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The Beaver River Valley Community Association was founded in 2018 by concerned property owners and residents for the purpose of protecting the rural character and historic and natural resources that define our community. Read more...
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Potts Foundation kicks off new campaign - February 4th 2023
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
February 4th 2023
RICHMOND – Fundraising for the Maddie Potts Memorial Field House was a challenge made even more daunting by the chaos and delays caused by the pandemic.
After taking a break, Stephanie, Dan and Julia Potts and Maddie Potts Foundation Treasurer, Melissa DeJoseph, recently launched a new campaign to raise money for scholarships and local projects.
Stephanie Potts said she and her family needed time to recover from the pressure of raising money for the field house.
“That recovery’s actually taken a lot longer than I expected, and just kind of re-focusing,” she said. “I felt I needed to let our foundation board and our friends kind of recover from that, because they’d given everything they had to give.”
Stephanie and Dan Potts’s 17-year-old daughter, Madeline, was captain of the Chariho soccer team when she collapsed on the field from an asymptomatic brain aneurism. Maddie later died, on Sept. 24, 2017, at Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
The sudden death of the popular student athlete drove the Chariho community into mourning. Determined to create something good from the tragedy, the Potts family started the Maddie Potts Foundation and began raising money for scholarships for Chariho students and a new field house for the Chariho campus. The Maddie Potts Memorial Field House was officially dedicated last August.
Back to basics
The Maddie Potts Foundation board met in November - the first meeting in the new fieldhouse.
“We had our first board meeting there, and it was just a whole different feeling and atmosphere and to me, it really empowered us to continue to find ways to give back even more,” Potts said. “…I felt that we all needed to take time and be reminded that we’re here because of a monumental loss that has affected thousands of people and five years later, still does.”
With the field house open and paid for, DeJoseph explained that the foundation board will now broaden its donation focus.
“I think the field house was so huge, but I think we’re almost kind of like ‘what now?’” she said. “We all have so many ideas and of course, we wish we could just help everybody and do everything, but I think it’s important, too, to get back to the smaller things – not that scholarships are small, but compared to a $2 million fieldhouse, it’s smaller. So, I think that’s why we talked about expanding the scholarship program and expanding the donations to Unified Athletics, to local schools and also increasing the donations and the supply drives for the local animal shelters and the local food pantries. So, we’re getting back to basics.”
(The fieldhouse is valued at $2 million but donations of goods and services from contractors reduced the actual cost of construction to $1,258,696.11.)
Organized by DeJoseph and now in its second year, the Jail and Bail campaign has already raised more than $3,000 of the $111,000 goal. (Maddie’s team jersey was Number 11.)
“The whole reason we did ‘Jail and Bail’ again is because it was so incredibly successful last year as an inaugural event for us. She raised over $25,000,” Potts said.
Donations can be made to the general campaign, or to a specific “prisoner,” a participating volunteer from the community.
The funds will go towards scholarships, which, in addition to Chariho students, will now be awarded to students in South Kingstown, Middletown and Narragansett. The foundation will also raise funds for the Westerly and South Kingstown Jonnycake Centers and RICAN, and collect food and supplies for the Westerly animal shelter and the Charlestown animal shelter.
Potts said the foundation was also in the early stages of discussing a possible program with Hasbro Children’s Hospital.
“We’re trying to increase awareness even further of brain aneurism, and Hasbro has reached out to me on a number of occasions, so we are trying to figure out how we can help with their needs – very early talks, but we’re trying to figure that out,” she said.
The time off after the dedication of the field house has given the foundation leadership a much-needed energy boost.
“I’m hopeful that that re-group will allow us to come back even stronger and do more diversified good,” Potts said. “You know, this isn’t just about athletics. This is about all the things that were valuable to Maddie as far as art, and, just, community and animals and the elderly, and she just supported every single underdog in every way, and that’s the intention of the foundation.”
Richmond Councilors Double Down with Sign - January 29th 2023
Richmond Councilors Double Down with Sign
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
January 29th, 2023
RICHMOND –Richmond residents hoping to get a weekend break from the recent political skirmishes that have roiled their town were confronted with a large sign that went up on Saturday next to the package store in Wyoming.
The sign is a jab at Democrat Kristen Chambers, who, in a Jan. 22 letter to the editor to The Westerly Sun, described Town Council President Mark Trimmer and councilors Helen Sheehan and Michael Colasante as a “Gang of Three” for their support of conservative activist Clay Johnson over Jessica Purcell for a vacant Chariho School Committee seat.
The Richmond Home Rule Charter states that the council should choose the next highest vote-getter for the seat, but Trimmer, Sheehan and Colasante have said that the Chariho Act, as state law, supersedes the town charter – which was also ratified by the state.
Purcell and the town have both hired attorneys, Jeffrey Levy for Purcell and Joseph Larisa for the town, to argue their cases before the Rhode Island Supreme Court.
(Please see the Jan. 24 story on the BRVCA website.)
The sign, featuring a large photograph of Trimmer, Sheehan and Colasante, reads: “’Gang of 3’ Proudly representing the TAXPAYER! Stand with us, Richmond. We told you it wasn’t going to be business as usual.”
Reached Saturday, Trimmer said the sign had been a response to recent suggestions that the councilors should be recalled.
“There have been multiple sources within the town’s Democratic party that talked about a recall for the Gang of Three,” he said. “In many cases, we’re doing what’s best for the town, and a lot of this has been given nefarious undertones. It’s not. So, we were quoting the Democrat, Kristen Chambers, and the others that have made these statements. We were following the Chariho Act regarding the appointment. The Court should bear [that] out in the end, and I think that we’ll be validated in the end by the Rhode Island Supreme Court.”
Asked who had come up with the idea for the sign, Trimmer said,
“I don’t know. I think we just talked about it and it kind of organically came up. I didn’t like the term ‘Gang of Three,’ because I studied history and the term is a negative, Communist term.”
The sign was paid for by the three council members.
“I think each of us paid $47 apiece,” Trimmer said. “I think I had $42 left in my campaign account. Mike and Helen had a little bit more, and we’re each chipping in and we’re paying for it, because we’re expecting the recall. We can’t just disagree or not agree all the time. We have to go to extremes.”
Democratic Town Committee Chairman Joseph Reddish was seeing the sign for the first time when contacted by BRVCA on Saturday evening.
Reddish said the current situation in the town stemmed from the appointment of Johnson, which amounted to disenfranchisement.
“Taking away the voters’ rights to selection is what they’ve done,” he said. “This is not ‘business as usual’. They disenfranchised the voters, is what they did.”
Chambers said she found the new sign shocking.
“Shame on them for their lack of shame,” she said. “They used that term because I used it in a letter to the editor so my friend sent it to me and I said ‘hmm, maybe I used it the wrong way.’ But I looked up ‘gang’ and the definition of gang is an organized group of criminals, so I did use it the right way.”
Reddish said he does not believe the town is divided over the school committee issue, but he stressed that not enough moderate – leaning residents took the time to vote and express their views.
“What’s taken place is, yes, they [the Republicans] got out the vote of a select group of people,” he said. “If you look at the percentage of voters, 31% of the voters voted. That is not a representation of the opinion of the Town of Richmond.
…People can’t be passive. They have to be engaged.”
Trimmer still hopes that both sides will be able to cooperate for the good of the town.
“The two extremes, left and right, can’t coexist,” he said. “Somebody has to move a little bit. That’s how I feel. I’m hoping that I can convince the two edges of the spectrum to kind of edge towards the center and we can get some things done.”
But Chambers said she felt that the sign had exacerbated the divisions.
“It’s like a slap in the face, not just to Democrats but to Richmond residents. They’re proud of everything that they’re doing that people are getting angry about,” she said.
Work Progresses at Shannock Village - January 28th, 2023
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
January 28th, 2023
RICHMOND – After decades of neglect, the center of Shannock Village is now being cleaned up and brought back to life.
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, the village contains important examples of mid-19th Century Greek revival architecture, including homes built for the mill owners, George H. Clark and his son, George P. Clark.
Bordered by the Pawcatuck River and known for the iconic Horseshoe Falls dam, the village spread across the river into Charlestown back when the mill, the Columbia Narrow Fabrics Company, expanded.
The Clarks sold the mills in 1964 and the Columbia Narrow Fabrics mill closed in 1968.
The Shannock Mill Project
The goals of the Shannock Mill Project are ambitious: clean up and repurpose the site, and redevelop the property, which is just under three acres, as mixed - use.
The man behind the Shannock Mill revitalization is the property owner, Jeffrey Marlowe, who, in 2020, received $235,280 from the Brownfield and Economic Development Fund of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. An earlier grant of $429,000, also from RIDEM’s Brownfield and Economic Development program, was already in place to fund the initial remediation work.
In addition to the former mill property, Marlowe owns three nearby buildings. He is also planning to open a café in one of the buildings.
“Nothing fancy,” he said of the café. “We want to use locally grown and milled grains keeping either a flatbread or pizza as our base, it’s possible to do a decent job with a small staff making the dough in-house so that it’s something special – high hydration using a natural leavening that results from a sourdough starter.”
Marlowe lives in Newport, but at one time, he lived in one of the houses that overlook the mill property and he still appreciates the historic qualities of the village.
“I bought some property here in the late ‘80s,” he said. “I was working for a company in Hope Valley and I was living in Newport at the time. I had a junk car, a cheap car, I was in my 20s, and so I needed a place that I could be a little closer to my work in Hope Valley and there was a cheap rental here in the village and I found it and I moved in. About the same time there was a couple of properties for sale down the street.”
Marlowe bought those properties and began rehabbing them.
“…It was a real homesteading mentality here in the village,” he recalled. “People were buying property. It was cheaper than anywhere else in the area, but you had to manage a water system and everything else that went along with that, and the sense of community was really something special. We were trying to keep this whole thing up and going, keeping a water system that was completely put together with plastic well pipe, galvanized steel pipe and some copper tubing. Every time the water pressure would be turned up so people with second floor showers could get some pressure, we’d blow out another leak. Neighbors would have to run around, figure it out, and the sense of community that was developed during that stage was something that I’ve never seen or felt anywhere else.”
The first step in re-developing the village was modernizing the water system, and in 2013, under the guidance of Geoffrey Marchant, the Director of the Community Development Consortium at the time, the Shannock Water District completed a new, $1.7 million water system.
Marlowe purchased the mill property at the center of the village in the spring of 2020. He didn’t know then what he would do with the parcel, but he believed the time was right to get the remediation started.
“I was frustrated nothing was happening with the site, and I was concerned that if DEM reallocated this funding, it would tarnish the community’s standing for any future remediation funding and we’d be stuck with this hole in the middle of the village a site that would remain contaminated and unusable.”
Unfortunately, after sitting vacant for 50 years, the mill building, and several adjacent structures, could not be saved.
“Our history in the village is, we’ve tried to save these structures as much as we could, because an existing building is always the greenest one, but in this case, there wasn’t much savable about them,” he said. “The exterior masonry walls had extensive water damage and if we had tried to reinforce the walls, it would have been like building a new building inside an old one.”
In addition to taking down the crumbling buildings, the team had to remove all the trash that had been dumped on the property; refrigerators, couches, underground storage tanks and 125 tires.
Soil remediation work was the first task to be initiated. Some of the soil had been contaminated with oil, so that had to be dug up and removed. The remaining contaminated soil is scheduled for removal this spring.
The next challenge involved finding a contractor to remove the asbestos and demolish the building ruins.
“The actual physical work takes a matter of days, but the paperwork to get everything in order for the asbestos abatement approval and the demolition permits, those just take months and months,” Marlowe said.
Once the site has been cleared and remediated, Marlowe is proposing to build homes and two commercial spaces.
“Our goal is to create something special right here in the middle of the village,” he said. “And this is what is so common with brownfield sites. Typically, they’re located in important areas. They’re in the center of town or on a waterfront or in this case both. And if you can get them cleaned up and repurposed, they can really have a positive effect on the surrounding community.”
The plan calls for workforce housing, with public, riverfront access. Of the 14 planned housing units, four will be deeded affordable, but Marlowe said even the market-priced units will be reasonably priced.
“What’s needed most in South County is that ‘missing middle,’” he said. “The missing middle is duplexes, maybe townhouses, small cottages, bungalows in the 1,200-square foot range that are still affordable.”
Green space and “village scale” businesses are also planned. Commercial spaces would include small retail and arts and crafts production studios and a coffee shop. The green space would provide public access to the river, and the plans include a pedestrian bridge that would link both sides of the village.
Marlowe has not yet appeared before the Richmond Planning Board, however, Town Planner Shaun Lacey said the town would be considering a comprehensive permit, which requires that 25 % of the housing units on the property be deeded affordable – something the proposed plan already includes.
“Comprehensive permits would need to set aside a minimum of 25% the total number of units to be designated as affordable,” he said. “The remainder of the units themselves would be market rate. I think it is interesting, and maybe notable, to mention that all the units in their entirety, especially the large buildings, they’re not especially large dwelling units individually, so I think Jeff’s belief is that even a market rate home in Shannock Village, would, I think, lend itself to a great starter home opportunity for new home-buyers that live in the region.”
The project has also received support from the Wood-Pawcatuck Watershed Association, which, in 2013, built a fish ladder to allow migratory fish to pass over the dam.
WPWA Executive Director Christopher Fox said his experience working in the village had convinced him that its revitalization, while worthwhile, is a complex, long term project.
“Something’s always getting started, work is always being done,” he said. “It’s usually at a slow pace, because of funding, but always continues to push forward. …My understanding is, a handful of people who live in and love the village looked at the whole big picture of the village and said, ‘this is all the things that need to happen to bring this village back to the heart of the community that it once was’.”
What began with Geoffrey Marchant putting together the funding for the water supply has continued to grow with Marlowe’s vision.
“One of the things I really love about the village of Shannock’s overall revitalization is that you have different people championing different aspects of bringing that village back to a gold standard of a revitalized industrial village that could have just completely fallen apart,” Fox said.
Marlowe and the town are currently considering options for a road through the mill property.
“The town of Richmond would like to see the re-development include a drive-through,” he said. “In other words, you would come in maybe right across from North Road and then drive through, versus a cul de sac.”
Amtrak owns the land that would be necessary for the construction of a drive-through. Lacey said he and Marlowe had agreed that the ideal solution would be a second point of access, which would require agreement from Amtrak.
“Considering the proposal and the design concept and the site layout that was presented, two points of access, certainly in my mind, would better serve the site,” he said.
Fox said he respected Marlowe for persisting with his project and overcoming state and municipal roadblocks.
“Any profiteer would have given up long ago,” he said. “It’s just that history is a clear indication that he’s doing this because of his love of the village, not because of his love of the almighty dollar.”
Jeffrey Marlowe at the Shannock Village site.
Richmond School Committee Meeting Update for January 24th 2023
Plenty of Discussion, But Not Budget Cuts at Chariho Budget Workshop
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – With continued controversy over the appointment of Clay Johnson to fill the vacant Richmond seat on the Chariho School Committee, many of the 50 or so residents who came to the middle school auditorium on Tuesday were eager to express their opinions on the issue, even though the meeting was advertised as a budget workshop.
After Board Chair Catherine Giusti opened a public comment period, more than an hour was taken by people telling school committee members, and Chariho solicitor Jon Anderson, how they felt about the district’s initial resistance to seat Johnson, who was appointed by a majority of Richmond Town Council members on Jan. 19. Jessica Purcell, a Democrat received the second-highest number of votes, losing by a margin of just 27.
Supporters of Johnson’s appointment have argued that the district must follow the Chariho Act, which requires council members to vote for a replacement for a school committee seat. The town’s Home Rule Charter states that the council should select the committee replacement with the next-greatest number of votes.
While Johnson supporters, including three of the five Richmond council members, have stated that as state law, the Chariho Act supersedes the town charter, Anderson and others have countered that the two statutes are compatible, because the council would be voting for the replacement member, and also, the replacement would have the second-greatest number of votes.
The Supreme Court
There were several developments before the meeting.
Purcell announced that she had hired attorney Jeffrey Levy to file a writ of “Quo Warranto” in Rhode Island Supreme Court, which asks the court to determine whether Johnson should hold the school committee office.
Soon after the meeting had begun, attorney Joseph Larisa, hired to represent Johnson, appeared briefly before the committee to announce that he, too, had filed a Quo Warranto.
“I just wanted to make the committee aware that the matter is before the Supreme Court, both parties claiming the right to the position are represented,” he said. “There is no injunction whatsoever by the court against anybody, so you should proceed, in my view, exactly as you are with the budget workshop.”
It is not clear who will be paying Larisa’s fees for representing Johnson, but Larisa has previously represented the conservative group, the Gaspee Project, which Johnson chairs.
Purcell said she had received no financial assistance to pay Levy’s fees.
“I asked around, I networked, to see if anyone knew a lawyer for advice, and on Friday night, I finally found someone who would represent me,” she said. “I’m not receiving financial backing from anybody.”
Tuesday’s meeting revealed the extent of the political divide in the three Chariho towns. Supporters of Purcell were far outnumbered Tuesday by school committee critics, who largely focused their attacks on Anderson, for writing a legal opinion opposing Johnson’s appointment without first having obtained the authorization of the school committee to post it.
(See the Jan. 19 post in the BRVCA blog.)
Several members of the public, and school committee members, raised the same argument: that Anderson had acted inappropriately, violating the school committee’s code of conduct, when he submitted a legal opinion to the council on Jan. 17, without first obtaining the approval of the committee.
Anderson’s written opinion stated, in part:
“… the Council need only follow the plain language of the Chariho Act and the Richmond Home Rule Charter and appoint the next highest vote getter. There is no need to explore the rules of statutory construction as suggested elsewhere.”
Hopkinton school committee member Polly Hopkins, representing Hopkinton led the charge and was joined by several others, including former Hopkinton school committee member David Stall, who currently serves as the Hopkinton Town Moderator.
Stall called for both Anderson and committee chair Catherine Giusti to resign.
“What happened is a legal action and a letter on behalf of the entire school committee without any meeting of the school committee,” he said. “That is a violation of this board’s procedures, practices and policy, and I think, the Open Meeting [sic] Act. And I think it’s egregious, and I think it was intentional and strategic, and I give you enough credit to know the rules to believe that you broke them intentionally. Mr. Anderson and Mrs. Giusti, I believe it calls for your immediate resignation.”
Richmond Town Council member Michael Colasante, who, with council President Mark Trimmer and councilor Helen Sheehan, had voted to approve Johnson’s appointment, said he believed having Johnson on the school committee would be beneficial, because the committee would be more balanced, with equal numbers of liberals and conservatives.
“When we look at the next election, when you have six people from each side – whatever you want to say – they’re conservative or liberal, it will give the voters a good chance to see who is pushing what, what agendas and what is actually the best for the Chariho School District as a whole,” he said.
With Johnson now on the school committee, there is a question of what will happen if the Supreme Court rules that his appointment is not valid.
Charlestown member Craig Louzon asked what would become of committee decisions that Johnson had voted on.
“They don’t make a decision on this until, hypothetically, July, or August, or something of that nature, and we made a bunch of decisions involving Mr. Johnson’s participation in those decisions…what do we have to do about those decisions?” he said.
“All those decisions become void, because Mr. Johnson’s vote would not properly count,” Anderson said.
The committee would then have to vote again, with Purcell and without Johnson, on every decision.
The comment period ended and committee members and administrators turned their attention to the Fiscal Year 2024 schools budget. The committee has not yet begun making cuts to the proposed, $60 million spending plan, which represents a 6% increase over the current budget. The towns have asked the district to make reductions that will bring the budget under the 4% tax increase limit set by the state.
Superintendent of Schools Gina Picard will present budget scenarios to the school committee at the next workshop, including an alternative budget that is level-funded.
“We would need about $3,800,000 in cuts to get to level funding, so I’m going to put together what gets to $3,800,000, and they will determine what they want to do, based on what they want to cut,” she said Wednesday.
Picard also told the committee on Tuesday that the proposed state budget, if it passes in June, includes significant increases in state aid to the towns, in addition to the transportation aid they already receive.
Charlestown would receive $60,283, Richmond, $564,248, and Hopkinton, $552,571.
The next budget workshop is open to the public and will take place on Thursday, in the Chariho library, at 6 p.m.
Richmond Town Council Update for January 19th 2023
Council names Clay Johnson to School Committee
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – Amid a chorus of boos, three of the five Town Council members rejected the second-highest vote getter, Jessica Purcell, and quickly moved to appoint Clay Johnson to the vacant seat on the Chariho School Committee.
The meeting was continued from Jan. 17, when an overflow crowd in the council chambers necessitated the postponement.
About 70 people attended the council meeting on Thursday, in the auditorium of Chariho Middle School.
The discussion of the selection of a replacement for departing school committee member, Gary Liguori, has centered on the legal obligations of the town, but it is also evident that politics have played a pivotal role.
The debate has centered on which statute applies in the school committee case; the Chariho Act, which is state law, or the Home Rule Charter.
Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth has stated that the Chariho Act supersedes the charter, but others, including attorney and Town Moderator Mark Reynolds, and Chariho School Committee attorney, Jon Anderson, have submitted written opinions stating that the Chariho Act and the Home Rule Charter do not conflict and that Purcell, who received the second-highest number of votes, should be appointed.
Purcell out, Johnson in
With most of the audience attending the meeting for the school committee discussion, the school committee item was moved up to the top of the agenda. The ensuing discussion, which continued for nearly an hour and a half, was, at times, rancorous.
Councilor Samantha Wilcox opened the discussion by stating that she had been elected to the council to uphold the town charter and because of that oath, as well as town precedent in following the charter for past appointments, she was making a motion to appoint Purcell, who lost the election by a narrow margin – 28 votes.
“The voters want her,” Wilcox said. “1,469 taxpayers voted for her. We should not ignore their wishes. “
Michael Colasante countered, citing Ellsworth’s memo and then reading an opinion authored by retired justice Robert Flanders that affirms that as state law, the Chariho Act supersedes the town charter.
After reading a list of Flanders’s legal, political and academic accomplishments, Colasante said,
“Mr. Flanders opinion states, ‘yes, I confirmed that state law generally trumps contrary local laws and I do consider these two laws to be contrary, because the council would deprive the council of the discretionary choice that the state law provides as to the selection of the replacement for the resigning member’.”
Council Vice President Richard Nassaney, a Republican, implored the councilors to put aside their personal political opinions and respect the will of Richmond voters.
“You need to do the will of the people and that is, put Ms. Purcell on the seat,” he said. “Yes, I may not have voted for her but that’s irrelevant and quite honestly, it would be quite shameful for us to kind of spat [sic] I the person’s face. I know that some of the councilors here at this table don’t believe that. They think that they need to put in someone with a different political view. This isn’t politics. This is your children. This is their education.”
But Colasante and councilor Helen Sheehan, who, with council President Mark Trimmer are members of the conservative education lobbying group, Parents United R.I., countered that Richmond voters had demonstrated that they wanted to elect more conservatives to the school committee.
“The voters very clearly voted two conservative candidates and there were also four conservative candidates for Town Council , and the voters very clearly voted for the four conservative voices, so I take my responsibilities very seriously so, I would say that the Chariho Act, I follow what Chief Justice Flanders said, that the Chariho Act gives us responsibility to make the best decision that we can for someone to be on an important position of school committee,” Sheehan said.
Colasante said he had heard from residents during the election campaign who told him that they wanted a “more conservative-minded person” on the school committee.
