemptions.
Joseph Murphy, Planning Board member suggests that keeping the square footage at 750 square feet allows flexibility with regulations and setbacks.
Peter DiStefano comments that the Planning Board needs to look at outside covered space not being included in the square footage limit.
Discussion ensues relative to the AHCC sending their recommendations to the Planning Board for review, and then to the Town Council for consideration at a Public Hearing.
Adjourn at 9:50 PM
Susan M. Flynn, CMC