“Many, many of these people brought up the point that the Department of Justice, with the NEA [teachers’ union] drafted a letter stating that anybody – all right? – that pretty much went against a school committee – all right? – in their opinion, was considered a domestic terrorist,” he said.
As his comments were greeted by groans from audience members, Colasante persisted.
“With all these things, we can’t have our heads in the sand,” he said.
Trimmer cited another legal opinion supporting Ellsworth’s memo, this one from attorney Joseph Larisa whose clients include the Town of Charlestown where he is the “Town Solicitor for Indian Affairs.”
Trimmer noted that he had no personal opinions of Purcell.
“I don’t know Jessica Purcell,” he said. “I’ve never spoken to her in my life.”
(He was immediately corrected by Purcell, who noted that the two had spoken.)
During the public forum, former school committee William Day described Purcell as the most qualified person for the committee position and blamed politics for the reluctance of some members to appoint her.
“I’m a registered Republican, but right now, I’m very embarrassed about being a registered Republican, because Jessica is the most qualified individual that I’ve heard out there in the community to be our next school committee representative” he said.
Several residents, including former town officials, urged council members to follow the provisions of the charter.
Former council President Nell Carpenter said,
“…as a Richmond Town Council member, just as I did when I raised my right hand, I swore to uphold and preserve the town charter rule of Richmond, not the Chariho Act.”
Trimmer closed the forum and called for a vote on the motion to appoint Purcell. Wilcox and Nassaney voted in favor and Trimmer, Sheehan and Colasante were opposed, defeating the motion.
Immediately after the vote, Colasante, who, on several occasions has said that he is new to the council and therefore needs additional time to do his due diligence on important matters, quickly and without hesitation made a motion to appoint Clay Johnson to the committee, taking many residents by surprise.
Several people, including Nassaney and Wilcox, objected, arguing that the motion could not be voted on because the Johnson’s appointment was not on the agenda, but the discussion continued.
Clay Johnson and the Gaspee Project
Johnson, who served on the school committee from 2016 to 2020, chairs the conservative group The Gaspee Project, which donated more than $20,000 to the printing of flyers distributed to voters on Oct. 14, before the November election.
The flyers urged voters to reject Purcell, a Democrat, and independents Ryan Callahan and William Day and vote for Republicans Patricia Pouliot and Kathryn Colasante (the wife of Michael Colasante).
The full story on the flyers can be found on in the Nov. 5 edition of the BRVCA blog.
It is also important to note that there is a connection between the Gaspee Project and attorneys Larisa and Flanders, whose opinions Colasante and Trimmer submitted as supporting Ellsworth’s memo. -Link Here- and -Here-
Flanders and Larisa represented the Gaspee Project in a 2019 lawsuit, in which the group challenged the state requirement that required the organization to report expenditures made to support issues or individuals.
The challenge was unsuccessful, both in the U.S. District Court in Providence and later, in the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston, in which the Gaspee Project was represented by Larisa.
Council precedent ignored
Several residents, including former council President Joseph Reddish, asked the council to delay Johnson’s appointment and advertise for the position.
“As a former council member, it has been the pattern of this council for many, many years that if we have an opening on a board or commission, that we advertise it for a minimum of at least 30 days,” he said. “It has not been advertised for this position for the school committee, so you’re going out of order with past precedent…Tonight, what’s been displayed, except for a couple of council members, is that we’ve lost our integrity in listening to the people of the town of Richmond…And let it be known, I am sure that there are people in this community that will be suing the Town of Richmond for a poor decision that’s unauthorized. Lastly, you are violating OMA [the state Open Meetings Act]. It was not advertised that you would be selecting anybody else. “
The debate ended and Colasante announced that it was time to vote on the Johnson appointment. With Trimmer, Colasante and Sheehan voting in favor, Nassaney and Wilcox, who voted against the appointment were outvoted and the motion passed, as furious residents shouted “shame,” and “recall.”
Asked how he felt about the hasty and unexpected appointment of Johnson, Nassaney replied,
“For once in my life, I think I’m actually speechless,” he said. “I’m disgusted, actually.”
Richmond Town Council Meeting Update for January 17, 2023
Overflow Crowd Forces Postponement of Council Meeting
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – The old adage of crowds packing Town Council meetings when people are angry held true on Tuesday, when the Town Council meeting did not take place because the number of residents packing the council chambers exceeded the 52-person limit.
It appears that two recent developments have struck a chord with residents: the apparent reluctance of some members of the council to elect or appoint Jessica Purcell to the Chariho School Committee, and the decision not to renew the appointment of Nancy Hess to the Planning Board.
The council meeting was re-scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. in a much larger venue, the Chariho Middle School auditorium.
The school committee appointment
Some residents are voicing their collective support for Purcell, who was expected to fill a seat on the School Committee vacated by Gary Liguori.
Purcell, who received the second-highest number of votes, would have filled Liguori’s seat under the terms of the Home Rule Charter. However, council President Mark Trimmer and council member Helen Sheehan asked Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth for a legal opinion, and Ellsworth stated that because it is state law, the Chariho Act supersedes the town charter. The council is not required, therefore, to name Purcell to the position.
Others have publicly disputed Ellsworth’s opinion. Attorney Mark Reynolds, who serves as the Town Moderator, stated in a Jan. 11 letter that the council should appoint Purcell to fill the vacancy.
“The Chariho Act simply states that a vacancy is filled by the Town Council,” he wrote. “The Richmond Home Rule Charter dictates how the Town Council makes the appointment. The Home Rule Charter states that if ‘a school committee seat becomes vacant, the Town Council shall appoint the unelected candidate who received the greatest number of votes for that office in the most recent general or special election.’ So, although the Town Council makes the appointment, it must follow the Home Rule Charter when doing so. The unelected candidate who received the greatest number of votes in the November 2022 election was Jessica Purcell. Therefore, the Town Council must appoint her to fill the vacancy.”
The council also received a dissenting legal opinion from Jon Anderson, the attorney representing the Chariho School committee.
In a letter submitted to the council on Jan. 17, Anderson wrote,
“…I fear that there is some confusion that there is a ‘conflict’ between the Chariho Act, 1958, Pub. L. ch. 55, § 10[c]
[‘Chariho Act’], and the Richmond Home Rule Charter, 2009, R.I. pub. L. ch. 12, §§ 1-2 [‘Richmond Home Rule Charter’]. In fact, there is no conflict whatsoever between the Chariho Act and the Richmond Town Charter when it comes to filling vacancies on the Chariho School Committee. Consequently, the Council need only follow the plain language of the Chariho Act and the Richmond Home Rule Charter and appoint the next highest vote getter. There is no need to explore the rules of statutory construction as suggested elsewhere.”
Anderson warned the council that he would advise the school committee “not to recognize any person putatively appointed to the Chariho School Committee in violation of both the Richmond Home Rule Charter and the Chariho Act because both can be read together. I have no choice in the matter to give such advice. Otherwise, every decision of the Chariho School Committee would be void…The one simple way to avoid any disputes is to read the Richmond Home Rule Charter and the Chariho Act consistently, as this Town Council most recently did in 2016 and appoint/elect the next unelected person who received the most votes.”
The Hess reappointment
Nancy Hess, one of the longest serving volunteers on the Planning Board, was not reappointed to the board, infuriating other Planning Board members, who at their Jan. 10 meeting, voted Hess board President until her term expires on Jan. 31.
The decision not to reappoint Hess was supported by councilors Helen Sheehan, Michael Colasante and council President Mark Trimmer, who just days earlier had assured Hess that he would support her.
The Town Council-Planning Board workshop
Earlier in the evening, council members and members of the Planning Board held a joint workshop to discuss the Planning Board’s proposed amendments to the town’s zoning map, zoning ordinance and the aquifer protection overlay district. (Hess did not attend the meeting.)
“We spent quite a bit of time on it,” Board Chairman Philip Damicis told the council. “We think it’s changes to the ordinance that both protect the value of the aquifer as well as foster our economic development.”
Town Planner Shaun Lacey presented an overview of the proposed amendments. In response to a question from Trimmer about how the amendments might pertain to the special resort district zone that the town created for largest development in town, The Preserve at Boulder Hills, Ellsworth said the board had made special “accommodations” for that property.
“They have a heliport there already and that heliport is in the district of the aquifer,” she said. “The problem with a heliport is not that helicopters land on it, it’s that sometimes, they have gas tanks. We suggested that we change the definition of heliport in the resort section of the zoning ordinance to exclude refueling facilities, and The Preserve agreed to that.”
Ellsworth noted that the brew pub at The Preserve was also an issue, and that The Preserve had agreed to limiting consumption of brew pub beverages to its own property.
“Breweries use an inordinate amount of water, a lot of water, and they agreed to limit that use to their purchases that are manufactured on the premises but not sold for consumption off the premises.”
“We spent quite a bit of time on The Preserve itself, and looking at all their use codes, because we do appreciate them.”
Trimmer said he wanted to solicit further input before advertising for a public hearing.
“I’d still like to get some input, I think, before I go out [to public hearing], he said.
Councilor Samantha Wilcox said the council would receive that input at the hearing itself.
“We’re supposed to offer a public hearing and tonight’s not really the public hearing,” she said.
“So, it would be inappropriate at this time to ask for public comment,” Trimmer said.
While the workshop agenda did not include a period for public comment or a public forum, Preserve Developer Paul Mihailides, accompanied by his attorney, Americo Scungio, rose and asked to speak.
Trimmer recognized Mihailides, who said,
“We were invited to the workshop, to participate, so I brought my lawyers and our engineers. Are they not going to be able to participate?”
It was not clear who had invited the representatives from The Preserve, but Ellsworth said the decision would be up to Trimmer, who said he would have to limit comments to three minutes.
Although earlier, Ellsworth and Damicis had described agreements with The Preserve that had been reached on several aquifer-related issues, Mihailides said he did not agree with most of the amendments.
“I am not in favor of the [aquifer protection] overlay district, and I am not in favor of what we had to acquiesce to, and the changing of our zone, he said. “We really weren’t given a choice. As everybody knows, on our Master Plan, we’ve asked for a gas station. It says that everything that we touch in the overlay district is going to be constrained. That’s already approved on our Master Plan. Helipads, the ability to gas our vehicles is currently in place. We have three tanks currently that are more than 10,000 gallons, that are permitted by the state, that we use to fuel our vehicles. This would be a significant change.”
Several minutes later, Wilcox reminded the council that it would soon be time to close the workshop, since the council meeting was scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.
Colasante said he needed more time to consider the changes.
“Being on this council for all of 20 seconds, I cannot – all right? - in good faith, look at this document and say that we should make a decision on this,” he said.
Damicis responded that there would be time to consider the document before the public hearing but Colasante said he wanted to consult business owners.
“It took a lot of time on your part. I have to be given enough time to do my due diligence and be able to say that feel easy sending this off,” he said.
Damicis suggested the council take time to study the document, and Trimmer proposed six weeks.
Wilcox recounted an incident at the start of Tuesday’s soon-to-be adjourned council meeting in which Colasante attempted to silence her. Wilcox said she had asked Trimmer, in his capacity as President, to allow her to speak but he did not intervene.
“I felt that as the minority [Democrat] on council, I wasn’t being heard, and Robert’s Rules is there to make sure that I’m being heard,” she said. “You can hear in the audio that Mr. Colasante and I were trying to talk at the same time, so I went to Robert’s Rules of Order and tried to get the floor from the President, at which time Mr. Colasante told me to stop talking and Mr. President did nothing about it, so it’s disappointing.”
The agenda for Thursday’s Town Council meeting can be found here: https://clerkshq.com/richmond-ri
Crowd Expected at Tomorrow’s Town Council Meeting
January 16, 2023
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND -- Residents angry about the failure to reappoint Nancy Hess to the Planning Board will be joined Tuesday evening by residents demanding that Jessica Purcell fill the school committee seat vacated by Gary Liguori.
The regular Town Council meeting, at 6 p.m., will follow a joint workshop at 5 p.m. during which the council and members of the Planning Board will discuss proposed amendments to the zoning ordinance and zoning map for the aquifer protection overlay district and the planned development resort district.
Jessica Purcell, who, last November, narrowly lost her bid for a seat on the Chariho School Committee, believed that because she had received the next highest number of votes, she would be next in line to fill the seat vacated by Gary Liguori, who is loving out of state.
Reached on Jan. 13, Purcell said she had been contacted on Jan. 5 by Town Clerk Erin Liese, who informed her that according to the town’s Home Rule Charter, she was next in line for the position and that she needed to formally accept or decline the appointment.
Purcell said she told Liese the next day that she would accept the appointment, but a few days later, she was informed that she would not automatically fill the seat.
Town Council President Mark Trimmer and councilor Helen Sheehan had requested a legal opinion from Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth on whether the Chariho Act, which is state law, or the town’s Home Rule Charter, applied to choosing someone to appoint to a vacant school committee seat.
In a Jan. 10 memo, Ellsworth advised the council that state law supersedes the town charter.
“I believe that if a court were asked to decide this issue, the court would find that when the General Assembly ratified the Richmond Home Rule Charter in 2009, the General Assembly did not intend any provision in the charter to supersede the Chariho Act,” the memo states.
The Chariho Act requires that the person filling the vacant seat receive a majority vote of the Town Council. Ellsworth concludes that the council “is not required to appoint the unelected candidate who received the greatest number of votes for that office in the November 8, 2022 election.”
Purcell, who was planning to attend the council meeting, accept her appointment and be sworn in, will now watch as the council discussing the appointment.
Purcell said she emailed Trimmer and Sheehan, both of whom told her that they were following the rule of law.
“I just feel like Erin Liese told them what the agenda item was, and then they enlisted the help of the Town Solicitor to change the agenda item,” Purcell said. “That’s effectively what happened. She told me one thing, they did another thing, and it changed the whole presentation.”
Reached Monday, Liese said that contrary to Purcell’s assertion, she had not had any contact with members of the Town Council regarding the Purcell appointment.
“To this day, I have not had any correspondence with the council on this matter, and the reason why the agenda reflects the way it appears today is because of the legal opinion from Karen Ellsworth, and not influenced by any council member, nor was I aware of any inquiry,” she said.
Purcell’s supporters have submitted letters to the council. Among them is attorney Mark Reynolds, who also serves as Town Moderator.
In a Jan. 11 letter to council members, Reynolds wrote that both the Chariho Act and the town charter should apply.
“The Chariho Act simply states that a vacancy is filled by the Town Council,” he stated. “The Richmond Home Rule Charter dictates how the Town Council makes the appointment. The Home Rule Charter states that if ‘a school committee seat becomes vacant, the Town Council shall appoint the unelected candidate who received the greatest number of votes for that office in the most recent general or special election.’ So, although the Town Council makes the appointment, it must follow the Home Rule Charter when doing so. The unelected candidate who received the greatest number of votes in the November 2022 election was Jessica Purcell. Therefore, the Town Council must appoint her to fill the vacancy.”
There have been suggestions, as yet unconfirmed, that Justin Price, the Republican incumbent who failed in his bid for a fifth term as state Representative in District 39, is interested in filling the school committee seat.
Many residents are still fuming over the council’s decision at the Jan. 3 meeting not to reappoint Nancy Hess to the Planning Board.
Planning Board members, who have also expressed their anger at the council’s decision, voted at their Jan. 10 meeting to name Hess the board chair until her term expires on Jan. 31.
Agendas for the workshop and the Town Council meeting can be found on the town’s website.
To attend the January 17th 5pm meeting, use this link:
To attend the January 17th 6pm meeting, use this link:
Richmond Planning Board Update for January 10th 2023
Board Names Hess Chair
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – At the first Planning Board meeting after the Town Council declined to renew the appointment of Vice Chair, Nancy Hess, board members named Hess Planning Board Chair. It was an act of defiance as well as a show of support for Hess, who has served on the board for 20 years. Her term expires on Jan. 31.
At the Jan. 3 Town Council meeting, council President Mark Trimmer and members Michael Colasante and Helen Sheehan voted against Hess’s reappointment and council Vice President Richard Nassaney and councilor Samantha Wilcox supported it.
The vote has generated considerable fallout, since Trimmer had told Hess at a meeting over the holidays that he would support her reappointment. The reason for his change of heart, Trimmer later explained, was Hess’s treatment of developers, which he described as overly harsh at times.
Adding to the controversy, however, was the revelation that Trimmer and fellow councilor Colasante, had accepted campaign contributions from donors connected with the largest developer in town.
Trimmer and Colasante each received three $1,000.00 donations from people connected with The Preserve at Boulder Hills, which has sued the town over what the developer described as inaction on applications. That lawsuit was dismissed, but attorneys for The Preserve have said they will appeal.
Hess elected Planning Board Chair
Hess has not commented on the council vote, but Philip Damicis, who strongly opposed the council decision, opened Tuesday’s meeting with another statement supporting her.
His voice occasionally choked with emotion, Damicis said of Hess,
“She is incredibly knowledgeable. She’s an incredible asset to the board. She’s an incredible asset to the town, and quite honesty, everything she has done has been for this town, for the residents of this town, and for the protection of our town’s regulations, and she has treated everybody fairly, as far as I’m concerned. I’m incredibly disappointed in this council for not reappointing her and I think this town is going to suffer because of that.”
To Hess, Damicis said,
“I’m hoping there’s some way we can get you back, but in the meantime, I’m glad we will pass on the gavel to you tonight, at least. If only symbolically, you deserve it.”
Hess thanked those who had supported her.
“I just want to thank the members of the community, the dozens, and dozens, and dozens that have reached out in various ways and have given me kind words, words of support, words of sympathy and words of disgust – not at me, but the situation of being caught between politics and special interests. This is never good for the community,” she said.
The town has ongoing difficulties in recruiting qualified volunteers to serve on boards and commissions. Hess, who works in the Rhode Island Division of Statewide Planning, played a critical role in the update of the town’s comprehensive plan.
Board member Dan Madnick who agreed that Hess would be difficult, if not impossible to replace, said she had mentored him when he first joined the board.
“For those who don’t know, Nancy does teach all the planning training for the state,” he said. “So, while Nancy is also on this board, she does all that training, and she also trained me, and she’s been an excellent mentor.”
Madnick also noted that the council members who had voted against Hess’s reappointment had not provided specific reasons for their decision.
“The Town Council did not justify with any substantial reasons why she should not be reappointed to the Planning Board,” he said. “I can understand why someone may not be reappointed if they don’t have the background or the skill set to utilize on a board such as this, but Nancy has it all…This board hasn’t been full for a number of years, so, specifically to Nancy and this board, to not reappoint her and opening up another vacancy on the board doesn’t pass the voice of reason for me.”
Madnick then nominated Hess to the position of Chair, which the members voted to approve.
Damicis, who will serve as Vice Chair, then passed the gavel to Hess. With Hess’s appointment expiring in a couple of weeks, Tuesday’s gesture was largely symbolic. Behind the scenes, however, there have been suggestions, as yet unconfirmed, that Hess might apply once again for reappointment, giving council members an opportunity to change their minds.
Town Planner Shaun Lacey presented the Planning Board’s Annual Report for 2022, which lists, by month, the major decisions and activities of the board.
The report included several long-range goals, such as resolving the ongoing challenges posed by the Wyoming commercial district.
Lacey explained that the town’s comprehensive plan points to a need for design guidelines for the district.
“… one way to achieve that is through design elements, and knowing that we don’t have anything in our operating budget that would be able to cover the cost of doing a new design, we would need to hire a consultant that has real design expertise, someone that has design charette type of experience,” he said. “So clearly, it is something that the board might want to start considering for next year. It would be subject to capital appropriations, so, in this year’s capital improvement program, I’ll be requesting $20,000, both for FY ‘24 and FY ’25, totaling $40,000, which would be needed in order to hire a consultant who can help us put together a plan for Wyoming.”
Board members then engaged in a lengthy discussion of Wyoming’s development challenges, including transportation and traffic issues.
Members discussed the 2022 HousingWorksRI Fact Book, which analyses existing housing throughout Rhode Island and provides data on income and housing in all 39 cities and towns, including Richmond.
Hess pointed to a lack of information in the report on rental housing, of which there is little to none in Richmond.
“There’s nothing wrong with rental housing that serves multiple generations, to move them into home ownership, but we are missing that,” she said. “People talk about the ‘missing middle,’ and that’s for middle income people, but there’s the missing rentals and I think, we need to look at, as our population ages, because Rhode Island has a very high elderly population compared to other states, where are our seniors able to go?”
The Planning Board and the Town Council will hold a joint workshop on Jan. 17 to review proposed amendments to the aquifer protection overlay district regulations and ordinances.
The meeting will take place at 5 p.m. in the council chambers. The Town Council meeting will follow the workshop at 6 p.m.
Richmond Town Council Update for January 3rd 2023
Council Nixes Planning Board Reappointment
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – A vote to deny an application by Nancy Hess for reappointment to the Planning Board has exacerbated tensions on the Town Council.
At Tuesday’s meeting, council members also debated the reappointment of Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth before voting to renew her contract.
Hess, who did not attend the meeting, was seeking a three-year reappointment. Her contract expires on Jan. 31. Some council members said they objected to the manner in which Hess sometimes treated applicants, but Planning Board Chair Philip Damicis, who has served on the board for 30 years, about 20 of them with Hess, urged the council to reappoint her.
“I can assure you that every applicant she has treated fairly,” he said. “She has only been looking out for the best interests of our town and our residents. She’s been trying to protect the rural community that we live in. If she comes across as being strong, quite honestly, I feel it’s her passion for what she does.”
Hess, a supervisor in the Rhode Island Division of Statewide planning, has brought considerable knowledge and experience to the board.
Council member Samantha Wilcox, who supported the reappointment, said the town needed volunteers like Hess.
“We’re not in a position to turn down quality volunteers,” she said.
Councilors Michael Colasante and Helen Sheehan voted against Hess’s reappointment, and were joined by council President Mark Trimmer. With only Wilcox and council Vice President Richard Nassaney voting in favor, the motion to reappoint her was defeated.
Reached Wednesday morning, Trimmer said his vote to deny Hess’s reappointment had not been an easy one.
“I was on the fence with it,” he said. “I really, really struggled with it. I lost two nights’ sleep over it, easily. On one hand, she [Hess] brings unrivaled expertise in her field. And on the other hand, she tended to get personal, and sometimes belligerent with applicants, and I felt that if any other volunteer, paid town employee, or Town Council person for that matter, were to approach the public the way she sometimes approached applicants, that we would ask [sic] to step down or we would be terminated, disciplined.”
Nassaney said he had believed Trimmer would support Hess. He recalled how, on Dec. 29, he had stopped at a local coffee shop and had come upon a meeting between Trimmer and Hess. He was invited to join the meeting, which, he said, ended with Trimmer telling Hess that he would support her.
“Nancy asked Mark if he would give her support for reappointment and he confirmed ‘yes,’” Nassaney said. “They shook hands and he said ‘you have my support’ and then they parted ways.”
Nassaney said that witnessing that coffee shop exchange made what happened at the council meeting even more shocking.
“Tuesday, everything came crashing down,” he said. “The internal screaming in my brain was overwhelming. I had to put my hand over my mouth. I had to put my head down. I was in utter disbelief.”
Neither Hess nor Damicis responded to a request for comment, but board member Dan Madnick said he was disappointed in the council’s vote.
“Nancy has been an integral part of the Planning Board for many years and has been instrumental in developing the Comprehensive Community Plan, along with being the town’s subject matter expert on land use,” he said. “Her expertise and knowledge is not easily replaceable. It’s unfortunate that the Town Council, while voting against her reappointment, did not provide any specific reasons or justification for their votes, and ignored all public input that favored her reappointment.”
Trimmer said it was essential that the town attract new businesses to relieve the tax burden on homeowners. In order to do that, he said the council would have to introduce new tax incentives to attract businesses and issue quicker approvals of development applications.
“The council needs to and will come up with a tax incentive plan to encourage business to locate and develop here,” he said. “We need to fast track the planning approvals, fast track the zoning approvals and set up some sort of incentive to bring the business in, because the homeowners are disproportionately burdened with taxes in our town.”
Ellsworth said the perception that Hess and other Planning Board members had delayed or obstructed applications was incorrect, and pointed out that the board has submitted favorable opinions to the council for every application it has received, with the exception of two commercial solar energy proposals.
“We have not missed deadlines for approvals,” she said.
Ellsworth also reminded council members that the board does not have the authority to deny applications.
“They don’t have any discretion not to approve, nor do they have any choice about how long it takes to approve,” she said.
“Those are not discretionary. That’s controlled by state law.”
The Preserve Connection
The Preserve at Boulder Hills is Richmond’s largest commercial taxpayer. Trimmer is not a member of the private sporting club, however, state records posted on the Rhode Island Board of Elections’ website show that he and Colasante each received three, $1,000 campaign contributions from people connected with the club.
“There were residents who contributed money towards flyers,” Trimmer said.
The Preserve has sued the town for its actions and inaction on several projects. That suit, which claimed $100 million in damages, was recently dismissed, but The Preserve has vowed to appeal the decision.
The council discussed the case in executive session after Tuesday’s meeting, but before the regular meeting adjourned, Ellsworth asked if any councilors wanted to recuse themselves from the discussion.
“If anybody needs to recuse themselves, I think this is the time to do it, before the executive session,” she said. “I’m not saying anybody has to.”
None of the councilors recused.
Town Administrator Karen Pinch, who is charged with evaluating the performances of the town solicitors, recommended that the council approve new, one-year contracts for Ellsworth and fellow Town Solicitor Michael Cozzolino. Their current contracts expire at the end of January.
Colasante and Sheehan said they wanted to approve a 90-day contract for Ellsworth rather than a full year, during which they would conduct their own performance review.
“It will give the new council people, there are three of us here, a chance to review her performance and make a better decision,” Colasante said. “Being basically on the council for 17 seconds, you’re asking me to make a decision on something like this.”
After pointing out that Ellsworth had won all the cases in which she had represented the town, Nassaney said he was comfortable leaving the responsibility for her performance review with Pinch.
However, Colasante said he, not Pinch, was accountable to taxpayers.
“I’m the one who is going to hear from the taxpayers,” he said. “Even though Karen Pinch is the administrator, she doesn’t have to really answer to the taxpayers like we do. So, when she makes her recommendations, I appreciate the recommendation and that’s what it is, a recommendation. I still have to do my due diligence and to really look at this, all right? To have clear conscience.”
Sheehan said she also needed more time to evaluate Ellsworth’s performance, however, in the end, the council voted, with Colasante abstaining, to approve Ellsworth’s contract.
Any discomfort that Colasante and Sheehan may have had with Ellsworth’s contract did not appear to apply to Cozzolino, whose new contract was quickly approved with no discussion.
UPDATE: Zoning Board Meeting for Monday, December 19th 2022
Board Approves McDonald’s Drive-through Changes
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – Meeting for the first time since Sept. 2021, the Zoning Board of Review approved an application Monday for a special use permit for the addition of a second drive-throughlane at the McDonald’s restaurant at 12 Kingstown Road.
Appearing virtually at the public hearing on behalf of the applicant was Eric Dubrule of Bolher Engineering, of Southborough, MA, who explained the reasons a second lane was needed.
“This drive-through, today, functions with one order point and one lane, so effectively, if you were using the drive-through, you’d come into the site, however you came in, and circulate around. The drive-through would start,” he told the board, using a plan of the site to illustrate. “There’s one order point at the rear of the building. There’s a drive-through cash window and then you would pick up your order at the second window. What we are proposing to do is to make improvements, just to the drive-through and specifically, just to the drive-through ordering process, by adding on a second ordering point speaker to the site… We are adding a landscaped island, it’s curved, and an order point.”
Drive-through customers would still enter using a single lane, but the lane would split into two ordering points.
The second order lane, Dubrule explained, would address the issue of a line of cars formed by customers waiting to order.
“Some of those car queues can stack up behind the ordering points where you don’t want happening, again, behind the order points,” he said. “By adding the second order point, effectively what you do is, now, customers that would come in and otherwise be stuck behind the single order point under existing conditions, they would come in, recognize that someone may be making a long order, a more complicated order, and recognize that a car or two are stacking there, and they could just use the other lane that is moving.”
The new lane will be 10 feet wide. The existing drive-through lane, which is 12 feet wide, will also be upgraded with new signage and a new canopy over the order point.
Several parking spaces will be lost to the new ordering lane, and the receptacle that houses the trash and recycling bins will be moved. The one-acre site, which is required to have at least 20 parking spaces, will be left with 36 spaces.
“For these improvements, we have removed about eight parking spaces along the rear,” Dubrule said. “We have moved, and proposing to replace the existing trash barrel that is located here, and we propose to rebuild it with a brand new trash barrel with Trex fencing.”
The Planning Board voted on Dec. 13 to recommend that the Zoning Board approve the site plan for the special use permit, after determining that the proposal was consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan. The restaurant is located in the town’s “general business” district.
The Planning Board attached four conditions to the approval of the site plan, which were read at Monday’s hearing by Town Planner Shaun Lacey.
1. The approved plan should be recorded with the Zoning Board decision.
2. The proposed trash enclosure should be located 10 feet from the west and north property lines to comply with the required setback for accessory structures.
3. To discourage drivers from cutting through the access to the ordering lanes by using the northeast entrance, stanchions will be installed along the striping of the new drive-through lane.
4. While the restaurant was built before the town introduced a dark sky ordinance for commercial structures, the Planning Board encouraged the applicant to use dark sky-compliant lighting outdoors.
“What’s the applicant’s position in respect to the conditions recommended by the Planning Board,” board Chair Nicholas Solitro asked Dubrule.
“We’re amenable to addressing all of those,” Dubrule replied.
With no members of the public asking to comment on the application, board members, in a unanimous vote, approved the special use permit.
RICHMOND TOWN COUNCIL MEETING FOR TUESDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2022
Last Council Meeting Before Holidays Reveals Tensions Between Members
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – The five members of the Town Council managed to agree on several agenda items Tuesday, but there were disagreements on important issues that, in two cases, resulted in deferred votes.
Minutes into the three-hour meeting, outgoing Economic Development Commission Chairman William McIntosh resigned from the commission.
Invited to read his resignation letter, McIntosh blamed his departure on council Vice President Richard Nassaney, who has questioned the effectiveness of the commission.
“Vice President of the Town Council [at the time] Richard Nassaney is one of the reasons,” he said. “He has proven that he cannot play well with others on a team and consistently voted against proper growth and [while creating] a tremendous amount of drama for the town for the last four years. I was not sure if Mr. Nassaney actually is capable of acting properly, effectively or ethically as a leader, so I step down to avoid any additional dealings with him.”
As Nassaney listened without commenting, McIntosh, a developer who challenged the Planning Board’s denial of master plan approval for one of his projects, accused Nassaney of wanting to disband the commission and warned the council that unless the town encouraged a considerable expansion of commercial space, it would not have the tax base necessary to fund education and programs for residents.
Council President Mark Trimmer said he was sorry that McIntosh had not tried to work with the new council.
“From what I’ve heard, you guys are doing great work, and I’m really disappointed that you haven’t at least given us a chance, as a new council, to work with us,” he said.
Council members agreed to accept McIntosh’s resignation “with regret.”
The reappointment of Philip Damicis to the Planning Board, where he serves as Chair, was quickly approved, but there was opposition to the reappointment of Vice Chair Nancy Hess.
Hess, a supervisor in the Rhode Island Division of Statewide planning, brings to the board decades of experience and knowledge of state planning priorities and procedures.
Nassaney said that Damicis had told him during a previous conversation about Hess that he would resign from the Planning Board if she left.
“…if you lose Phil and Nancy, you’ve literally put this town at a standstill,” he said, addressing the three newly-elected council members. “Nothing happens without them. Zero. All projects stop.”
Asked for his opinion, Town Planner Shaun Lacey described the current Planning Board as the best he had ever worked with.
“This town has a long, documented history of making informed, good, land use policy decisions, good policy practices,” he told the council. “You have Phil and Nancy, who are very long-standing members of our community, who’ve been on the board for 20 and 25 years. “…I think the current fabric of this Planning Board now, we have one vacancy that isn’t filled. We have six members. I would hate to lose anybody on that Planning Board, including Nancy.”
Trimmer appeared to be on the fence. He agreed that Hess had experience and institutional knowledge, but he added,
“My negative is, it doesn’t seem that she’s always working with our commercial people to develop things and move forward,” he said. “She just seems to me to be very obstructionist at times.”
Councilor Michael Colasante said he was concerned that Hess would hamper commercial growth and cited McIntosh as an example.
“Mr. McIntosh knows what the problem is,” he said. “He tried to initiate commercial growth here, because he knows we need a tax base for the homeowner and it just seems like Nancy, for the amount of years she’s been on, things have not moved fast enough. Her wealth of knowledge can also be used to stifle growth also…We need somebody that’s going to help move our town forward quickly, all right?”
Nassaney asked Colasante which business had been “stifled” by Hess.
Colasante cited “a suit with Mr. McIntosh and the state came back and they really lambasted the Planning Board for their decisions and whatnot because they were trying, again, to stifle his development.”
At this point in the discussion, Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth interjected, pointing out that the development Colasante was referring to was residential, not commercial, and that there had been neither a lawsuit nor lambasting.
“That was not a commercial development. That was a very high- density residential development,” she said. “There was no lawsuit. There was an appeal to the State Housing Appeals Board and the State Housing Appeals Board remanded the case back to the Planning Board for additional hearings and at that point, after the additional hearings took place, the project was approved.”
Mark Reynolds, who chairs the town’s Board of Tax Assessment Review, then addressed the council.
Referring to McIntosh, Reynolds said,
“You just begged someone to stay and volunteer, and help, and now you’ve got someone with over 20 years’ experience on the Planning Board and you’re telling her, ‘we don’t want you anymore,’” he said. “It’s not appropriate to not appoint someone that you don’t agree with. Is she following the planning rules? Yes. Is she acting in accordance with the comprehensive plan? Yes. As long as she’s performing those functions in accordance with the law and the rules and regulations, she should be permitted to serve on that board. You should not deny her this appointment because you don’t agree with her.”
Planning Board member Dan Madnick said the board had denied only two applications, both of which were for solar energy installations.
“We’re there to follow the comprehensive plan and not stifle economic development,” he said. “In fact, if you look at our record, the only thing two things that we’ve given negative advisory opinions for had to do with two solar developments. Every other development application that has come in front of our board has been approved, including Mr. Colasante’s Buttonwoods property. In fact, we provided him a waiver for one of his DEM stormwater management permits, and we did that because we wanted to have small businesses benefit from the town. We didn’t have to do that, but we did that because we wanted the economic development.”
Council members agreed to defer the decision on Hess’s reappointment to the next meeting on Jan. 3. In the meantime, councilors said they would speak with Hess.
There was a lengthy discussion regarding the allocation of town funds to the town’s water supply. There are about 300 customers on the town water line. Under an agreement with the Rhode Island Department of Health, the town is required to chlorinate the water to reduce coliform bacteria.
Town Administrator Karen Pinch has requested $300,000 of the town’s American Rescue Plan Act, or ARPA funds for the chlorination project, but councilors Colasante and councilor Helen Sheehan have said they are not comfortable using ARPA money. Colasante has proposed allocating $150,000 of the town’s ARPA funds and going out to bond for the remainder.
Trimmer said it was important to invest in the water system.
“Exeter doesn’t have a water system. Hopkinton doesn’t have a water system, but we do,” he said. “That is an economic driver. We should invest in it. We should improve it.”
Councilor Samantha Wilcox said she favored using the ARPA money for the water system but Sheehan said the cost should be borne by the residents who would use town water.
Colasante said that being on a private well, he alone had to bear the costs of repairs and maintenance.
“They can drill a well,” he said.
“They can’t drill a well,” Wilcox countered. “The reason we have a water system is it’s all contaminated.”
(The private wells are contaminated with mercury.)
The decision on funding the chlorination was deferred to the Jan. 17 meeting. Trimmer, whose home is served by the public waterline, said he was awaiting a written decision from the Rhode Island Ethics Commission confirming that he is not required to recuse himself from the discussion.
The wellness committee
The subject of the findings of the wellness committee, on the agenda at the request of Colasante, prompted another long discussion.
Wellness Committee Chairwoman Pamela Rohland provided an overview of the commission’s work and its findings, including the need for some services.
“Richmond has no public transportation at all,” she said. “So, when people who are in social isolation or who, for example, lost their license for whatever reason or who don’t drive, there’s nothing in Richmond to help them get to the resources they need.”
The commission recommended, and the former Town Council approved, the hiring of a human services director on a trial basis, who would obtain grants and coordinate services for residents who need them.
Sheehan said services were available in neighboring towns.
“Westerly and South Kingstown, they’re not far, so to say we don’t have the services, I don’t see that,” she said.
Rohland replied that traveling to other towns required a car, which many residents do not have.
Colasante said the town could not afford a full - time human services director and a new building, which would serve as a community and senior center. Several council members and residents agreed.
Trimmer, who evaluated the community center proposal when he served on the council in 2018, said his group had found that the town could not support a new building on its own.
“What we determined at that time was unless we were a partner, with, say, the YMCA or somebody else, the town could absolutely not afford a community/senior center,” he said.
Despite several more assurances to the contrary, Colasante said he remained concerned that there would be a new building and that taxpayers would be on the hook for it.
Colasante asked for a clarification of who was responsible for plowing the snow at Chariho schools.
Department of Public Works Director Scott Barber explained that this year, Richmond has not been able to secure its usual number of snowplowing vendors.
“It’s gotten to the point where we don’t have the vendors that we used to have,” he told the council. “We used to have seven vendors to supplement our staff. I have one vendor. We would have at least three, maybe four CDL drivers to back us up if we have sickness, injury or whatever. We have zero.”
Barber noted that staff and vendor shortages have made it difficult to service the town.
“They [Chariho schools] should be self-sufficient, take care of what they’re responsible for, meet their own goals,” he said.
Barber noted, and Ellsworth and Town Administrator Karen Pinch confirmed, that there was nothing in the Chariho Act requiring Richmond to provide snow plowing services.
And there was one more thing Barber, who is also the Fire Chief, wanted to say.
“It’s no secret that I have an appointment with the Retirement Board Feb. 15, so we’ll see where I go from there,” he said. “I’ve been working full time for the public for 38 years and I’ve enjoyed working for the public, this town, the other town that I worked for, but I’m no longer young. I’m ready to start cutting back…It’s finally catching up with me, you know? And I don’t want to be that grumpy old person that stays too long.”
The council discussed, but did not decide on time limits for people wishing to speak during the public forum. They also mulled a sign-up sheet for speakers. Ellsworth suggested that rather than adopt a policy, the council could first try using a list and asking speakers to sign it.
Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Town
Preserve owner Paul Mihailides (right, holding scissors)
photo from preservesportingclub.com
RICHMOND - A Rhode Island Superior Court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Preserve at Boulder Hills against the Richmond Town Council.
The lawsuit, filed last December, claimed that the Town’s “wrongful, tortious, discriminatory, arbitrary and capricious actions and omissions have substantially and unnecessarily driven up the cost of the Preserve’s development of its property, slowed down the regulatory approval process, stifled and/or interfered with The Preserve’s use of its property, caused the Preserve to lose a significant financing opportunity and continues to cause the Preserve to unnecessarily and detrimentally alter financing arrangements, conditions and terms.”
In its notice of claim to the Town Council, submitted nine months before the lawsuit was filed, John Tarantino, the Preserve’s lawyer, said that the Preserve was entitled to $100 million in damages. The notice also “reminds the Town of the statutory requirements that may be necessary to hold a Town Council meeting in accordance with § 45-15-6 to levy a tax to pay this demand or otherwise resolve this case.”
The decision by Superior Court Judge Richard Licht, filed on December 12, said the Preserve does not have the right to move forward to a trial because some of the Preserve’s claims were filed too late, and most of the claims in the lawsuit, even if they are true, are either too vague or not substantial enough to support the Preserve’s assertions that its rights have been violated. The judge also found, based on public documents, that some of the allegations in the lawsuit were not correct.
Development of the Preserve began in 2011 with the purchase of the 178-acre Boulder Hills Country Club. The development now encompasses more than 750 acres.
Concerning the Preserve’s allegation that the Town intentionally delayed development approvals, Judge Licht noted that state law sets deadlines for such approvals and there was no evidence the Town exceeded any of them. “Plaintiffs are asking this Court to require local officials to meet a developer's deadlines, and that is the province of the General Assembly, not the Superior Court. To allow Plaintiffs to succeed on this claim would essentially be putting all municipalities at the mercy of developers who come with their own deadlines,” the decision says.
In response to the argument that the Town overcharged the Preserve in application and review fees, Judge Licht found that the Town “acted pursuant to statutory authority and the local municipal regulations in the charging and collection of the application and peer review fees.”
James Marusak, Steven Sypole, and Per Vaage of Gidley, Sarli & Marusak represented the Town in the case. They were retained by the Town’s insurance carrier. Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth declined to represent the Town because of the likelihood that she would have to testify on behalf of the Town in the case. She said Marusak, Sypole and Vaage did an exceptional job representing the Town. “It’s very difficult to get a case like this dismissed before trial,” she said. “Jim, Steve and Per worked extremely hard on this case and this decision is an outstanding achievement.”
Developer Paul Mihailides, the Preserve owner, referred a request for comment to his attorneys, Tarantino and Nicole Benjamin of Adler, Pollock & Sheehan. Tarantino said the Preserve plans to appeal the decision, and that he is confident that his client will prevail in the Supreme Court. “The Preserve believes this case has merit,” he said. “It wants an opportunity to have it heard by a jury and that’s the reason we are taking an appeal. We hope the Supreme Court agrees with us and we get a chance to have a jury decide whether the Town acted inappropriately.”
Ellsworth said she believes the Supreme Court will uphold the Superior Court decision.
Sunday December 18, 2022
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
UPDATE: Stamp Solar Case Appeal Now Awaiting Judge’s Decision
“Beaver River Road Rainbow at Sunset” Photo by Sherri Stearns
by Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – The attorney representing GD Beaver River I LLC has filed a reply memorandum in the appeal of a Richmond Zoning Board decision to deny an application for a commercial-scale solar energy development.
Filed on Dec. 5 in Washington County Superior Court, the memorandum supports an earlier memorandum, filed last June.
Attorney John Mancini, representing the applicant, William Stamp III, states in the latest memorandum that members of the Richmond Zoning Board and Zoning Official, Russel “Bo” Brown, overstepped their authority in denying the application. The memorandum also argues that the development would be consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan and states that the board misinterpreted a zoning ordinance requiring that a solar energy system be located entirely within a two-mile radius of an electrical utility substation.
Mancini’s memorandum states,
“GD Richmond avers compliance with [Richmond zoning ordinance] § 18.34. based on the solar energy system being “in the range of” of two miles of the utility substation; that § 18.34.030A does not require the solar energy system to be ‘inside of’ two miles of the utility substation. By, applying the definition ‘inside of’ to ‘within’, while applying the definition ‘in range of’ to ‘within’ for other sections of the Richmond Zoning Ordinance, the Town has unfairly prejudiced GD Richmond to the extent of reversible error.”
The legal wrangling began in 2018, when Stamp proposed the construction of a commercial-scale solar array in a field he owns at 172 Beaver River Road.
The developer, GD Beaver River LLC, owned by Green Development of Cranston, applied in May, 2018, for a special use permit to build a 5.3 – megawatt solar energy facility in the residential zone. The array would occupy about 7 acres of the 41-acre property, located in the Beaver River Valley which, in 2021, was added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Russel “Bo” Brown, who was Richmond’s zoning official at the time, denied the application because it violated the town zoning ordinance requiring that the solar energy facility be “within two (2) miles of a utility substation.”
The proposed array, comprising 15,896 solar panels, as well as transformers and other equipment, would be located almost entirely outside the two miles required by the town.
In July, 2018, at a public hearing on the developer’s appeal of Brown’s memo, Brown asked the board, before the hearing even began, to deny the application on the grounds that the developer had missed the 30-day deadline to appeal Brown’s decision.
The board continued the hearing to August 1, when it denied the developer’s appeal because it had not been filed within 30 days, as required by the town’s zoning ordinance.
On Aug. 21, the developer appealed the zoning board’s decision on the 30-day window.
The special use application proceeded nonetheless, with the Zoning Board referring the application to the Planning Board for the required advisory development plan review.
In its Dec. 2019 decision, the Planning Board found that in addition to not complying with the substation ordinance, the project would be inconsistent with the town’s comprehensive plan, specifically, policies that protect rural landscapes, cultural resources and the protection of the town’s rural and architectural heritage.
The developer appealed the case to Rhode Island Superior Court, which remanded the case to the Zoning Board.
On Feb.22, the Zoning Board voted to deny the special use permit.
The case now rests with the judge
Richmond Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth said she was confident that the Zoning Board’s decision would be upheld.
“There are two reasons why the Zoning Board’s decision is correct,” she said. “The entire solar array is not within two miles of the substation and putting it where they want to put it is not consistent with the comprehensive plan, because it is a state-recognized, and now, federally-recognized historic district.”
John Peixinho, owner of the historic Samuel Clarke Farm on Lewiston Ave., which is itself on the National Register of Historic Places, said he hoped the judge would take into accountthe importance of preserving Richmond’s historic cultural landscapes.
“I am hopeful that the judge will agree with the many residents of Richmond, our Planning and Zoning Boards and our Town Council, who have all consistently voted against and rallied against out of town developers building industrial-scale solar facilities on historic Beaver River Road,” he said. “It should also be noted that the Beaver River Road National Register Historic District determination of eligibility, by the Secretary of the Interior, dates back to the mid-1990s. National awareness of the cultural and historic significance of Beaver River Road and this section of our town is not something new.”
Peixinho also noted that in addition to marring the natural and historic qualities that have made Beaver River Road worthy of national recognition, the solar development would have few tax benefits for the town.
“In the end, the developers make millions at the expense of our farmland and rural character,” he said. “The town makes pennies and isn’t able - legally - to even raise the taxes on the newly developed property.”
It could take many months for Superior Court Justice Sarah Taft-Carter to rule on the appeal.
“An appeal of a Zoning Board decision is an administrative appeal,” Ellsworth said. “The judge does not conduct a trial or hearing. The judge makes a decision based on the record in the case and the memoranda of law filed by the lawyers.”
Richmond Town Council Meeting Update for Tuesday, December 6th, 2022
New Council Sworn In, Two Outgoing Councilors Launch Departing Attack
by Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – The celebratory ritual of swearing in new Town Council members was marred Tuesday evening when defeated council members, their allies and Republican Town Committee officials launched attacks on the highest vote-getter and another newly-elected councilor.
There were two meetings. The first was largely devoted to allowing members of the 2020-2022 council to make closing remarks.
But the jostling for the positions of President and Vice President on the new council began even before departing members had said their good-byes.
During the Public Forum, former Richmond Republican Town Committee Chair Louise Dinsmore read a statement which was signed by herself, outgoing council President, Nell Carpenter, who is unaffiliated and outgoing councilor Lauren Cacciola, a Democrat.
The statement urged councilors to support for Republican Michael Colasante for council President.
“When we examine the past records of the veteran members of the incoming Town Council, that of councilman [Richard] Nassaney and Mr. [Mark] Trimmer, we feel that neither councilman Nassaney nor Mr. Trimer possess the leadership skills or foresight to assume the position of Richmond Town council President or Town Council Vice President, for that matter,” Dinsmore said. “Their actions, and more importantly, inactions, while on the council, have resulted in the status quo, and quite frankly, their records fall short of any major accomplishments for the taxpayers and residents of this town.”
It should be noted that Nassaney, a Republican, received the greatest number of votes in the recent election. Trimmer, also a Republican, did not serve on the last council but has served on past councils.
It should also be noted that Nassaney ran afoul of the Republican Town Committee in the recent campaign and saw his name wiped from the slate and erased from campaign signs and literature.
Patricia Pouliot, who has replaced Dinsmore as Chair of the Republican Town Committee, also urged council members to choose Colasante for President.
“The council has a choice – continue down the path of financial irresponsibility or choose a direction of financial responsibility,” she said. “They can choose Mr. Nassaney or Mr. Trimmer with their record of increasing our taxes every year they served on the council, or choose a candidate that has a record of lowering taxes when he served on the council.”
Former Town Clerk Tracy Nelson also attacked Nassaney, pointing out his recent ethics violation.
“You have been recently found guilty and penalized by the Ethics Commission for violating the Code of Ethics,” she said. “In my opinion, when coupled with your conduct, you are the least worthy of the five candidates to guard Richmond’s future.”
Reached Wednesday, Nassaney said he had paid a $300 fine on Nov. 15, for a single ethics violation. The complaint against him was filed by former councilor and Chair of the Democratic Town Committee, Joseph Reddish.
Eight additional ethics complaints were filed by Carpenter. All of those, Nassaney said, were dismissed.
The creator and owner of “Rich’s Sweet Heat” sauce, Nassaney was cited by the commission for not recusing himself from a vote on a victualling license for the sales of prepared meals at Richmond Market.
“Their view of a relationship, or a partnership was, honestly, different from how I looked at it,” Nassaney said. “How I looked at it, I wasn’t a business owner of their property, but a victualling license has to do with grab and go products – sandwiches, stuff like that. My stuff is a sauce, so I didn’t think that my sauce had anything to do with a victualling license. Well, they perceived it in a different light. We came to an agreement and an understanding. I recuse from everything that has to do with Richmond Market.”
President and Vice President
At the second meeting, which followed almost immediately, the five council members voted for council President and Vice President. Colasante and fellow Republican Helen Sheehan voted for each other for both positions, but lost on both counts.
With Democrat and council newcomer, Samantha Wilcox, casting the deciding vote, Trimmer was elected President and Nassaney, Vice President.
Asked Wednesday about her vote, Wilcox said,
“I do take everyone’s opinion seriously, and last night, a lot of people did speak up against Rich, but also, people do reach out to me via email and people do text me and they say nice things, so there’s both happening, from my perspective.”
Trimmer said both he and Nassaney had been expecting attacks at the meeting.
Referring to Dinsmore, Trimmer said,
“I think the most unprecedented thing would be for the three times-resigned Republican Town Committee Chair, Louise, to craft a letter, with two Democrats that are no longer on the council as of today, against a Republican that she allegedly supported.”
Trimmer said that going forward, he hoped to serve as a uniting force on the new council.
“I may not be their favorite, but I’m on nobody’s poop list – at least nobody on the council’s poop list,” he said. “I can work with Mike, I can work with Rich, I can work with Sam, I can work with Helen, and that’s what I want to do.”
Finally, on to business
As they had promised during the campaign, the newly-elected and reelected council members voted to move up the public forum segment of council meetings so residents would have an opportunity to ask questions about and comment on agenda items before the council voted on them.
The proposal to amend the rules and procedures for the public forum, made by Colasante, met with no opposition.
“…I don’t think any one of us has a right to tell another person, ‘you have to wait. We’ve already decided everything that’s concerning you before you have the opportunity to voice your opinion,’” he said. “So, I would like to see that the public forum be moved up on the agenda, after the consent agenda is listed on the agenda.”
There was also a discussion of allowing residents to comment on agenda items outside of the public forum. Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth warned that allowing that change could lead to violations of the Open Meetings Act and Wilcox agreed.
However, the other council members favored allowing a short public comment period on certain items before each vote.
Ellsworth said she would draft a public forum amendment for councilors to consider at their next meeting.
Another item that generated a lengthy discussion was a request from Town Administrator Karen Pinch for $300,000 of the town’s American Rescue Plan Act funds for a chlorination system that will reduce coliform bacteria in the town’s water supply. The improvement is part of an agreement with the Rhode Island Department of Health.
Colasante, who has promised to lower taxes, said he did not feel comfortable approving a $300,000 payment from the town for a system that serves only 300 customers, arguing that ARPA funds should be used to benefit all residents, not just a small group. He proposed using some of the ARPA money and going out to bond for the rest.
“You’re coming to us for $300,000, right? I don’t want to leave nothing on the table, because something definitely has to be done, and I think putting $150,000 of the ARPA money instead of $300,000 will at least give us a start, and then the other money’s going to come from bonds.”
Sheehan said she was uncomfortable using ARPA money for the water system improvements.
“I’m a little conflicted about giving the ARPA money, which is supposed to be linked to the town, but I understand your desire to not want to make the users pay,” she said. “On the other hand, the majority of us, we have wells. When we have water problems, it’s going to cost us $20,000, $30,000.”
Lack of Quorum Preempts Council Action - December 2nd 2022
Lack of Quorum Preempts Council Action
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – Tuesday’s special Town Council meeting was scheduled to address business matters that could not wait until the next regular meeting, but the lack of a quorum meant that no votes could take place.
The council was expected to vote on holiday sales and victualing licenses for Pasquale Farms, and to authorize Public Works Director Scott Barber to proceed with the purchase of a new plow-equipped dump truck.
The only two council members present were council President Nell Carpenter and councilor Ronnie Newman. Councilors Lauren Cacciola and James Palmisciano, both of whom lost their seats in the Nov. 8 election, and councilor Richard Nassaney, who won reelection, were absent, leaving only two of the three councilors necessary for a quorum.
Carpenter explained that because the licenses required council votes in order to be approved, the Pasquale Farms application would have to wait until the Dec. 6 meeting.
The truck purchase, however, did not require a council vote since it was already in the approved capital improvement plan, so the two councilors could discuss that agenda item.
The price of the new dump truck, a Ford F-750 diesel, will be $124,947.00. It will replace a 2007 vehicle.
Barber told the council that the town is behind by about two years in purchasing the new truck because of shortages resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We basically put everything on hold and the supply chain issues started to happen,” he said. “So, we figured that kink was going to work itself out by now. We knew that we were budgeted to purchase the truck.”
Barber said meetings with several vendors had revealed a worrisome trend that would significantly raise the cost of the new truck.
“…they can’t guarantee to hold the price to the delivery times of between 18 and 24 months,” he said. “So, they’re telling us that January 1, it’s going to be an $8,000 to $10,000 increase in the pricing.”
With inventory low and other cities and towns anxious to purchase vehicles, Barber finally found a dealer, Gervals Ford in Ayer, MA, with three trucks in stock.
But he had to act fast.
“I went ahead and signed the sales agreement to hold the truck and now it’s coming down to where they want to know that they’re going to get paid for it,” he said. “I made a commitment on behalf of the town, knowing that there’s going to be a future price increase and availability is very short.”
Currently, the town has a single spare truck and repairs are slowed by shortages of even the most common parts.
“If we had a storm tomorrow, and we had a breakdown, we’re going to be in trouble,” Barber said. “I know it’s not the ideal way of doing things, but I’m trying to stay afloat and keep the operation so that we can do the job that we need to do.”
Before the meeting adjourned, Carpenter asked Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth to confirm that a vote on the truck purchase was not required.
“That’s correct,” Ellsworth said. “It’s an emergency.”
Barber said he had wanted to make the council aware of the need to act quickly in order to secure a vehicle.
“I felt that we were making a decision in the best interest of the town,” he said. “I’m the one that’s up in the middle of the night trying to figure out how to keep things running. I’m going to sleep a little better tonight, knowing that we’re doing this.”
The new truck is expected to be delivered in the third week of December. The Pasquale Farms license renewals, which will require council votes, will be considered at the Dec. 6 council meeting.
RI House District 39
Cotter Defeats Price in Recount
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – More than a week after the Nov. 8 election, it appears that Democrat Megan Cotter has defeated Republican incumbent Justin Price to become the new State Representative in District 39.
The Rhode Island Board of Elections approved the recount, which had been requested by Price, on Friday morning. When the recount was over, Cotter had a 32-vote lead over Price. The final recount totals were 3,031 votes for Cotter and 2,999 for Price.
This was Cotter’s second attempt at unseating Price, who has served four terms. The first time she challenged Price, she lost by only 321 votes, which, she said, made her want to try again.
Reached Friday, Cotter said she was excited and ready to get to work.
“I will work hard for our community,” she said. “I am excited to represent all the voices in District 39.”
When the polls closed on election night, Cotter was ahead by a razor-thin margin of four votes. Her lead increased in the following days as provisional and overseas military ballots trickled in. By Thursday, she had pulled ahead by 29 and then, by Friday, 32 votes.
Cotter said she had been unable to attend the recount in person, but she believed that it was a worthwhile process.
“It’s killing me that I can’t be there, but I’m happy to let the process play out,” she said. “It’s something else we’re testing to make sure that the process works properly.”
The Board of Elections will certify the recounted votes in District 39 and several other districts next Tuesday. Price said waiting for these election results had been a stressful experience.
“It was roller coaster ride,” he said. “It still is.”
The electoral process, Price added, has become more complicated with early voting and mail ballots.
“The whole system has been altered,” he said. “Now, we’re 20 days before and now, we’re up to 10 days after, to actually find out results that might not be confirmed because you need to be able to go through the data. So yeah, it’s exhausting. Doing the whole campaign, it used to be, show up, show your ID, paper ballot, know the results by 8, 9, 10 o’clock.”
As the Cotter team celebrates, Price’s team will continue to pour over the votes.
“Now that the tech part of my team has the data, the voter data, they’re going to do whatever they have to do to oversee it,” he said. “They’re going to oversee the data that was given to them from the Board of Elections and the Secretary of State.”
As Cotter Pulls Ahead, Price to Request Recount
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – With Democrat Megan Cotter pulling ahead in the tight race for state Representative in District 39, Republican incumbent Justin Price said on Saturday that he was not prepared to concede.
When polls closed on Nov. 8, Cotter was leading by just four votes, but as provisional and mail ballots have been received and counted, she has pulled ahead by 29 votes; 3,024 to Price’s 2,995.
Cotter said that total could change again.
“From what I understand from the BOE, [Rhode Island Board of Elections] if there’s any provisional ballots from election day, the local Boards of Canvassers have until Monday to drop those off,” she said. “I believe they’ve all been counted, but if something were to happen where they didn’t drop the provisional ballots off, they could still potentially do that.”
With the number of votes separating the two candidates fewer than 200, Price’s team can request a recount, as long as the request is submitted by Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Price said he was planning to ask for the recount and also ask that the signatures on the mail ballots be verified.
“I’m going to request through a registered letter a verified signature recount with the machines set at factory settings,” he said. “They’ll do it, as long as I get it in by Tuesday at 4.”
Cotter said she was confident that her victory would be confirmed.
“I’m very optimistic,” she said. “Being up on election night by four votes, you want to be excited, but you know that there’s other ballots that need to be counted, so you can’t be excited. You have to kind of be like ‘okay, we still don’t know.’ You have to shield yourself from the excitement, but, as the mail ballots started coming in on Thursday, I think it was about 4:30 when the Secretary of State’s website was updated, we couldn’t have been more excited to see that we were up by 29.”
This is Cotter’s second attempt to unseat Price, who has served four terms. The first time she ran, in 2020, she lost by a small margin of 321 votes.
“Being encouraged by such a small number, that’s why I ran a second time,” she said.
Price said he thought the mail ballots were worth looking into, because almost all of those votes had been for Cotter.
“The mail-in ballots, 30 of them came in and 29 were for my opponent,” he said.
Another factor that lowered Price’s vote count was the third candidate, Sean Comella, who ran as an independent but with a conservative platform that had the effect of splitting the conservative vote. Comella received 10% of votes that would likely have gone to Price.
“If Comella wanted to get in the race, he should have gone in as a Republican and primaried,” Price said.
Cotter said she understood why Price was planning to request a recount.
“I don’t see why he wouldn’t. Anybody would,” she said. “If the roles were reversed, I would.”
Rich Nassaney (R)
Megan Cotter (D)
Mike Colasante (R)
Justin Price (R)
Republicans Dominate Council, School Committee Races
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – The Town Council turned a deeper shade of red Tuesday with Republicans taking four of the five seats in the general election.
Voter turnout was strong, with 2,431 or 38.3 % of the town’s 6,341 registered voters casting their ballots.
Incumbent Richard Nassaney, a Republican, received the greatest number of votes, 1,672, closely followed by Republican, Michael Colasante, with 1,586 votes. Samantha Wilcox, the only Democrat to win a seat on the council, received 1,575 votes. Republican Helen Sheehan was fourth with 1,546 votes and Mark Trimmer, a Republican returning to the council after a hiatus, received 1,520 votes.
Three council incumbents who lost their bids for reelection: Ronald Newman, Lauren Cacciola Parmer, and James Palmisciano.
Challengers, Daniel Madnick, Jeffrey Vaillancourt and Mark Reynolds did not win council seats.
Nassaney said Wednesday that he was surprised by the council election results.
“I’m honored and I’m grateful that the people in Richmond gave me the opportunity to serve them again,” he said. “I was surprised at the rest of the ticket. I thought that Jim Palmisciano, Mark Reynolds, Dan Madnick, who are amazing people, would have also been on the council, but people chose differently.”
Mike Colasante, with the second-highest number of votes, said he was eager to get to work and make good on his promise to lower taxes.
“We’ll be able to move things forward, and hopefully, get the taxes under control, bring in economic development to offset the taxes and put some of this tax revenue into a restricted account, like a trust fund, so that way, future town councils won’t be able to touch it, and we’ll be able to use that money to offset future tax increases,” he said.
There were rumors during the campaign that if elected, Colasante intended to fire Town Administrator Karen Pinch, Town Planner Shaun Lacey and Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth, however, Colasante said Wednesday that he had no intention of terminating anyone.
“I’ve never advocated getting rid of positions,” he said. “I’ve been able to walk into their offices and we’ve always been very congenial with one another.”
Helen Sheehan said she had visited close to 900 homes during the campaign and was now looking forward to helping Richmond’s diverse interests reach a consensus on the direction the town should go.
“I want to do a goal-setting exercise with the people in the Town Council and then bring in all the townspeople and the commissions and have a round table discussion and lay out everybody’s vision about, specifically, things we need to address in the town,” she said.
Mark Reynolds, who serves as Town Moderator, chairs the town’s Board of Tax Assessment and Review and is a member of the Charter Review Commission. His first bid for Town Council might have been more successful, he said, had he not run as an independent.
“It’s obviously difficult, being an independent, to kind of break through the party affiliations that people look at when they’re voting,” he said.
Samantha Wilcox and Mark Trimmer did not respond to requests for comment.
Information on the vote counts can be found on the Rhode Island Board of Elections website.
Republicans also took the two open seats on the Chariho School Committee. Unaffiliated incumbents Ryan Callahan and William Day and political newcomer and Democrat, Jessica Purcell, were defeated by Patricia Pouliot and Kathryn Colasante.
In the race for state Senator in District 34, the final result was clear, although totals continued to change slightly as additional ballots were counted. By early Wednesday afternoon, it appeared that Elaine Morgan had won a fifth term by a decisive margin with 53.4% of the vote, beating Democrat Jennifer Douglas who received 46.6%.
In District 39, Republican Justin Price, who was hoping for a fifth term as State Representative, was challenged by Democrat Megan Cotter.
While Cotter has run against Price in previous elections, this year the race was so close that it was impossible to call.
The candidates were separated by just a handful of votes until early Wednesday afternoon, when Cotter began to pull ahead. At press time, she was leading Price by 61 votes.
Price, who was expecting a recount, said he was frustrated by the proliferation of mail ballots, which have complicated the electoral process.
“Because the process has been changed so much, it’s not like you vote on voting day and find out the results,” he said. “Now, all this legislation’s been introduced that lengthens the process and complicates the process, which shouldn’t be complicated.”
Cotter said she was feeling optimistic about the outcome, whenever that was finally confirmed.
“There are still some votes to be counted, but I feel good,” she said. “This shows that voters want someone who puts working families and seniors first and looks for real solutions to the problems we face.”
· While statewide, the $100 million bond for the University of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay Campus was approved by a healthy margin, (57.5%), Richmond voters rejected it by a margin of 51% to 49%.
· Voters approved a $250 million bond for improvements to school buildings
· The $50,000,000 “green economy” bond was approved, 57.6% to 42.4%.
· A proposal to issue licenses for cannabis-related businesses was approved by a 58.2% to 41.8% margin.
· Voters rejected a proposal to change the position of Town Administrator to Town Manager, with increased authority over the administration of town personnel. The vote was 52.6% to 47.4%.
· A proposal to replace the Financial Town Meeting with a budget referendum was approved, 68.1% to 31.9%.
· Voters approved, 69.5% to 30.5%, a measure to prohibit Town Council members from attempting to influence the Town Manager’s decisions on the staff hiring, firing and promotions.
· A proposal to require the Town Council to conduct annual reviews of the performance of the Town Manager was approved 86.4% to 13.6%.
· A measure to require the Town Manager to conduct annual reviews of all employees, including department heads, was approved, 84.9% to 15.1%.
· Voters approved an amendment to the town charter giving the Town Manager the authority to appoint a temporary Town Manager during the Town Manager’s absence. The vote was 70.1% to 29.9%.
· A proposal to transfer authority over the town’s Recreation Department from the Recreation Commission to the Town Manager was rejected by a margin of 60.1% to 39.9%.
· Voters approved, 53.2% to 46.8%, a measure that will allow, but not require, the town to establish a municipal court.
· Voters approved a measure to repeal the provision allowing the amendment of the town charter by voter initiative to make the charter consistent with state law. The vote was 58.7% to 41.3%.
· A proposal to allow the amendment of the charter to make typographical corrections, ensure internal consistency and consistency with state law was approved 77.7% to 22.3%.
Richmond reports heavy voter turnout
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – Of the town’s 6,341 registered voters, 975 voted early, either in person or by mail. Nevertheless, all three of Richmond’s polling places had a heavy in-person voter turnout Tuesday, especially at the Town Hall, where voters lined up to vote when the polls opened.
“It’s been very steady,” Town Administrator Karen Pinch said on Tuesday afternoon. “It was super busy first thing. Apparently, there was a line out the door at 7 o’clock this morning.”
The town was required by the Rhode Island Board of Elections to add the third Town Hall polling place to the two existing locations, Richmond Elementary School and Chariho Middle School.
The number of polling places is based on the most recent census.
“The Board of Elections required a third polling location, even though we were right on the cusp of needing one, in terms of the population,” Pinch said.
Pinch said some voters were confused about where to vote.
“Some people, who didn’t get the information on where their polling place was,” she said. “The clerk’s office sent it to everyone, so I would imagine some people discarded it with the rest of the paperwork they get in the mail in regard to voting…I think people were just generally confused because there was a third polling location, so I think a lot of people went to where they’re used to going to and for some people, it wasn’t the right place this year.”
The town has 38 poll workers for this election.
“It was just hard to get poll workers,” Pinch said. “A lot of people don’t want to work from 6 in the morning until 7 o’clock at night, so we really, essentially, got double the number of poll workers that we needed so that we could do half-day shifts.”
Compared to previous elections, local interest in the midterm has been high. There are 11 candidates - four incumbents and seven challengers - running for five Town Council seats, and three challengers and two incumbents are vying for the two open seats on the Chariho School Committee.
Election results will be posted on the Rhode Island Board of Elections website.
Tuesday election primer: Candidates and ballot questions
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – With Tuesday’s midterm election quickly approaching, the BRVCA is pleased to offer a last - minute primer on the candidates. We are also including information on local and state ballot questions.
Richard Nassaney – R
James Palmisciano – I
Lauren Cacciola-Parmer – D
Ronald Newman – D
Samantha Wilcox – D
Michael Colasante – R
Helen Sheehan – R
Mark Trimmer – R
Mark Reynolds – I
Daniel Madnick – I
Jeffrey Vaillancourt – R
Chariho School Committee:
Ryan Callahan – I
William Day – I
Jessica Marie Purcell - D
Kathryn Colasante – R
Patricia Pouliot – R
Senator, General Assembly District 34
Elaine Morgan – R
Jennifer Douglas – D
Representative, General Assembly, District 39
Justin Price – R
Megan Cotter – D
Sean Patrick Comella – I
Daniel McKee – D
Ashley Kalus – R
Zachary Baker Hurwitz – I
Paul Rianna, Jr. – I
Elijah J. Gizzarelli – Libertarian
Aaron Guckian – R
Sabina Matos – D
Ross McCurdy – I
Secretary of State:
Pat Cortellessa - R
Greg Amore – D
James Lathrop – R
James Diossa – D
Federal: Representative in Congress, District 2
Allen Fung – R
Seth Magaziner – D
William Gilbert – Moderate
Question 4: Licenses for Cannabis Related Businesses
Shall new cannabis-related licenses for businesses involved in the cultivation, manufacture, laboratory testing and for the retail sale of adult recreational-use cannabis be issued in the Town of Richmond?
Question 5: Town Manager
Shall the Charter be amended to make the Town Administrator a Town Manager with more authority over personnel administration?
Question 6: Budget Referendum
Shall the Charter be amended to replace the Financial Town Meeting with an annual budget referendum preceded by two public hearings and followed, if necessary, by a second referendum on a revised budget?
Question 7: Hiring Decisions
Shall the Charter be amended to prohibit Town Council members from attempting to influence the Town Manager’s decisions on hiring, promotion, and removal of Town employees?
Question 11: Recreation Department
Shall the Charter be amended to transfer responsibility for supervision of the Recreation Department from the Recreation Commission to the Town Manager?
Question 12: Municipal Court
Shall the Charter be amended to add a reference to the state law that allows, but does not require, the Town Council to enact an ordinance establishing a municipal court?
Question 13: Charter Amendment
Shall the Charter be amended to repeal the provision enabling charter amendment by voter initiative in order to make the Charter consistent with state law?
Question 14: Text Correction
Shall the Charter be amended to make typographical corrections for clarification, internal consistency, and consistency with state law without changing the meaning of any provision?
State Ballot Questions:
Questions 1 – 3:
Shall the action of the General Assembly, by an act passed at the January 2022 session, authorizing the issuance of bonds, refunding bonds, and temporary notes of the State of Rhode Island for the capital projects and in the amount with respect to each such project listed below (Questions 1 – 3) be approved, and the issuance of bonds, refunding bonds, and temporary notes authorized in accordance with the provisions of said act?
Question 1: University of Rhode Island Narragansett Bay Campus - $100,000,000
For repairs and to construct new facilities on the University of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay Campus in support of the educational and research needs for the marine disciplines.
Question 2: Rhode Island School Buildings - $250,000,000
To provide funding for the construction, renovation, and rehabilitation of the state’s public schools.
Question 3: Green Economy Bonds - $50,000,000
For environmental and recreational purposes, to be allocated as follows:
Municipal Resiliency - $16,000,000
Small Business Energy Loan Program - $5,000,000
Narragansett Bay and Watershed Restoration - $3,000,000
Forest Restoration - $3,000,000
Brownfields Remediation and Economic Development - $4,000,000
State Land Acquisition Program - $3,000,000
Local Land Acquisition Matching Grant Program - $2,000,000
Local Recreational Development Matching Grant Program - $2,000,000
Roger Williams Park and Zoo - $12,000,000
Richmond Polling Places:
Open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day
Richmond Town Hall
Richmond Elementary School
Chariho Middle School
Questions about where to vote?
Contact the Richmond Board of Canvassers: (401) 539 – 9000 ext. 9
Richmond Council race gets nasty - November 5. 2022
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – With 11 candidates running for five seats on the Town Council, there’s a lot of competition and the attacks have ramped up in the remaining days before the Nov. 8 election.
The most recent attack is a flyer, sent to voters about a week ago, describing independent council candidates as being in the Democrats’ camp. It is signed by four Republican candidates, Michael Colasante, Helen Sheehan, Mark Trimmer and Jeffrey Vaillancourt.
The flyer reads:
“From what we’ve seen, many of these so-called ‘independents’ are free spenders who want to take your voices away as taxpayers [take a look at the Town Council candidate who served on the Richmond Charter Review Commission who voted to remove the power away from the people, putting the power into the hands of an unelected Town Administrator].”
The flyer refers to recommendations from the Charter Review Commission, on which independent council candidate Mark Reynolds served, to transfer some authority such as jurisdiction over town personnel, including the recreation department, from the council to the Town Administrator. Voters will be asked to accept or reject the two proposals, which are among several ballot questions.
Reynolds, an attorney who is also the Town Moderator, described the flyer as “misinformation,” and responded with a letter to the editor, published Friday in the Westerly Sun.
“I thought there was misinformation in there about me, or trying to label me a certain way that would label me a Democrat to try to get Republicans not to consider voting for me,” he said. “So, I felt that was unfair and I wanted to respond to it.”
The flyer suggests that candidates like Reynolds and James Palmisciano are Democrats masquerading as independents.
“…these ‘independents’ are anything but,” it states. “Two of them donated to the local Democrat Town Committee and two spoke at their recent event. So, we ask, are they independents or Democrats?”
That event, sponsored by the Richmond Democratic Town Committee, took place before the primary.
“They also invited the independent candidates for town offices to come and speak, as well as the Democrats,” Reynolds said. “All three independent candidates for Town Council were there.”
(The third independent candidate is Dan Madnick, who is currently a member of the town’s Planning Board.)
Council member Richard Nassaney, a Republican who is seeking reelection, has also run afoul of the Republican Town Committee and has seen his name wiped from the party’s campaign literature and yard signs.
Nassaney said he was dismayed to read the attack on Reynolds.
“Quite honestly, I’m deeply saddened by the actions of all these people that are running for office or people who are behind the people who are running for office,” he said. “It makes me sick to know that people are being so un-honest about others who are truly great people and they’re attacking from any angle that they possibly can think of, just to smear their image, to get a vote.”
Nassaney said he was banished from the Republican slate because he wouldn’t repeat what he considers to be lies.
“Because I won’t toe their line of ‘I can lower taxes,’ just a line of lies,” he said.
A second flyer targets the Chariho School Committee
The School Committee election has not been immune to back-biting. Former committee member Clay Johnson, who served from 2026 to 2020 and chairs the conservative group, The Gaspee Project, sent a flyer to voters urging them to reject the Democratic candidate, Jessica Purcell, and independent candidates, Ryan Callahan and William Day, and vote for the two Republican candidates, Patricia Pouliot and Kathryn Colasante. A sample ballot included in the flyer shows only the names of the two Republican candidates.
In the two-page flyer, dated Oct. 14, Johnson tells voters that school committee members are “promoting a divisive and racist agenda – with YOUR money! An agenda that seeks to either shame you or victimize you depending on the color of your skin. An effort to ‘decenter whiteness.’ Can you imagine something more racist? “
A supporter of Johnson when he first ran for School Committee, Nassaney said he was disappointed that Johnson had erased some candidates’ names from the flyer’s sample ballot.
“If you were going to be truthful and transparent and open, then you would have had all the candidates on that sample ballot and, fine, you want to mark off people that you would like people to vote for? Put a little circle next to them,” he said.
Nassaney lamented the two attacks, likening them to tactics that would be used in Washington.
“It’s sad, it really is,” he said. “This is our town and they’re treating it like Washington, D.C. They’re trying to smear great people and this is the reason why great people don’t run for office. “
Palmisciano, who is trying not to pay much attention to the attacks, said he was disappointed, but not surprised, by the new tone of the campaign.
“It’s late election,” he said. “Time to get out the knives and all that, but I refuse to play that game.”
Richmond Town Council Meeting Update for November 1, 2022
Council ties up loose ends at final meeting
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – The Town Council met Tuesday for the last time before the Nov. 8 election. Outgoing council President Nell Carpenter did not attend, which left council Vice President James Palmisciano chairing the meeting.
Much of the meeting involved approving sales licenses for local businesses.
The council approved a request from Town Administrator Karen Pinch to approve a contract with the United States Department of Agriculture, which is awarding a grant of $150,000 to the town for improvements to the police station.
“This is a grant funding that came through Senator [Jack] Reed’s office,” she said. “We applied for it back in May of 2021, and our match will be $40,500.”
The funds will be used for upgrades which will include installing epoxy flooring, drop ceilings and additional insulation.
Pinch also asked the council to approve an allocation of $210,000 of the town’s federal American Rescue Plan Act funds to incorporate a town water line in the upcoming roundabout project at the intersection of Richmond Townhouse Road and Route 138.
In her Oct. 26 memo to the council, Pinch described a persistent water hardness issue which would be resolved when the town connected to the water line.
“The water in the Town Hall is so hard that we’ve just had to replace the water tank in the basement twice in two years due to the tank being compromised,” she wrote. “Bringing the waterline into the Town Hall will alleviate that problem and reduce our repair costs associated with the well.”
The council approved the ARPA fund allocation.
Pinch also requested, and received, council approval to accept a $7,460 grant from the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency for the town’s “Community Emergency Response Team,” or CERT.
Training for CERT team members focuses on disaster response and includes classes in first aid, communications, and traffic and crowd control.
Also reporting to the council was Police Chief Elwood Johnson, who described the new police body camera program.
“We are about to receive an award letter, which I’ll forward to the Finance Director, to the tune of $167,000,” he said. “It works out to about $33,000 and change a year. That supports the body worn cameras, from soup to nuts, at no cost to the town.”
Funded by the federal government and the state, the five-year program will cost about $16 million.
Johnson said three Richmond officers had been wearing the cameras, which he said had been useful in recording police operations.
“It has been an excellent tool for creating an accurate record of what transpires between citizens and the police,” he said.
During the public forum at the end of the meeting, councilor Ronald Newman, who is running for reelection, said he had enjoyed serving the town and thanked residents for their support.
“Thank you for supporting this council,” he said. “Of anywhere in this world, the United States is the place I want to be. Rhode Island is the best state, without a doubt, in the country. I absolutely believe it. And this little city called Richmond Rhode Island – we have 39 cities and towns and by far, I think Richmond’s the best. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve you in the last two years.”
Richmond Planning Board Meeting update for October 25th, 2022
Board approves aquifer protection ordinance amendments
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – At the Oct. 25 meeting, members of the Planning Board approved amendments to the town’s aquifer protection overlay district zoning ordinance. The process of considering the amendments has been a lengthy process, which began in January.
The aquifer protection district preserves and protects the quality of Richmond’s groundwater. The proposed amendments to Chapter 18.21 of the aquifer protection overlay district ordinance, which will be submitted to the Town Council for approval, divide activities within the zone into three categories: permitted, permitted with a special use permit, and prohibited.
The board will also recommend the council approve a second zoning ordinance amendment which divides the aquifer overlay protection district into two sub-districts. “Sub-district A” will include the sole source aquifer and well head protection areas, and will have the most restrictive use regulations. “Sub-district B” will pertain to groundwater recharge areas.
In a staff report to the board, Town Planner Shaun Lacey stated that the amended ordinance includes a provision for a review process for development proposals in the aquifer protection district.
“The ordinance also outlines a review process and procedural requirements for new construction and changes of use within the aquifer overlay,” Lacey wrote. “Single-family and two-family development within an aquifer overlay would be exempt from the Development Plan Review or Major Land Development Review process.”
Engineer Todd Greene of the firm GZA Environmental Inc. has provided technical assistance to the board. Appearing at Tuesday’s meeting, Greene provided additional information on secondary containment devices that help prevent groundwater contamination from fuel oil spills, noting that leaks are usually caused by the corrosion of older tanks, over-filling and damage caused by activity near the line to the tank.
“The comment that we provided to the ordinance was based on experience at GZA responding to residential fuel oil leaks, so given the town’s primary residential nature, there are hundreds of ‘ASTs,’ above ground storage tanks, that service the residents of the town,” he said.
Greene explained that in addition to more costly double - walled oil storage tanks, a less expensive device, a kind of tray, or pan, can be installed under oil tanks to catch leaks.
“They’re readily available, and the cost is $400 to $800,” he said.
Secondary fuel oil containment measures appear on Page 4 of the draft amendment and read as follows:
“Every interior and exterior above-ground storage tank for fuel or heating oil, except those in single-family and two-family residential structures, shall include a secondary containment system with a capacity that is 110% of the tank volume. The system shall include a dedicated basin, tub or tray specifically manufactured for use as a secondary containment area for petroleum products.”
Acknowledging that the ordinance could be amended in the future, if necessary, the board agreed that the proposed changes were ready to present to the Town Council.
Board member Nancy Hess made a motion to adopt the amendments, which the board will recommend that the council approve.
Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth said it was important that the council understand the amendments.
“Shaun [Lacey] did a very thorough job, but I had a feeling when I wrote this draft that the Town Council would not understand about 75%,” she said. “They just don’t. They don’t have any reason to be familiar with any of this.”
Board Chair Philip Damicis replied that the board did not intend to overwhelm the council with technical details.
“They’re going to get a summary of it basically,” he said. “We’re going to have another meeting with them.”
The board will present an overview of the amendments to the council at a workshop, the date of which remains to be determined.
Lacey said the changes would benefit the town by creating a process for the reviews of proposed projects in the aquifer protection district.
“What these drafts do is that they allow for the vetting process,” he said. “It allows for those uses to be a little more permissive in the areas that we want to see them, subject to development plan review or major land development review process, which are under the charge of the Planning Board, so it works quite well.”
Richmond Town Council Meeting Update for October 18, 2022
Council accepts land donation
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – With the term of the current Town Council drawing to a close, the agenda was light for Tuesday’s meeting.
Members voted to accept a donation of a parcel of land in the Valley Lodge neighborhood.
In addition, with the general election taking place on Nov. 8, councilors amended the Town Council meeting schedule for November and December so it would not conflict with the vote or the ensuing transition.
The donated land is located at 58 Wood River Drive. The land is currently owned by Everett and Teresa Hughes of Florida, and has been assessed at $4,300. The annual property tax is $88.
Town Planner Shaun Lacey explained that the vacant parcel, abutting the Wood River, is in the Valley Lodge Estates community, which is known to be vulnerable to flooding.
Lacey noted that the decision of whether or not to acquire the property should be considered in the context how it would meet the objectives of both the town’s hazard mitigation plan and the comprehensive plan.
“That neighborhood, generally, is one of the most flood prone areas of our town,” he said. “The property right now, it’s about a third of an acre, it’s located within Flood Zone A, which means, in layman terms, that pretty much means that it has a higher risk than other properties, generally.”
Lacey told the council that if the town accepted the donation, it would meet one of the objectives of the hazard mitigation plan.
“By acquiring a property like this one along the Wood River, knowing that there’s no improvements on it, knowing that it is flood-prone, it sits in a higher risk flood zone, knowing the assessment and taxes associated with it today, I do see some risk versus reward benefit here from the hazard mitigation point of view,” he said. “By acquiring this property, it does help move the needle. Although slightly, it still moves the needle in helping the town reduce its long - term flood liability.”
Accepting the donation, Lacey added, would also help the town meet an objective of its comprehensive plan.
“Our open space and recreation element talks about increasing public access opportunities for natural areas, including our rivers and waterfront properties,” he said. “An acquisition such as this one does allow the town to consider in the future a publicly accessible area to the waterfront.”
Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth suggested that in the future, the town might consider acquiring other similar lots considered unbuildable and create a park.
“All of them are completely, or almost completely, within the flood hazard overlay, so they will probably never be built on,” she said. “All of them are assessed at roughly $4,000 or less. There’s one of them that’s assessed at $1,000. In other words, they have no practical value. They’re places that the town should actively discourage people from building on. They would probably make a really great park, a riverfront park.”
Council member Richard Nassaney said he did not believe that Valley Lodge homeowners would appreciate the creation of a new park.
“That neighborhood is extremely quiet, and the people who live there love it quiet, and I highly doubt they would want to have the general public coming, dropping off their cars and parking, putting their canoes in,” he said.
Council President Nell Carpenter said that she was generally opposed to removing properties from the tax role, but in this case, with a tax payment of only $88 per year, the loss of revenue would be negligible.
Council members voted to accept the donation.
During the public forum at the end of the meeting, council candidate and Town Moderator Mark Reynolds admonished council members for accepting the donation of the land without first determining whether pollutants might be present. (Reynolds had attempted to raise the issue earlier during the meeting, but was required to wait until the public forum.)
“Had I been permitted to speak earlier, I would have suggested that prior to acquiring the property at 58 Wood River Drive, that staff walk the property to make sure we’re not also acquiring a dump or pollution concern that might subject us to a liability,” he said.
Ellsworth said the town would do a title search to determine the previous uses of the property.
In other business, councilor Lauren Cacciola requested an update on programs and events organized by the town’s recreation department.
Recreation Commission Chair Robin Woodmansee provided an overview of the commission’s recent activities, which occur in addition to programs organized by Recreation Director Morgan Cusumano Gomes, who is responsible for the Dec. 3 tree-lighting event, the Easter egg hunt and activities during the February school holiday. Cusumano Gomes was not present at the council meeting.
Carpenter raised the issue of a possible overlap of the work of the commission, which is run by volunteers, and the duties of Cusumano Gomes, who is a paid member of the town staff and reports to Town Administrator Karen Pinch.
Cusumano Gomes received an annual stipend of $12,735 in 2022 and will be paid $13,052 in 2023.
“I just wanted to confirm that there wasn’t going to be an overlap, because, like I said, the residents of the Town of Richmond, all of what – 50 some of them – at the Financial Town Meeting, voted to pass that budget,” Carpenter said. “The expectation was that the rec director is earning that.”
Council Vice President James Palmisciano said he had attended a Recreation Commission meeting, during which the roles of the director and the commission had been clearly defined.
“One of the first things that you all did was to identify those lines of demarcation between your duties and Morgan’s just to make sure, and it wasn’t from a perspective of making sure alleviate it, but it was from the perspective of making sure that you knew where you had jurisdiction,” he told Woodmansee.
The council also discussed the scheduling of meetings in November and December, considering several factors: the upcoming election, the time it is expected to take to certify the election results, and the swearing-in of new council members.
The council agreed to hold a single meeting in November, on Nov. 1, and to schedule the next meeting on Dec. 6. The date of the second December meeting remains to be determined.
Abbreviated council meeting begins with Public Forum clarification - October 10, 2022
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – At a meeting that lasted less than 20 minutes, members of the Town Council approved several business items. Outgoing Council President Nell Carpenter also addressed a subject that had been discussed at the Oct. 3 “Meet the Candidates” event.
Former council member and council candidate Mark Trimmer questioned the placement of the Public Forum segment of the meeting at the end, recalling that it had formerly taken place near the beginning. Trimmer said that if elected, he would try to restore the forum to its earlier slot, to give residents the opportunity to comment on items on the agenda and ask questions before the council discussed and voted on them. Council member Ronnie Newman, who is running for reelection, said at the forum that he supported Trimmer’s proposal.
At the Oct. 4 council meeting, Carpenter attributed the placement of the forum to rules and procedures adopted by a Town Council that preceded, by several years, her election to the council.
“Due to the apparent confusion on public forum agenda placement expressed at last night’s candidates’ forum, I felt compelled as President to inform publicly that Richmond council adopted rules and procedures that were drafted by our Solicitor [Karen] Ellsworth and unanimously adopted by the Town Council in 2015,” she said. “Councilman Newman served on that council. I recall being in the audience, giving a report as a Recreation Director. The ‘rules and procedures’ outlines how items should appear on the agenda…I’d like to note that Public Forum is placed before ‘closed for executive session,’ just before adjournment. This has been council procedure for seven years, with no amendment, adjustment, and any suggestions otherwise. To make any suggestions otherwise is inaccurate at best or a lie at worst. As President, I decided to allow public comment in Public Forum, with no restrictions of time, and I will continue this policy and remain consistent as I am President.”
In other business, during a public hearing, the council adopted a resolution amending the zoning ordinance to give the Town Administrator the authority to approve requests to post temporary signs on town-owned property.
The council also heard updates from Town Administrator Karen Pinch on contracts with several vendors, all of which had been previously approved.
“You approved a new water vendor and we had our previous vendor for five or six years,” Pinch said.
Northeast Water Solutions is now the town’s water supplier, replacing LaFramboise Water.
In addition, the town has a new information technology provider, Uplink IT, which replaces Vertikal6.
Pinch also briefed the council on the new paving contract.
“You also approved a paving contract for Beaver River Road, Sandy Pond Road and Woodland Drive,” she said.
The work is expected to take place in the coming weeks.
Election hopefuls answer voters’ questions at “Meet the Candidates” event - October 6, 2022
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – Candidates for Town Council and the Chariho School Committee answered voters’ questions Monday at a “Meet the Candidates” event, organized by Town AdministratorKaren Pinch and moderated by the League of Women Voters of South County. Attended by about 80 residents, the forum took place in the Chariho Middle School auditorium.
Voters’ questions, submitted shortly before the event began, were posed by League President Christine Martone, with every candidate given an opportunity to respond to each question.
The questions were familiar, reflecting previous election platform themes in the town: lowering taxes, attracting businesses, preserving the town’s rural character, the need for a community center and controlling the Chariho budget.
Participating candidates for Town Council were: Republican incumbent Richard Nassaney, former Republican council member Mark Trimmer who is hoping to return, and two Republican challengers: Jeffrey Vaillancourt, a local business owner who currently serves as Vice President of the Zoning Board, and political newcomer, psychotherapist, Helen Sheehan.
The participating Democratic candidates were incumbents Ronnie Newman and Lauren Cacciola Parmer, and challenger Samantha Wilcox. The unaffiliated candidates were current council Vice President James Palmisciano and Mark Reynolds, the Town Moderator, who also serves on the town’s Tax Assessment Board of Review.
School Committee candidates at the event were incumbents Ryan Callahan and William Day, both of whom are unaffiliated, and Democratic challenger, Jessica Purcell.
Several candidates did not attend. Unaffiliated council candidate Daniel Madnick, who currently serves on the Planning Board, was out of town but provided a statement, which was read by Pinch.
Republican Michael Colasante, who is running for council, was expected to attend but was absent, as was his wife, Kathryn Colasante, also a Republican, who is running for a seat on the School Committee. A second Republican School Committee candidate, Patricia Pouliot, was also absent.
Contacted Wednesday, Colansante said he and his wife could not attend because they had another engagement.
Conflicts between some Republican candidates have spilled out into public view in recent weeks. Colasante is endorsed by the Republican Town Committee, while Nassaney, who has clashed with committee leadership, has seen his name taped over on campaign signs and wiped from the committee’s web page.
Monday’s event proceeded smoothly, without any sign of the behind-the-scenes drama.
Several questions required candidates to talk about how they would encourage businesses to locate to Richmond, how they would preserve the town’s rural character, and communicate more openly with residents.
All of the council candidates pledged to work together for the town regardless of party affiliation, including the four incumbents, who acknowledged that the current council has been divided at times.
Several candidates, including Sheehan and Palmisciano, said they would establish focus groupsto discuss economic development in the town.
“I would ask the Town Council to have a joint meeting with the people from planning, zoning, economic development, for all of us to talk together in a kind of a round table.”
Palmisciano had a similar proposition.
“…Identifying two members of council, members of planning, zoning, the administration, and making sure that we can create a focus group,” he said.
Trimmer, Vaillancourt and Wilcox joined the other candidates in promising to foster a united council.
Reynolds said that if elected, as a newcomer to the council, he would first learn what he could from the town staff.
“I think one of the first things that I would do is get a feel from the staff in Town Hall, what’s going on,” he said. “Even though you might be at Town Council meetings and see what’s going on at the council, you don’t necessarily have an understanding of what projects might be in progress, what are the current issues that the town is facing that you might not be aware of.”
The School Committee candidates were asked how they would control rising costs in the CharihoRegional School District and whether they would provide oversight over school curriculum and library policies.
Callahan, Purcell and Day agreed that the district was required to comply with state mandates, leaving the committee with little real authority to make meaningful changes.
“We are being held hostage by the State of Rhode Island, because they control the budget that they send forth to Chariho,” Day said. “If we choose to deviate from their curriculum and other things that they have requested us to do, they withhold state aid…The State of Rhode Island and the legislature, they’re the super school committees for the state of Rhode Island, any way you look at it.”
Trimmer, who served two previous terms on the council, brought up the timing of the Public Forum segment of council meetings, which he stated used to take place close to the start of each meeting but was moved to the end of the meeting.
He criticized holding the public forum at the end of the meeting, because the council has already discussed and voted on agenda items before members of the public have had a chance to ask questions or comment.
“They completely cut out the most important member of the team, which is all of you,” he said. “If you have no opportunity to comment before a vote, to comment before a decision is made, you’ve been rendered useless.”
Newman said he would also support restoring the Public Forum to the earlier segment of the meeting.
Asked whether they supported the proposed senior/community center, the council candidates allfavored a multi-use facility, built and operated in conjunction with another entity, such as the YMCA, because it would be financially impossible for the town to operate such a facility on its own.
All three School Committee candidates said they would be open to considering a one-year teachers’ contract to replace the usual three-year agreement.
Council asks for clarification of insurance coverage - September 21, 2022
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – Town Council members considered a shorter than usual list of agenda items at Tuesday’s meeting, which began with the approval of a resolution honoring Hayden Puglia, the first female Eagle Scout in South County.
Puglia, of Narragansett Council Troop 2 in Kingston, built several pieces of equipment for the K9 agility course at the new dog park.
A discrepancy in insurance coverage requirements for the use of town facilities by outside groups prompted a discussion that ended with Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth agreeing to draft a policy that would apply to outside groups wishing to use town facilities.
The issue, Town Manager Karen Pinch explained, is the difference between the requirements for outside groups using town property, that must first receive approval from the council, and other groups that use town-owned facilities such as the Senior Center, which is located above the police station.
“It came to my attention that we have a discrepancy on [insurance] policies,” she said. “We have one policy for the use of town’s property and facilities, those things have to come before Town Council, so they’re approved by the council. There’s no fee for that; there’s a $1 million insurance policy that is required for that. And on the other hand, we have a senior/community center, that people will sign up with the Police Clerk. There is a fee for that, but no insurance is required for that.”
Several non-profit groups currently pay the fee of $5 per day to use the Senior Center’s community room, and Council President Nell Carpenter said she would not consider raising the fee.
“The council discussed this a couple of years ago, and the increase of the fees for the usage of the Community Center, and that was something that I was adamant in saying that I didn’t want to increase the fees, because so many of these organizations are derived by member donation,” she said.
Council members agreed to ask Ellsworth to come up with a policy that would include an insurance requirement for outside groups that would be consistent for all town facilities.
Pinch also announced that the League of Women Voters will host a “Meet the Candidates” event on Oct. 3 at 6:30 p.m. in the Chariho Middle School auditorium. Richmond Town Council and School Committee candidates will be invited to attend.
The remote component of the Public Forum portion at the end of the council meeting did not take place as planned. A technical glitch prevented two residents, Republican Town Committee Chair Louise Dinsmore and Town Council candidate Mark Reynolds, from participating in the meeting by phone. Reynolds was later able to ask his question regarding road repairs when he drove to the Town Hall.
(State law no longer requires the town to offer hybrid meetings, but Richmond offers a remote option for those who do not want to attend the meetings in person. The technical issue has been resolved.)
Primary Sets Stage for November Election - September 14, 2022
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – Voter turnout for Tuesday’s primary was light. Of Richmond’s 6,286 eligible voters, 967, just over 15%, cast their ballots. Of those, 203 residents voted early and 87 voters applied for mail ballots, however, the actual mail ballot results will not be tallied until the end of the week.
Only 747 people voted in person. Town Administrator Karen Pinch put much of the blame for a lower in-person turnout on the rainstorm.
“It’s disappointing that after all the dry weather we’ve had, the monsoon had to come on primary day,” she said. “Unfortunately, I think that affected in-person voter turnout.”
There weren’t any big surprises for Richmond voters in Tuesday’s primary, however there were a few notable margins of victory for some candidates.
Democratic incumbent Gov. Dan McKee narrowly defeated Helena Buonanno Foulkes by just over two percentage points in the Democratic primary.
McKee will face Republican Ashley Kalus in the general election in November after Kalus soundly defeated Jonathan Riccitelli in the Republican primary.
McKee, the former Lieutenant Governor, was appointed Governor a year and a half ago to replace former Gov. Gina Raimondo, who was named U.S. Commerce Secretary.
Vying to replace retiring Congressman James Langevin in District 2 are Republican Allan Fung, the former Mayor of Cranston who was unchallenged in the primary, and Democrat and current General Treasurer, Seth Magaziner, who soundly defeated five primary challengers.
In the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor, Sabina Matos defeated two challengers and will face Republican Aaron Guckien.
In Senate District 34, Jennifer Douglas is running against incumbent Republican Sen. Elaine Morgan, who is seeking a fifth term.
In District 39, Democrat Megan Cotter is once again challenging Republican incumbent, Rep. Justin Price, who is also hoping to win a fifth term.
All four candidates were unchallenged in the primary, but in District 39, there’s a third, unaffiliated candidate, Sean Patrick Comella, running against Cotter and Price.
Kristen Chambers, a member of the Richmond Democratic Town Committee, said Cotter stands a good chance of beating Price this year, especially if Comella syphons off some of the conservative vote.
“I think she’s going to crush him,” she said. “You know, there is that third Independent, Comella, so hopefully, the votes between him and Price will really send Megan to the top.”
Richmond Republican Town Committee Chair Louise Dinsmore acknowledged that Comella would have an impact on the campaign but she noted that the committee was standing firmly behind Price.
“They’re all working really hard and I really do applaud them, because the Democratic process is important to all of us,” she said. “I think whomever would get elected among the three of them would give a voice to ‘We the People,’ and I appreciate their hard work on the campaign trail. We’re supporting Justin Price. He’s the incumbent. He’s the Republican, he has conservative values that are in line with our conservative values as a local GOP committee.”
Dinsmore also praised both Price and Cotter for their diligent grassroots campaigning.
“Megan is working really hard, and so is Justin,” she said. “They’re both going door to door, they’re bringing their message directly to the voters, which is, I think what every good candidate needs to do, is go door to door and meet the voters one on one, ask the voters what’s important to them and talk about how they would represent them at the State House. I tip my hat to Justin and to Megan.”
In the Morgan-Douglas race, Chambers predicted that voters unhappy with Republican policies will boost the Democrats and support Douglas.
“I am hoping that with all that the Republicans are doing and all that Morgan is not doing, or doing, to take away other people’s rights, in my view, is going to mean a win for Jen this time,” she said. “She’s got more name recognition now and she’s on the right side of what of what I’m looking for – voting rights, reproductive rights, climate.”
“Ms. Douglas is a progressive,” Dinsmore said. “She should represent herself as such. Elaine is a conservative. They have very different thoughts and ideas about ideas that impact voters and their constituents.”
Chambers countered that being a progressive is something to be proud of.
“If you’re not progressive, then you’re regressive,” she said. “Progressive is not a dirty word. It means that you’re standing up for the rights of all citizens. You’re not putting the corporate interests first.”
Both Dinsmore and Chambers are optimistic about their parties’ prospects in November, even if the parties are miles apart on the issues.
Democrats’ concerns include gun control, reproductive rights, voting rights and climate change, and on the local level, education.
Those broader issues, Chambers said, are attracting more voters to the Richmond Democrats.
“In the Richmond Democratic Town Committee, we’ve really increased our membership. I can’t say offhand whether it’s been doubled or tripled,” she said.
Republicans are keeping their campaign laser - focused on fiscal issues, especially taxes, although they, too, have taken positions on the Chariho Regional School District, including the schools budget.
“We’re hearing loudly and clearly from the taxpayers that they’re looking to elect local leaders who are going to evaluate every decision from a budgetary, fiscal responsibility standpoint,” Dinsmore said. “Holding the line on taxes.”
The campaign is now expected to kick into high gear in the 10 weeks leading up to the election.
Land Trust, Nature Conservancy Acquire New Property
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – The Richmond Rural Preservation Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy have joined forces to purchase a 52-acre parcel which will be added to the 214-acre Beaver River Preserve.
Land Trust Chair Suzanne Paton said the land, which is mostly wooded, includes 500 feet of frontage along the Beaver River.
“It’s a beautiful, forested parcel that abuts the upper watershed and the Beaver River, and it’s adjacent to other protected open space, other TNC [Nature Conservancy] land, so it fills a larger contiguous tract of forest for the wildlife species that really benefit from having a larger, contiguous, un-fragmented tract of habitat like that,” she said. “The water quality, the cold water habitat in those northern parts of the watershed for things like brook trout and other species that need cold water habitat – it’s just really high quality habitat for wildlife.”
Tim Mooney, Communications Manager for The Nature Conservancy, said the effort to acquire the land began about eight years ago.
“I actually walked this property, … a different landowner,” he said. “We wanted to add it to the Beaver River Preserve, but we just couldn’t agree to a number and we were not sure where we would raise the money anyway, and so we never got an agreement.”
The property eventually changed hands and a few years later, Mooney said the conservancy was approached by the new owner, Lancelot Banfield.
“The new owner came back to us and re-started a conversation, and the meantime, the assessment of the Beaver River had been done and the Richmond Land Trust had funding which they didn’t have before,” he said.
The Beaver River had, by this time, been designated by the National Park Service as part of the “Wild and Scenic Rivers” system.
The property was purchased for $350,000, with each group paying one half, or $187,500. Funds for The Nature Conservancy’s share came from the Bafflin Foundation, the Ginty Fund and individual donors.
Mooney said that had the land not been purchased for preservation as open space, it would almost certainly have been developed.
“It’s highly developable,” he said. “To the extent that there are wetlands, they’re really down by the river. So, it starts at Hillsdale Road, sort of high and dry meadow, old field, and to pretty dry woods and then gradually, it slopes down to the river. … It was more about the property being vulnerable to development, and so the impact of a subdivision and all that goes with it, from runoff to the strain on the groundwater, that would have been felt directly on the river.”
There are currently no walking trails on the property, but now that it is part of the Beaver River Preserve, Mooney said there were plans to move an existing, informal trail head from Fox Ridge Drive to Hillsdale Road.
“The current trailhead is at the end of Fox Ridge Drive, which is the dead end of a subdivision, and you sort of park along the edge of the road of the subdivision and that’s the entrance to the Preserve,” he said. “I think what we’d like to do is flip that around and make the front door the back door and put a more intentional and more welcoming small, off the road parking area with a formal trailhead.”
Paton said it was possible that several species considered to be at risk might be present on the property.
“There are natural heritage maps that we can see and they don’t identify what specific species occur there, but there are natural [areas] both to the northwest and to the southeast of the property and sort of abutting the edges of that property,” she said. “So, there are rare species that have been identified by the State of Rhode Island that occur in the vicinity that I would expect would also occur on the site, and it could be plants or insects, I don’t know, but just haven’t surveyed the site, because it was privately owned…It has the potential to support rare species.”
This latest land purchase beings the total of open space conserved by the Land Trust to more than 600 acres.
Town Council Meeting Update for August 23, 2022
Council Approves RICAN Funding
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – At Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, councilors approved a sizeable grant to the Rhode Island Center Assisting those in Need (RICAN).
Members also voted, at a special Town Council meeting held earlier, to leave a decision about whether to establish a municipal court to the incoming council, which will be elected in November.
In the first of three public hearings that took place during the regular meeting, the council approved an amendment to the zoning ordinance that removes references to a “Planned Unit Development Overlay District.”
The council repealed the Planned Use Development section of the ordinance back in April, because it is no longer relevant to land uses in the town.
In a second public hearing, on an amendment that would add dimensional regulations for accessory structures at two-family houses, the council voted to accept Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth’s suggestion that they defer a decision until after the Planning Board has revisited the issue.
“The [Rhode Island] legislature passed major legislation on affordable housing, specifically on accessory dwelling units, and it’s going to require some policy decisions from the Planning Board before they make a recommendation to you on amendments to different chapters of the zoning ordinance,” Ellsworth said. “So, I think all those should be considered together, not separately.”
Council members, at the third public hearing, voted to approve an amendment to a section of the zoning ordinance regulating communications towers and antennas.
Ellsworth explained that the old ordinance, passed 25 years ago, was obsolete and that she had tightened the language.
“I just took out anything that was unnecessary. … It doesn’t change the approval process in any way,” she said.
ARPA money, going fast
The town has allocated most of the $2.3 million it is receiving in COVID relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), leaving a balance of $374,954.
Reflected in that balance is an $87,500 donation to RICAN, for for a new roof and solar panels for the organization’s headquarters in Charlestown.
RICAN Executive Director Jonathan Riley, who in July had requested a $250,000 contribution from the town to fund several large projects, said RICAN had recently received $170,000 in ARPA funds from Charlestown, but nothing, so far, from Hopkinton.
The council approved a maximum donation of $87,500, but asked Riley to solicit additional bids for the roof replacement.
Councilor Richard Nassaney made the motion, which the council approved, “to set the project cost at no more than $87,500, but if the gentleman from RICAN comes back with a bid from another roofing company that is less than $87,500, we go with that.”
A request, made by council President Nell Carpenter, to allocate $57,200 in ARPA funds over two years to the Chariho Youth Task Force, was referred to the Finance Board.
Republican Town Committee Chair Louise Dinsmore complained about the public forum segment of the council meeting taking place at the end of council meetings, when some decisions that residents might want to discuss have already been made.
“I feel that when we can’t offer comment until the end of the meeting, and something has already been decided…then we can’t offer our views and opinions,” she told the council. “I feel that you take away the voices of the people to express their opinion, so I’m going to ask you to seriously consider putting public comment at the beginning of your Town Council meetings, for the rest of this council.”
Town Moderator Mark Reynolds, who chairs the town’s Board of Tax Assessment Review and is also a candidate for Town Council, chided council members for not having created a standardized process for reviewing ARPA funding requests.
“Establish a process, at least going forward, so they all know all of these requests are going to be heard by the Finance Board….and the council will consider them altogether, at a future meeting, because you only have a limited amount of money, and as great as all these organizations are, you might have to say ‘listen, we can’t fund you all’,” he said.
Council declines to act on municipal court
At the special Town Council meeting before the regular council meeting, Town Planner Shaun Lacey asked the council to consider an amendment to the zoning ordinance that would clear the way for the establishment of a municipal court.
Lacey explained that the municipal court would, in many, but not all cases, hear matters currently referred to Rhode Island Superior Court, which hears cases pertaining to zoning, traffic and other municipal violations.
(Both Charlestown and Hopkinton have municipal courts.)
A municipal court, Lacey said, would hear cases with fewer delays than Superior Court, and the town could choose which court would hear each case.
“The town has the ability to pick and choose depending on the circumstances, whether or not the matter is better heard on the municipal level,” he said.
With regard to costs, Lacey said hearing some cases in municipal court would be more cost effective than the current practice of sending all cases to Superior Court.
Lacey also noted in his presentation that a municipal court would also encourage “improved partnerships with residents, businesses.”
Ellsworth said she and Police Chief Elwood Johnson had previously considered the costs and benefits of a municipal court and had conclude that the number of violations is too low to justify it.
“I can’t imagine why you want to spend that money establishing a municipal court, when you could spend it on hiring another zoning enforcement officer,” she said.
Councilor Ronald Newman proposed leaving the matter for the next Town Council to consider and the council agreed to table the item.
Maddie Potts Memorial Field House Opens
A promise kept: Potts family opens Maddie Potts Memorial Field House
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – With Sunday’s ribbon-cutting at the Maddie Potts Memorial Field House behind her, Stephanie Potts admitted that it would feel strange having finally achieved that goal.
“I think it will be, like everything else, bittersweet,” she said. “…I’m a distance runner. I’ve run marathons multiple times, and I look it at like I’ve run the 26 miles, and now, I’m just trying to get to the final .2. I can’t even anticipate what that’s going to be like.”
Stephanie and Dan Potts’s quest to build the field house at Chariho began in Sept. 2017, not long after their daughter Maddie, a Chariho athlete, suffered a fatal brain aneurysm during a soccer game.
The family formed the Maddie Potts Foundation and began raising the $700,000 they believed the building would cost. They weren’t prepared for the impacts of the pandemic.
“The pandemic has tested us more than anything in regard to the field house,” Stephanie Potts said. “I think a lot of people doubted us and though I certainly questioned us and was unsure if I could really continue at this pace that we have, every time I was kind of heading for the bottom, so to speak, something unusual would happen or someone would step up and remind me that I made a promise, to not just Maddie, but our community, and I wasn’t about to break that promise.”
In addition to delaying work on the field house, the pandemic had a devastating impact on construction costs, which soared from $750,000 to $1.2 million.
Potts said corporate sponsorships helped ease the financial crunch.
“Our cost right now is right around $1.2 million, but the value of it, because of everyone’s contributions and discounts and time and dedication is actually closer to a value of between $1.8 and $2 million,” she said.
Located next to the Chariho football field, the new field house replaces a dilapidated, unheated shack that was used as a concession stand.
Designed by architect Frank Karpowicz and built by contractor David Ducharme, the 3,000-square foot building contains locker rooms, rest rooms, and the concession stand.
The design evolved as prices skyrocketed, with one of the locker rooms and a rest room being removed from the plan. The foundation approached the three Chariho towns for financial support, asking Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton to each contribute $83,333 from the American Rescue Plan Act COVID relief funds they were receiving, since the cost overruns were a consequence of the pandemic.
Charlestown agreed to donate the funds, but Hopkinton, where some Town Council members have opposed the donation, has not contributed.
In Richmond, the Town Council initially deferred the contribution of the ARPA funds and declined to reimburse the entire $5,120 building permit fee.
The town asked Charlestown and Hopkinton to each contribute one third of the fee, which they declined to do. Richmond finally contributed the requested $83,333 in ARPA funds and reimbursed $4,698.97 to the foundation for the building permit fee.
The Field House
The first thing visitors see when they walk through the field house door is the two-story, glass “Maddie Mentality” atrium, featuring photographs, artwork and a video donated by a friend of the family.
Accommodating up to 60 people, the atrium will be used for community, athletic and school district meetings and events.
“The atrium really highlights Maddie and her life, and answers the question ‘who was Maddie Potts and why does she have a building named after her,’” Potts said. “It really tells her story in the pictures that were taken right before she died, the video that will be playing on a loop in the atrium. A local gentleman, Kevin Travers, has volunteered to construct and donate custom art cases that will be in the atrium, and that will highlight all the things that so many people have made us that also helped tell Maddie’s story.”
The field house also contains three, gender-neutral, handicap-accessible rest rooms, and a large “home” locker room for athletes with its own bathroom and a television.
“We have a separate officials’ suite that has their own changing room, their own bathroom and a separate entrance off the back of the building, because we found it important for the officials to have their own space to get away from fans and athletes before and during games. And the officials of the state have been incredibly supportive and actually changed the name of their sportsmanship award to the ‘Maddie Potts Sportsmanship award’.”
The new concession stand is located on the other side of the atrium. Revenue from the stand, which is operated by the Chariho Sports Boosters, supports the school district’s athletic teams.
“It not only opens to the stadium side but it now opens to the baseball field side and also opens to the atrium, so it increases potential Booster revenue, because they can open for a lot more games and events,” Potts said.
The field house also has an athletic training room with its own entrance off the field.
The foundation is still designing the memorial benches which will be placed outside, commemorating the late Chariho Superintendent of Schools Barry Ricci, Keith Frost, Hallie Linacre and Allie Nelson.
Fundraising will continue for equipment for the concession stand.
Planning Board Update for August 9th, 2022
Work Continues on Aquifer Protection
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – At the Tuesday meeting, members of the Planning Board continued work they had begun last January on revisions to the town’s zoning ordinance regulating the protection of the Aquifer Overlay District and the uses permitted, restricted or prohibited within the district.
The aquifer protection district is the area of town located above the drinking water aquifer, and the purpose of the proposed amendments is to preserve and protect the quality of that groundwater
Members discussed three zoning changes: a proposed new chapter of the zoning ordinance entitled “aquifer protection overlay district,” amendments to the use table, and amendments to the town’s zoning map.
The board has proposed dividing the aquifer overlay protection district into two sub-districts. Sub-district A, which will pertain to the sole source aquifer and well head protection areas, will have the most restrictive use regulations. Sub-district B will comprise groundwater recharge areas.
Agreeing that they needed technical expertise, the board has consulted with Lorraine Joubert of the University of Rhode Island’s Cooperative Extension Water Quality Program, and engineer Todd Greene of the firm, GZA GeoEnvironmental Inc.
Greene, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, said he had considered several factors in preparing his draft opinion.
“One was water quality…maintaining water quality and also use, yield, and how future development may or may not impact the neighbor in the draw-down it produces,” he told the board.
Greene said he also looked at the possible impacts of hazardous materials and how the town might regulate them. Since most of the town is residential, he noted that home heating oil leaks and spills would be the most likely sources of contamination.
Board member Nancy Hess said ground water in non-residential zones also needed protection.
“That’s of concern to us as well,” she said.
Board Chairman Philip Damicis added he was concerned with commercial – scale contamination.
“A homeowner might have pesticides and things like that, but of a very small scale, so we’re worried about someone who might be a major retailer who’s got tons of fertilizers or pesticides or whatever.”
Hess asked Greene about natural nitrate loading.
“How do we know what a site’s pre - development, natural nitrate level is, versus projected post-development?” she asked Greene responded that the only way to assess ambient nitrates would be to conduct a focused study.
Board members agreed to continue the aquifer protection discussion at their September meeting. They also hope to review the proposed amendments at a joint workshop with the Town Council, which is expected to take place in late September or early October.
More changes proposed for Harvest Acres Farm
The board approved the pre- application by John and Cindy Duncan for a two-lot subdivision of their property at 425 Kingstown Road.
Formerly the “Harvest Acres Farm” nursery and farm stand, the 70-acre parcel now houses 17,000 solar panels in two arrays, installed by developer, Green Development LLC, in 2017.
The Duncans want to subdivide the property into two lots, one, of about two and a half acres, would include the existing house. The remaining land, 67.4 acres, would continue to support the solar arrays.
Hess asked the applicants’ surveyor, Norbert Therien, what would happen to the existing greenhouses and retail building, since there is a possible buyer for the smaller lot.
“What’s going to happen to the retail sales building and the greenhouses in the rear?” she asked.
“The greenhouses behind the existing residence, they may stay, but in all likelihood, I suspect that they would go, or at least be relocated,” he said.
In his memo to the board, Town Planner Shaun Lacey recommended an expedited plan review which eliminates one step in the approval process.
“Procedurally, minor subdivisions are typically reviewed in three stages: 1) Pre-application; 2) Preliminary Plan; and 3) Final Plan,” he wrote. “State law requires Pre-application review for major subdivisions, but allows cities and towns to forgo that conceptual review stage for minor subdivisions. Since the proposal only seeks to subdivide an existing property into two lots and does not include any development, staff recommends that the project proceed directly to the Preliminary Plan review stage.”
Hess made a motion, which the board supported, to approve the pre-application and an expedited plan review.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
Economic Development Commission and Planning Board Meeting Update for July 26th 2022
Board Considers Implications of Accessory Dwelling Unit Law
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – Planning Board members, at their Tuesday meeting, discussed new state enabling legislation which will allow accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, to be built on residential lots.
Towns will be able to prohibit ADUs, but not those that are intended for family members of the property owner.
The objective of the new law is to “provide a consistent, statewide framework and efficient process” for the approval of ADUs, which will now be permitted, by right, on all properties with single family or two-family structures.
In addition, ADUs can be counted as affordable housing, helping towns move closer to achieving the state-mandated 10% affordable housing goal.
The new law defines an accessory dwelling unit as a single, independent dwelling with its own eating, sleeping, cooking and sanitation facilities. The unit, which can be detached or attached to the main house, can be occupied by one or more members of the property owner’s family, or rented, if the principal home is occupied by the property owner.
Board members considered the implications of the new law, which requires towns to amend their zoning ordinances to redefine accessory dwelling units.
Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth told board members that Richmond will be required to allow ADUs, up to 75% of the size of the principal dwelling, to be built for members of property-owners’ families.
A lengthy discussion ensued, with board members expressing concerns about the possible proliferation of accessory dwellings and “tiny homes,” the impacts of the secondary structures on well water and septic systems, a possible lack of buffers between the ADUs and neighboring homes, and the additional work that the permitting and reporting processes will create for building and zoning officials.
Board member Dan Madnick acknowledged the need for more housing, but he said he also understood how a proliferation of accessory dwellings could negatively impact the character of the town.
“We definitely need more housing stock, he said. “That’s a big problem. Whether it’s affordable or not, we need more housing. There’s only so much land you can build on in Rhode Island. But, I also see the drawbacks, in Richmond.”
Board Chair Philip Damicis was especially vocal about his concerns.
“I’m playing devil’s advocate,” he said. “I see the benefits but I’m sitting here thinking ‘what’s the worst case?’ and I’m also thinking about our zoning and building officials.”
Board members agreed that they would need more time to consider the ramifications of the legislation and talked about possibly holding a workshop in September to solicit input from the Town Council.
Board, EDC mull Wyoming district
Before the regular Planning Board meeting took place, a joint workshop of the Planning Board and the Economic Development Commission, held at the request of the EDC, came close to being canceled when none of the EDC members were present at the 6:30 starting time.
The meeting was able to proceed when two members, Commission Clerk David Woodmansee and later, commission Chair William McIntosh IV arrived.
Town Planner Shaun Lacey went over some of the provisions of the town’s 2021 Comprehensive Community Plan and explained the objective of the workshop.
“Tonight’s meeting was recommending that both the board and the EDC discuss some of the tasks they’ve been working on in the context of … Wyoming, and how best to support each other in meeting these responsibilities,” he said.
Most of the conversation centered on the need to revitalize the Wyoming section of town, on Route 138, in order to attract new businesses.
Damicis said he was hoping EDC members would tell him how the Planning Board could help the commission revitalize the Wyoming district.
“One of the things we’d like to know is, is there something about our planning regulations or zoning ordinance that are not working well with some of these developers?” he said.
Woodmansee said the commission had contacted Wyoming business owners to discuss ways to improve the appearance of the district.
“One of the things we have been doing is reaching out to some of the existing locations to kind of find out what they can do to help bring up the appearance, let’s say, of that corridor,” he said. “Some have been more responsive than others and some have said ‘yes’ and then not done anything that they discussed.”
Woodmansee told the board that the commission had set a goal of increasing the town’s commercial tax base by 1 to 2% per year by attracting new businesses and helping existing businesses expand.
“Our goal is, shift the tax burden from home owners,” he said.
When McIntosh joined the meeting, Damicis asked him if he had any insights as to why the Wyoming corridor was languishing and whether there was anything the board could do to help.
McIntosh said he had contacted the company that manages the large, neglected property where the Stop and Shop and the shuttered Hess gas station are located. With tenants already in place, there appears to be no incentive to spend millions on upgrades.
“It’s not necessary for them to move forward, from what I see, anything further than what they have, because it’s rented by Stop and Shop, it’s rented by the YMCA, it’s rented by the Post Office and stores, so they haven’t had the need to upgrade that facility because it’s rented for the most part,” he said
The need for an urgent care facility, assisted living for elderly residents and a business park were also discussed.
McIntosh suggested the town choose several suitable parcels that could be marketed to potential businesses.
“The only way of doing it is taking existing parcels that the Planning Board feel and the Town Council feel would be the best locations for an urgent care, and then marketing those parcels to urgent care facilities,” he said.
Damicis said it would be unwise to re-zone a parcel before an appropriate buyer had been found.
“If we do the re-zoning ahead of time, there’s no guarantee what would go in there,” he said.
The meeting concluded with a reminder from Damicis that residents who provided input on the comprehensive plan had made it clear that they want to preserve the rural character of the town and preferred that commercial development be concentrated along Route 3, near Interstate 95.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
Council Receives Substantial New Funding Request, Community Center Left in Limbo
July 13, 2022
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – Town Council members continued, at the July 12 meeting, to discuss allocations of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, which are expected to be about $2.3 million.
In addition to the town’s capital and operating needs, the council has also had to consider funding requests from many local and regional non - profit groups.
By the end of the meeting, the council had postponed decisions on some of the requests and voted to approve funds for several projects, leaving $462,454.
The council also voted, with council President Nell Carpenter opposed, to spend up to $34,000 to hire the specialized consulting firm, iParametrics LLC, to administer the grants receiving the town’s federal ARPA funding.
Council Vice President James Palmisciano asked Finance Director Laura Kenyon whether she believed the consultant’s services would be worth the expense.
“iParametrics knows what has to be done, if you do give a donation to an agency,” she said. “I’m not qualified. There isn’t anyone in the town that is actually qualified to know what those restrictions are. iParametrics is in the business of doing so.”
Carpenter said she would not support hiring the consulting firm.
“It’s like going to the gym and watching the trainer work with somebody else,” she said.
Finance Board nixes community center proposal
After meeting twice to discuss the distribution of ARPA funds, the Finance Board submitted a memo to the council which includes a list of recommended allocations as well as requests still awaiting decisions.
The memo from the board, which cautions the council not to create new positions or departments using ARPA funds, reads in part,
“We do not suggest funding the Community Center Director nor the $1 million set aside for the community center in FY 23.”
The council addressed the hiring of the community wellness advocate, which the board had recommended be limited to a part time annual salary of $40,000. Councilors ended up passing a motion allocating $75,000 to the position over three years, contingent on continued funding.
The community and senior center, a perennial goal for the town, was not funded.
In a unanimous vote, council members approved $83,330 for equipment for the Maddie Potts Foundation’s field house project, which is nearing completion. A request was made by councilor Lauren Cacciola to add $30,000 to the $20,000 originally allocated to equipment for the Beaver River playground, for a total of $50,000.
Also receiving grants were five emergency services agencies in Richmond, Hope Valley and Ashaway.
The Finance Board had recommended that the town defer a decision on a $196,077 funding request from Wood River Health Services, however, Carpenter and Cacciola voted in favor of allocating the funds. They were out-voted by the three other councilors, including Richard Nassaney, who warned that the town might require the money in the future and also noted that Wood River was not in desperate financial need.
“I’m just trying to look long term, not just ‘we need it right now,’” he said. “They have funding. They have money. They have a business. They are continuing to grow. This is icing on the cake.”
The council agreed to allocate $150,000 to Wood River Health Services over three years, a commitment that can be reconsidered, if it becomes necessary.
RICAN Requests $250,000
The council was presented with a substantial new funding request, supported by Carpenter but not included in the original list of applicants.
RICAN, the Rhode Island Center Assisting those in Need, is requesting $250,000. Executive Director Jonathan Riley said the money would be used to purchase a new refrigerator for the bulk storage of donated food, a new roof equipped with solar panels, and two office cubicles to enhance the privacy of the non-profit group’s clients.
Councilors said they wanted to consult with the Finance Board before making a decision, and Carpenter urged them to do so without delay.
“This needs to be addressed soon,” she said.
The Finance Board was asked to meet at “their earliest convenience” to consider the request.
Town Spending Priorities
As the council heard and discussed funding requests from outside organizations, there also are pressing - and costly – municipal projects that will require sizeable allocations.
The emergency communications tower on Shannock Hill Road was heavily damaged by fire on July 6, and three juveniles are facing arson charges.
Fire Chief Scott Barber told the council that the town would need a new emergency communications tower, with additional security, all of which will cost about $500,000.
“In light of this fire, now we have to look at securing the site,” he said.
The vote to approve the $500,000 was unanimous.
The other major looming expense is the chlorination of the town’s water supply, a state-mandated measure expected to cost $300,000.
The town also intends to extend the water line to the Town Hall and to a property across the road, a project that will cost $100,000.
Laura Kenyon said she would provide more information at the August meeting.
With only $462,454 of the $2.3 million in ARPA funds remaining to be allocated, RICAN Executive Director Jonathan Riley warned the council, during the Public Forum, to carefully consider the remaining requests.
“It’s intended for a reason,” Riley said. “It is rescue from the pandemic and those types of things, and I just want to make sure that people appreciate the fact that it’s not just a piggy bank to pay for expenses so you don’t have to use your own money. No offense intended.”
Town Council candidates, Part Two
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND -- In the second installment of our series on the candidates for Town Council, we spoke with Republicans Jeffrey Vaillancourt, Helen Sheehan, and Raymond Pouliot, and Unaffiliated candidates, Mark Reynolds, Nicholas Solitro and Daniel Madnick. Democrat, Lauren Cacciola, did not respond to a request for comment.
Altogether, there are 13 candidates running for council. Please see Part 1 of our “meet the candidates” story for information on incumbents, James Palmisciano, Richard Nassaney, and Ronald Newman, and challengers Mark Trimmer, Michael Colasante and Samantha Wilcox.
Without exception, the candidates have described property taxes as Richmond’s most critical issue. Many also said they were hoping that a balance could be found between preserving the town’s rural character and encouraging economic development in order to broaden the tax base.
Some candidates also expressed concerns about the town’s contribution to the Chariho Regional School District, which represents more than 70 percent of the budget.
Republican candidate, Jeffrey Vaillancourt, has been on the Zoning Board of Review for five years and currently serves as its Vice Chair.
Vaillancourt, an electrician, is owner of the Wyoming-based Amity Electric. He has lived in the town for 15 years, and this is the first time he has run for public office.
“I’m a member of the Zoning Board for a number of years, and I enjoy the interaction with all the different community members and people who like to get involved in the activities of the town,” he said. “I thought it was a natural progression of involvement.”
Vaillancourt said he agreed that property taxes were a concern, but he added that he did not have a magic bullet that would alleviate the burden on homeowners.
“Is there anything I can do about that? I don’t know,” he said. “Alone, I can’t, but as a team, maybe. Being part of that team makes a difference.”
Asked about other issues in the town, Vaillancourt said that if elected, he would address residents’ concerns but for now, he could not pretend to have all the answers.
“I’m not into it yet, so it’s really hard to say ‘oh I think this or that’ when I don’t know the full story about it,” he said. “You only see one side, or a small view of it and it could be the wrong view. That’s why I think being involved is great. At the Zoning Board, I got to hear this party’s side and that party’s side and what’s actually on paper, and how it affects everything.”
Helen Sheehan, a political newcomer, said she was keeping her focus on the town’s financial bottom line. A psychotherapist and former business owner, Sheehan has lived in Richmond for six years.
“I am concerned about…retaining the lifestyle that we have here,” she said. “I’m a little concerned that taxes, they’re too high, for one thing. If you look at other towns around us, our taxes are higher than most of the communities, so we need to find ways to make those level, or lower.”
Sheehan said she felt that she needed to become more involved in the town’s business.
“I just decided that I should not be complaining and do nothing. I needed to step in and try to influence what we’re doing,” she said.
Sheehan also wants to look at Chariho Regional School District funding. She is also concerned about how the town will allocate the $2.3 million it is receiving under the American Rescue Plan Act.
“There are some proposals that make me a little nervous, that they are going to create expenses that will continue after ARPA ends,” she said. “Everybody has good intentions, as far as I can see, but I’m not sure what the outcome will be.”
Sheehan added that she is not sure how the proposed community and wellness center will impact the town’s budget once the ARPA funds have been spent.
“I’ve heard that it’ll be a senior center and a wellness center. I’ve heard that it will be a covered pavilion. I heard that …it’s only a place-holder. There’s no plan made. But the land is cleared, so it looks to me as if somebody has a plan,” she said.
Raymond Pouliot, the former New London Postmaster, grew up in the country, in Burrillville, and now that he lives in Richmond, describes himself as a homesteader.
“I have a small farm, me and my wife,” he said. “We have chickens and goats. We have a cow who just gave birth to a calf, so we’re starting to make cheese.”
Pouliot said he had three reasons for running for council,
“Taxes, taxes, taxes,” he said.
With some members of the council having served for several terms, Pouliot said he felt it was time for a change.
“We have people on the council now that have been there eight years, 12 years, and they all promised to be watchdogs for the taxpayer and for us, our property taxes have gone up considerably, over 30 percent, in the last eight to ten years, during that period where we’re supposed to have watchdogs there,” he said.
The town, Pouliot noted, needed more businesses.
“Bring businesses in, responsibly,” he said. “We want to maintain the character of the town, rural and agricultural.”
Attorney Mark Reynolds has been a Richmond resident for more than 20 years. In addition to serving as Town Moderator, he chairs the town’s Board of Tax Assessment and Review, and is a member of the Charter Review Commission.
“Watching things over the past year, I think the council needs people who are independent and willing to listen to others and try to come up with solutions to problems,” he said. “I wasn’t sure that people had that option – someone who was not associated with either party, who would listen to others’ views and make decisions based upon the best interests of the town.”
In addition to reducing the property tax burden and expanding the tax base by encouraging responsible commercial development, Reynolds said the town should make an effort to address the issues of mental health and addiction.
“How can we build that capacity?” he said. “As a town we can’t necessarily provide those services to individuals, but at least if we have a coordinated way, a central clearing house, to refer people to different agencies or entities that could help them and try to identify people who are in need.”
One of the roles of municipal government, Reynolds said, is to help solve residents’ problems.
“I’m sure there will be issues that come up that may be specific to a particular individual or a group of individuals, to try to find solutions to those problems,” he said. “Globally, it’s trying to meet the needs of the residents and try and keep the taxes affordable so that people can continue to live in town.”
Also running as an Independent is attorney, Nicholas Solitro, who moved his family from Warwick to Richmond seven years ago.
The current Chair of the Zoning Board of Review, Solitro has served on the board for about five years.
“I look at my tax bill and I see where it goes,” he said. “The vast majority is municipal services and the school district. If we have a top tier school district and depending on what metrics you look at, we’re up there, but for what we pay, it’s certainly considerable.”
Solitro does not believe it is necessary to sacrifice Richmond’s rural character to attract businesses and lower property taxes.
“I think you can have both,” he said. “The taxes we pay are a massive burden on families and you see the bills coming in every year and for many people, [it’s] a massive chunk of the income they bring in and it’s suffocating. There needs to be a plan in place to deal with those high taxes.”
As an attorney, and as Chair of the Zoning Board, Solitro said he had the knowledge and experience to encourage businesses to locate to Richmond.
“For a living, I deal with cities and towns, whether I’m advocating on their behalf or advocating for a client who needs something from a city or town,” he said. “My approach as Chair of the Zoning Board has always been ‘How can I help? What do you need? What can we do to help you?’ That is what I intend to bring to the Town Council.”
Planning Board member Daniel Madnick, a Richmond resident for the past six years, is a structural engineering supervisor at Electric Boat in Groton, Connecticut.
Madnick has already compiled a list of goals that, if elected to the council, he will work to achieve.
“I want more public input and discussions,” he said. “I want people more involved. I think we need to inform the public on the purpose of various boards and commissions along with the Town Council.”
The town’s most pressing issues, Madnick said, include land use, rising taxes, and a lack of local healthcare resources. The enforcement of municipal regulations is also a problem.
“There’s Wood River Health, which is fairly close by, there are some additional social and mental health organizations in the region, which is documented in our comp plan, and one of the things that don’t really consider is enforcement of regulations in town building,” he said. “We have all these ordinances regulations on the books and we legislate them, the Planning Board makes decisions on them, but we don’t have a mechanism in the town to enforce it, and that’s something I’ve talked a lot about with town staff.”
Improving efficiency and a greater appreciation of town staff are also on Madnick’s list. So is expanding the hours of the transfer station.
“I would like to designate one or two days out of the week where the transfer station is open late for residents that cannot make it before 4 p.m.,” he said. “A lot of people complain about it that I talk to.”
Another goal is to work with the Rhode Island Department of Transportation to review the Route 138 corridor from Interstate 95 to Route 3 in Wyoming.
“It’s safety issue,” he said. “We need to improve vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian safety in that area, and one of the things we can do is apply for federal government grants.”
Partisanship, Madnick said, should not be a factor on the council.
“I don’t agree with the party system as it is,” he said. “I also don’t feel that, at the Town Council, party affiliation should matter. It should be non-partisan, because at this level, we’re all trying to work in the best interest of the town, and getting caught up in national politics, which we have very little influence in, doesn’t help us here.”
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
Planning Board Update for June 28, 2022
Housing-Vineyard Proposal Gets Cool Reception from Planning Board
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – A pre-application for a conservation development and vineyard was met with questions, and a degree of skepticism, at the June 28 Planning Board meeting.
The developer, Punchbowl Development Corporation of Westerly, is proposing to subdivide a 19.6-acre property on Punchbowl Trail into eight residential lots. The wooded parcel abuts the 100-acre Crawley Preserve, which is owned by the Richmond Rural Preservation Land Trust.
Any project consisting of more than five lots is considered to be a major subdivision and therefore must go through four stages of Planning Board review: pre-application, master plan, preliminary plan and final plan. The developer will also be required to include at least two affordable dwelling units.
Town Planner Shaun Lacey explained that the conservation development, which the preliminary plan indicates would be accessed by a single, privately-owned cul - de - sac, would include open space, part of which would be cleared for a vineyard.
Conservation development requires that at least 60 percent of the property be preserved as open space. In this case, part of the open space would be cleared to create the vineyard.
“The remaining land would be privately-owned open space,” Lacey told the board. “Conceptually, the applicant’s proposing to use a portion of that open space for a vineyard. That vineyard would supply grapes for a local winery that’s located on Beaver River Road.”
Planning Board members voiced concerns about a letter from Department of Public Works Director and Fire Chief, Scott Barber, opposing the cul-de-sac, which is not currently permitted in major subdivisions. Barber also questioned whether the private road would conform to the state fire code.
Board member Nancy Hess said she needed to know more about who uses Punchbowl Trail. She also asked for a more detailed description of a small wetland located in the center of the property, near the street.
“I have noticed that there are not a lot of cars coming off Punchbowl Trail currently,” she said. “… I didn’t see anything in the submission about what kind of wetland it is that lies in the corner, and my concern is that your street … basically abuts that tiny wetland.”
Steven Surdut, the attorney representing the developer, told the board that agriculture was permitted, by right, in conservation development open space.
Board Chair Philip Damicis replied that as one of the authors of the town’s land use regulations, he had a deeper understanding of the purpose of the open space provision, which was to protect valuable soil.
“… the only reason agricultural use was in as an open space use was that we had prime agricultural soil that needed to be protected,” he said. “In this case, we don’t have agricultural soils, it’s not existing farmland, the benefit to the town as far as I can see, is to maintain the green space and contiguous open space, so I would argue that right now – I’m home wine-maker, I love wine - but I do not think the vineyard is an appropriate use for this development.”
Board members agreed that they would need to visit the property to fully appreciate its attributes and asked Lacey to arrange a site visit.
Town Council Meeting Update for 6/21/22
Council Considers School Security Proposal, Recreational Cannabis
By Cynthia Drummond
RICHMOND – At the June 21 meeting, the Town Council continued the discussion from the June 7 meeting of a proposal to use American Rescue Plan Act funds to improve security at Richmond Elementary School.
The council also approved a resolution authorizing a question on the ballot of the Nov. 8 general election on sales of recreational cannabis.
After consultations with school and public safety officials, council Vice President James Palmisciano presented his proposal for strengthening security at Richmond Elementary School, and also, possibly, on the Chariho campus.
Palmisciano’s “School ARPA Funding Expenditure” proposal, or S.A.F.E., would improve technology, infrastructure and response capabilities at the elementary school, following the murders of 19 children and two teachers on May 24 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. The town will receive more than $2.3 million in ARPA funds, and the proposed security enhancements would cost $86.050.
Improvements to the school’s technology would include the addition of five video monitoring cameras, enhanced internal communications and the installation of additional badge-readers.
Infrastructure improvements would include concrete bollards at entrances, the installation of bullet proof window glass, and the restriction of visibility at ground floor windows through the application of a special 3M film.
Police would receive additional equipment which would include shields and tactical gear.
“We talked about our police force, in Richmond, in conjunction with Chief Johnson,” Palmisciano told the council. “Our police force does not have those shields. …That type of shield, anti-ballistic shield, would be something that our police force would want to acquire. Also, the door-ram, and tactical gear, again, to enable a quick response by our local police force so we wouldn’t have to wait for the appropriate teams to arrive. We’d be able to respond ourselves.”
Palmisciano noted that his proposed measures would be a proactive response to the threat of a possible attack at the elementary school.
“All too often, we’re faced with incidents like what we witnessed in Texas and countless other occasions,” he said. “We ask ourselves, ‘what can we do to help prevent this from happening again?’ We’ve all said that, right? We see it and say ‘what can we do? What can we do differently?’…This is something we can do, this truly is.”
The proposal was referred to town staff for further consideration.
The council approved a resolution which will ask voters to approve or reject the issuance of new licenses for the cultivation, manufacture, laboratory testing and retail sales of adult recreational use cannabis in the town. Unless the town prohibits recreational marijuana sales, which were recently approved by the state legislature, those sales would be permitted.
The question will be on the ballot for the Nov. 8 general election.
During a public hearing, the council received an update on proposed amendments to the town’s Home Rule Charter, which, if approved, would replace the Financial Town Meeting with an all-day referendum and change the title of Town Administrator to Town Manager.
The council asked Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth to modify some of the proposed changes, which will be discussed at the July 12 meet8ing.
In other business, police Chief Elwood Johnson warned residents of a scam involving a telephone call from a person claiming to be a police officer.
“They have twice now represented themselves as a member of the police department, one from Richmond and the other one from a police department in Alabama, basically saying that they had accepted or received at the business that they work at in town, some type of bogus bill, counterfeit bill, and that they were going to be arrested if they didn’t go and get $400 out of their account and mail it or send it to a third - party location,” he said.
Johnson noted that the police would never telephone a resident and demand money.
“The person has a southern accent,” he added. “I can assure you, I know everybody that works at the Richmond Police Department. Not one of them has a southern accent – not even a southern Rhode Island accent.”
Large Field of Candidates Running in 2022
June 30, 2022
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – With the level of political engagement in Rhode Island running high, 13 people have filed their candidacies for the five seats on the Town Council.
The field includes six Republicans, three Democrats and four unaffiliated candidates.
Of the current Town Council members, only one, council President Nell Carpenter, is not running for reelection. Council Vice President James Palmisciano and councilors Richard Nassaney, Lauren Cacciola and Ronald Newman are all seeking additional terms.
The Republican candidates are: business owner, Richard Nassaney, medical imaging specialist, Mark Trimmer, psychotherapist and businesswoman, Helen Sheehan, former postmaster Raymond Pouliot, Michael Colasante, a business owner and former council member, and Jeffrey Vaillancourt, who currently serves on the Zoning Board.
One of the most pressing issues in town is high property taxes. Colasante, who served on the council in 1991 and 1992, said he had been able to reduce taxes during that period and was eager to do it again.
“When I was on the council, the taxes went down,” he said. “We just had to be courageous and make the hard decisions and be able to take the mud-slinging, and hopefully these same people in the end, once the dust settles, realize that you actually did the right thing, and that’s basically what I want to do again.”
Trimmer, a medical imaging specialist who has served two previous terms on the council, did not run in the last election because he has been dealing with health issues.
“I’m fighting cancer, I’m winning, and I look forward to serving the people of Richmond again,” he said.
Trimmer echoed other candidates’ concerns about Richmond’s taxes and affordability.
“I am hoping to help the residents of Richmond remain in their town and keep the town affordable for them,” he said.
The only Republican on the current council, Richard Nassaney, is seeking a fourth term, but he noted that if reelected, this term would be his last.
“…I just want to go out with a council that is going to be wholesome, that is going to be for the town, not for themselves, not looking to attack anybody or be negative,” he said. “I would just like a good, working, thoughtful, intelligent council.”
Republican Town Committee Chair Louise Dinsmore said her party’s candidates would be focused on making Richmond more affordable.
“We all live here for a reason. We love our town. I’m not running, but personally, my taxes have gone up 33 percent in six years. That’s a lot. And we all see that and we all feel like we have to do something to hold the line on these tax increases,” she said.
Incumbents Lauren Cacciola and Ronald Newman have been joined by political newcomer, Samantha Wilcox, who serves on the Conservation Commission and the Dog Park Committee.
Wilcox said her current involvement with the town had prompted her to run for Town Council.
“I decided to run after helping so much with the dog park committee,” she said.
Wilcox said she hoped to preserve the town’s rural character while supporting local businesses.
Newman who has served six terms on the council, said he was concerned about high taxes.
“I’d like to see taxes level off and if possible, be reduced, but we have to find out where we can do that,” he said. “I know the school budget is high and it’s easy to say ‘we want to reduce it’. How are you going to do that? Maybe level-fund it? And that’s basically what happened here. I don’t know how you’re going to reduce it. I don’t want to hurt the children’s education that live in town.”
Daniel Madnick, Mark Reynolds, Nicholas Solitro and James Palmisciano are running as Independents.
Palmisciano said he had learned during his first term that it was important for council members to be fully engaged with constituents. He also noted that his term had been impacted by the pandemic.
“I was already elected for almost a year before I ever sat in the council chamber with other people,” he wrote in an emailed response. “As we fully emerge from this pandemic and all aspects of life return to normal [social, supply chain, services access], I would like to have the opportunity to lead our community in both a communal and economic revival of Richmond as a member of council.”
Daniel Madnick, a structural engineer at General Dynamics Electric Boat in Groton serves on the Planning Board.
Mark Reynolds, who has served on the Charter Review Commission, is currently the Town Moderator and chairs the Tax Assessment Board of Review.
Nicholas Solitro, an attorney, currently chairs the Zoning Board.
Information on state and Congressional candidates is available on the Secretary of State’s website.
Residents Approve Town Budget While Nell Carpenter is Ruled Out of Order
Carpenter and Cacciola Cast Nay Votes
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – With council President Nell Carpenter and councilor Lauren Cacciola opposing the budget, residents attending the June 13 Financial Town Meeting nevertheless approved the fiscal year 2022-2023 municipal spending plan by a wide margin.
There were few questions at the annual meeting at Richmond Elementary School, conducted by Town Moderator Mark Reynolds and lasting just 28 minutes.
The residents’ approval of the municipal budget determines the tax rate, which is expected to be $20.58 in 2023, although the tax roll remains to be certified.
The proposed municipal budget is $7.4 million, an increase of 3.37%, or $240,650. The town’s share of the Chariho schoolsbudget, $20.3 million, was previously determined by the Chariho budget referendum.
Neither Carpenter nor Cacciola attended the public hearing on April 19th, during which the remaining three members of the Town Council approved the budget, moving it forward to the Financial Town Meeting.
During her opening remarks at the Financial Town Meeting, Carpenter called for the vote to take place by paper ballot.
“At this time, Mr. Moderator, I would like to motion to move to paper ballot, specific to financial votes,” she said.
Cacciola seconded the motion, which was greeted by several moments of silence, as Reynolds and Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth appeared to be considering how to respond.
Reynolds informed Carpenter that the town charter did not provide for a paper ballot without a special motion supported by at least 20% of attendees.
“The charter does allow for a paper ballot if 20% of those in attendance vote to do that, but we don’t have a motion on the floor yet,” he said.
To underscore his response, Reynolds also read aloud the provision in the charter, but Carpenter persisted.
“I have made a motion to move to paper ballot, specific to financial votes and not to include minute approval, resolutions, etcetera, simply related to financial votes, and we have a second on the floor,” she said.
“And I’m ruling the motion out of order,” Reynolds stated.
The budget vote, a voice vote, then took place and the budget was approved, with Carpenter and Cacciola voting against it.
After the meeting adjourned, council Vice President James Palmisciano said he was satisfied with the outcome.
“Pleased on many points,” he said. “One, that the hard work that was done by all of the members of the staff, that it is recognized that they are putting forward a fiscally responsible budget. Also, very pleased to see the number of people that had come out and that we were able to have a meeting …
That is democracy, right? There’s always going to be a dissenting vote, but the majority spoke, so that was positive.”
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
RICHMOND TOWN COUNCIL MEETING - UPDATE for JUNE 7, 2022
Council Refers COVID Rescue Fund Decisions to Administrators
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – With Town Council President Nell Carpenter and councilor Lauren Cacciola absent, three council members agreed at the June 7 meeting to refer decisions on the allocation of American Rescue Plan Act funds to Town Administrator Karen Pinch, Finance Director Laura Kenyon, and members of the Finance Board.
The town is receiving $2.3 million in ARPA funds, of which $249,050 has been allocated. However, council Vice President James Palmisciano has raised questions regarding the $75,000 the town has set aside for a director of the town’s proposed community center. While the position was recommended by the Wellness Committee, Palmisciano has suggested that the funds might be better spent on reinforcing school security measures, including new purchasing equipment for the police.
“We have three council members here,” he said. “On the 21st, [the next council meeting] I expect we will have five. What I would love to have to bring this to a close is to ask the administration to take all the recommendations that we have, come back on the 21st with your recommendations for council on what you see, and of course, at the end of the day, council will have the authorization to approve, or deny or discuss, but I think it would allow us to bring this to a close.”
Council member Richard Nassaney asked whether the $75,000 for the Community Center Director could be approved.
“Do you want to get that through, so they can get going on that program, if you will, so that there’s some wheels underneath it? Because it’s something we’ve already put into the budget,” he asked.
Kenyon said she had understood that the council had already approved the funding for the position.
“Honestly, I thought they had more or less approved the position when the Wellness Committee presented, so that’s the only pending item,” she said.
Palmisciano said he still had questions about how the position would be funded after the three years of ARPA funds end.
“I do have the job description, as it is described in the Wellness [Committee] but I would like to get more information on how that cost transfers after ARPA runs out, from a capital and operating expense perspective, on how we do that, whether it be a permanent position, whether it’s a contract position,” he said. “Those are some of the things I still need answers to, so I would rather wait until I have that opportunity.”
Kenyon said the position could be subject to council approval of renewal after the three-year ARPA funding period.
The council agreed to continue the discussion to the July 12 meeting, when administrators will make recommendations for ARPA funding allocations.
In other business, the consideration of proposed amendments to the Home Rule Charter was also constrained by the absences of the two council members.
The Charter Review Commission has made recommendations for amendments to the charter, and Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth made some changes to that draft.
Palmisciano wanted to wait for all five council members to approve the changes, but Nassaney said he wanted to get started.
“We can’t wait,” he said. “It’s their decision to not be here. We have business for the town that needs to be done. Their decision is theirs. They live with it. We’re here. We’re working, so be it. Let’s go to work.”
Among the proposed changes is the introduction of an all-day budget referendum that would replace the Financial Town Meeting. In addition, the position of Town Administrator would be changed to Town Manager, and all town employees would receive annual performance reviews.
Nassaney made a motion to authorize the town to advertise a public hearing, which will take place at the June 21 council meeting.
Town Clerk Erin Liesse told the council that recent redistricting has added more voters to the town’s list, necessitating the creation of a third polling district.
The town currently has two polling locations, one at Richmond Elementary School and another at Chariho Middle School.
“We are 200 voters over the allowed for two precincts,” she said. “The Rhode Island City Clerks had put in legislation increasing the precinct cap to 3,500, so unfortunately, it did not move and we had to open a third polling location.”
Liesse said there will now be three polling places, the Town Hall, Richmond Elementary School and Chariho Middle School.
“It increases the amount of poll workers we’re going to need, so this is another plug, if you are available to work on the primary or the general election, take a look online or stop in my office,” she said.
Residents affected by the change will receive notifications in the mail. Liesse encouraged residents to visit the Rhode Island Secretary of State’s website to check their voter status and polling location.
The council also considered the recent passage of the Cannabis Act, which legalizes recreational marijuana sales in Rhode Island. Richmond has opposed recreational marijuana sales, and Ellsworth told the council that towns will be able to opt out.
“It has an opt-out provision for cities and towns that do not want to permit retail sales of non-medical marijuana in their community,” she said. “To take advantage of that opt-out, you have to enact a resolution putting a referendum question on the November 8 ballot asking the residents of your community whether they would like to opt out of this.”
Ellsworth warned the council that if residents do not vote against the sale of recreational marijuana in a referendum, the state would have the authority to issue sales licenses in the town. However, the town could still exclude recreational sales by amending its zoning ordinance.
“It does not prevent you from enacting zoning ordinances and other ordinances that would be reasonable…for instance, the location where sales could take place, smoking in public places, that kind of stuff. You could still do that,” she said.
Ellsworth also noted that the town would have the right to approve ordinance amendments regardless of the outcome of the referendum vote.
Town Administrator Karen Pinch announced that the dog park will receive a “small recreation grant” from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management for $71,580, most of which will be used to build a fence around the park. The new dog park will be located near the base of the town’s water tower, at the entrance to the Heritage Trail.
“The dog park has been trying very hard to raise those funds for years and years and years, so they’re very happy about this,” she said.
Pinch also described two major procurement projects, one involving the selection of a new information technology vendor and a second project, the selection of a new water operator. Contracts with both of the town’s current providers will expire soon. The town has issued a request for proposals for an IT provider and will soon issue an RFP for the water operator.
The council agreed on the dates of the two council meetings this summer. There will be one meeting each month, the first on July 12 and the second on August 16.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
Richmond Town Council Update for May 31, 2022
Council Approves Resolution Supporting Roundabout – with Conditions
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – At a special Town Council meeting on May 31, council members approved a resolution supporting the construction of a new roundabout at the intersection of Kingstown Road (Route 138), Richmond Townhouse Road (Route 112), and Carolina Nooseneck Road.
However, the town’s support is conditional on the Rhode Island Department of Transportation devising a solution to traffic issues created by a long line of parents waiting at Richmond Elementary School during morning drop-off. The line of vehicles spills into the breakdown lane of Route 138 and would also enter the new roundabout.
Passed by a unanimous vote, the resolution states, in part,
“…Richmond Town Council hereby endorses RIDOT’s plans for construction of the roundabout at Routes 138 and 112, provided that RIDOT continues to consult with the Town to develop a design that will resolve the traffic queueing problem at the Richmond Elementary School. “
Council Vice President James Palmisciano, who chaired the meeting in the absence of Council President Nell Carpenter, said he had visited the school during parent drop-off to observe the traffic situation, said it would be important to find a solution to a hazardous situation that would be exacerbated by the roundabout.
“The last thing we need is traffic impacting the safety of our children,” he said.
Municipal officials, including Department of Public Works Director Scott Barber and Police Chief Elwood Johnson, joined DOT representatives at a May 24 site visit during the busy morning drop-off.
Johnson described the current configuration of the roadway as “difficult” because of how Route 138 becomes a hill that descends to the school zone.
“Vehicles traveling at higher speeds, and then approaching a blind corner where the parents drop off, … where it creates sightline difficulties and blind spots that make it difficult to navigate as you’re pulling out of there, particularly a left hand turn to cross the westbound lane and get into the eastbound lane,” he said.
Johnson said in the morning, at student drop-off time, the line of cars is very long.
“It can go as far back as Carolina Nooseneck (Road), not actually, usually, on the other side of Carolina Nooseneck, but it gets close to where that flashing sign is on the eastern side of the [school] campus,” he said.
Parents have been directed to wait in the breakdown lane, which has been made safer by the presence of a police cruiser.
Johnson said after seeing the traffic issues for themselves, DOT representatives agreed that the roundabout design would have to be modified.
“After watching it, they saw the same thing, that the roundabout, as I understand it, will take about 120 feet of that breakdown lane and they thought that they could address that by widening the breakdown lane from Carolina Nooseneck, going toward the first entrance, the East entrance of the school, and they thought that they could address that by widening the breakdown lane, taking away some of the lawn but affording more space for vehicles to get off of the travel portion and out of the current breakdown lane, so they’re going to work on something like that and they were very agreeable,” he said.
Chariho Superintendent of Schools Gina Picard, who attended the council meeting with Richmond School Principal, Sharon Martin, said she was pleased with DOT’s responsiveness to the safety concerns.
“They have the means to be able to support us, thinking about morning arrival and dismissal, so it doesn’t back up into that roundabout,” she said. “They talked about a potential access lane for morning arrivals that they could work on…We’re thrilled that they’re talking with us, keeping us in the loop and they want to help us.”
Construction of the roundabout is expected to begin next Spring.
In other business, the council continued discussions of two matters: the allocation of the town’s American Rescue Plan funds and amendments to the Home Rule charter.
The town will receive more than $2.3 million in ARPA funds and the council has already approved the allocation of $249,000 of that federal money for a list of projects.
However, Palmisciano said that in light of the recent calls to review and possibly tighten security at Rhode Island schools, those allocations, which include a community center director proposed by the town’s Wellness Committee, might have to change.
“Not to discredit the work that was done by the Wellness Committee, but frankly, looking at our schools, looking at how we might be able to use the ARPA money to reinforce training, security and things for our police department to be able to react at a time of need,” he said.
The council continued the discussion to the June 7 meeting.
The council also continued its consideration of proposed amendments to the Home Rule Charter submitted by the Charter Review Commission. In a memorandum sent to Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth on May 17, the commission suggested several changes to the charter some of which, Ellsworth said, would involve policy decisions.
“I probably spent between 10 and 12 hours on this,” she said. “Amending the charter is a major undertaking and every word is important, so I think that, at the very least, it deserves more discussion and some policy decisions and possibly, a discussion with members of the Charter [Review] Commission.”
One of the recommendations involves replacing the town’s annual Financial Town Meeting with an all-day referendum.
Commission Chair B. Joseph Reddish said the referendum would make it possible for more residents to participate in the budget process, because so few people currently attend the town meetings.
“Right now, less than 100 people decide the fate of the budget for the Town of Richmond,” he said. “We feel it’s more important to get more people engaged in this process by having an all-day referendum.”
Ellsworth said she would work on clarifying the language in the commission’s memorandum.
In a public hearing that took place earlier in the evening, the council approved an application by the Wawaloam Reservation Inc. for an outdoor entertainment license for summer music and a drive - through holiday light display in November and December at the campground.
Wawaloam owners are organizing this year’s light display themselves, after an unsuccessful collaboration in 2020 with an outside company, BOLD Media.
The council approved the license for the event, which will take place in November and December and is expected to draw about 1,500 people.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
Board Continues Discussion of Aquifer Protection District - May 25th 2022
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – Planning Board members discussed the town’s “Aquifer Protection Overlay District” zoning ordinance at the May 24 meeting, completing their evaluation of the list of activities in the district. They also considered a new draft of the ordinance itself, which includes procedural and compliance requirements as well as development standards.
The aquifer protection overlay district, the section of town that sits atop the drinking water aquifer, has been divided into two sub-districts, a groundwater and wellhead protection zone (Sub-district A) and a groundwater recharge zone (Sub-district B).
Board members had begun going through the use table at the April 26 meeting and completed their assessment on Tuesday. Each use in the table was considered in terms of its potential impact on the aquifer and whether it should be permitted, either by right or by special use permit, in one or both of the sub-districts.
Town Planner Shawn Lacey told board members,
“At our last workshop meeting, on the aquifer protection overlay drafts and as related to the use code table, we made it as far as page 10 in just reviewing the range of uses that were being proposed within the aquifer overlay Sub-district A, Sub-district B. So basically, at this time, I think we’re just picking up on where we last left off.”
Members went through the use code table, beginning with “repair services,” which were proposed as requiring a special use permit in Sub-district A, but were permitted by right in Sub-district B.
Several uses, members decided, should not be permitted in either sub-district. Those include pet cemeteries, dry cleaners, metals fabrication and breweries.
Lacey said he would make the changes, and would also amend the zoning map.
“I need to get to work on actually creating an updated zoning map, because we have to create Sub-district A,” he said. “B, in effect already exists.”
The board also considered an amended draft aquifer protection overlay district ordinance. The first draft was presented to the board in April and Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth has since added revisions to the ordinance, based on the board’s feedback.
Ellsworth noted, however, that in some categories, such as those involving water use, it would be necessary to solicit feedback from professionals with technical training.
“I reached the limit of my expertise with this entire draft, and I think what we need to do now is send it to somebody who actually knows about this stuff, because I think that for some stuff you want to take out and some stuff you want to put in, I don’t know, because I’m just not qualified,” she said.
Members agreed to ask experts, including a hydrogeologist, and Lorraine Joubert, who leads the University of Rhode Island’s Cooperative Extension Water Quality Program, to look at the amended ordinance and suggest improvements.
“We’ll have our consultant take a look at it, if we missed anything or we need to define it further,” Board Chair Philip Damicis said.
In other business, board members commented on proposed changes to the Planning Board website. The updated site will provide information on the jurisdiction and authority of the Planning Board, a current list of development applications and a flow chart showing how the application process works.
Lacey said the chart was a visual illustration of the stages of the process.
“It’s kind of basic,” he said. “It’s kind of like ‘here’s where you begin and here’s what’s involved and how the process becomes complete’.”
Board Vice Chair Nancy Hess said she thought it was important to explain that the approval process is determined by the state.
“I think we need to state that this review is dictated by the state,” she said.
A site visit, (an official Planning Board meeting and therefore, open to the public) will take place at 67 Stilson Road at 8 a.m. on Saturday, May 28.
Board members, accompanied by at least one representative of the applicant, Joseph Catelli, will consider the suitability of the site for the proposed “Stilson Trade Center,” involving the renovation of an existing warehouse and the construction of seven new warehouse buildings, which would be rented to tradespeople. The property is located in an industrial zone.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
Questions Persist on Proposed Roundabout
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – Town Council members had more questions at the May 17th meeting about the proposed roundabout at the intersection of Kingstown Road (Route 138), Richmond Townhouse Road (Route 112), and Carolina Nooseneck Road.
Richmond Townhouse Road, between Routes 112 and 138, would also be reconfigured, from a two-way road to a one-way, eastbound direction.
There is general agreement that something needs to be done to slow traffic at the busy intersection where many accidents have occurred, but several council members wondered about what could be done about the long line of vehicles waiting at Richmond Elementary School during morning drop-off that spills into the breakdown lane of Route 138 and would also spill into the new roundabout.
Council Vice President James Palmisciano, who chaired the meeting since council President Nell Carpenter was absent, said he believed that school drop-off traffic was a safety concern
“My biggest concern is what’s going to happen,” he said. “I went out and saw. Parent drop-off in the morning is worse than pickup. Cars would back up to the roundabout and I understand that the state will have to pay more to deal with drainage and septic but what happens when the first car gets rammed in the back?”
Rhode Island Department of Transportation engineer David Capalbo, who has been the liaison between the state and the council, was available to answer questions with a second RIDOT engineer, Brad Leach. Leach said he had not observed the morning school drop-off but added that he planned to do a site visit.
“We will getting out there at some point to observe the traffic in the morning and see what we can do to address that,” he said.
Palmisciano asked whether there would be a plan to address the school traffic before the roundabout is built, and Leach responded that a plan would be in place before the project goes out to bid in August.
Councilor Ronald Newman said had heard from residents who asked why a roundabout is even necessary.
“If we did nothing, left it the way it was, or is, is something going to happen anyway? Is the state going to do something?” he said. “I’m trying to figure out why we’re doing this. I apologize, but I get a lot of questions from people in town, and I honestly tell you, and maybe council too, no one has said to me ‘this is wonderful. This is great.’”
Police Chief Elwood Johnson said something needs to be done to improve safety at the intersection, where, over the last 10 years, there have been approximately 100 accidents.
“You’ve got people traveling at speed, particularly westbound, where the road has been widened,” he said. “People are more comfortable. They think they can travel at higher speeds. Some are familiar with it. They think they have time to slow down….46 of those crashes, about half of them, are rear-end accidents. What happens is, people come to the stop sign. There are so many intersections and places to look, that people are overwhelmed and distracted and rear-ends occur right here at 112, where people come to the stop sign, [and] they rear-end the car in front of them. The other place that happens is [route] 138, in either direction.”
The roundabout, Johnson said, would force drivers to slow down.
“The roundabout forces people into a physical softening of angle and it also reduces speed,” he said.
The state will begin construction of the roundabout next April. Work will take place at night to minimize traffic disruptions and will be suspended altogether during the Washington County Fair, from Aug. 17 to Aug. 21. The project is expected to be completed by Dec. 15.
Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth is preparing a resolution which will formalize the town’s support of the roundabout project. She will add a provision ensuring that the RIDOT will consult with the town to ensure traffic safety at the school.
“You could prepare that and then you could come back to us for review,” Palmisciano said.
The resolution will be discussed at the May 31 council meeting.
In other business, Johnson explained the terms of a memorandum of understanding between the towns of Richmond and Hopkinton that would introduce uniform house number signs to make it easier for emergency responders to locate specific addresses.
“Some people like to put tiny design numbers, some don’t like that many numbers on their house,” he said. “It just becomes a problem in emergency response where folks like Hope Valley Ambulance try to find an address in low light conditions. This would kind of have a standard set of numbers, size, contrasting colors. It helps, in a response time, to eliminate foreseeable problems to locate a house in the event of an emergency.”
Ellsworth said the towns would purchase the number signs and make them available to residents at a nominal cost.
“They would all look the same and they would be easily legible from the street,” she said.
The council also issued a renewed call for volunteers to serve on town boards and commissions. The Planning Board is short one member, and the Zoning Board of Review is short two members - a regular member and a second alternate.
“The Zoning Board is down to five members,” Ellsworth said. “Five members is the minimum number needed for them to do business.”
While its work load can be considerable at times, the Zoning Board has not convened often in the past year. The most recent meeting was in Sept. 2021.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
Chariho level funds budget - May 16 2022
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – Following voters’ rejections of two proposed budgets, the Chariho Regional School District has level funded the 2022-2023 spending plan.
In two referendums, the first on April 5, and another on May 5, residents of Richmond and Hopkinton voted against the budget while Charlestown residents voted to approve it.
The message from Richmond and Hopkinton voters was clear: no budget increases, even the proposed 1.9%, would be supported.
Rather than hold a third referendum, the School Committee opted at the May 10 meeting for level funding, which required additional reductions of $525,750 from the proposed $55.2 million budget.
The budget cuts resulted in reductions to less controversial items such as teaching materials and furniture, but they also meant staffing cuts.
The vacant positions of high school science teacher, fiscal clerk and part time middle and high school librarian will not be filled. Two full time world language teaching positions were also cut.
Administrators and School Committee members are still hoping for the restoration of state transportation aid to Rhode Island’s regional school districts, which would return more than $500,000 to Chariho. The General Assembly is expected to reach a decision on transportation aid in the coming weeks.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
Editor’s note: We apologize but due to a technical difficulty, this story may not have reached all BRVCA members last Friday, as intended.
Voters again reject Chariho budget
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – In a second referendum on the proposed Chariho Regional School District, voters once again rejected the 2023 spending plan. The results of the May 5 vote followed the same pattern evident in the first referendum on April 5, with Charlestown voters’ support outweighed by voters in the two other Chariho towns.
In Charlestown, 380 residents voted in favor of the budget and 170 voted against it. In Hopkinton, there were 262 votes in favor and 518 opposed, and in Richmond, 349 in favor and 474 opposed.
After the first budget defeat, the School Committee made $543,308 in additional cuts. The proposed $55.2 million budget is a 1.9% increase over the current budget. The three towns, whose contributions to the school district are determined by enrollment, would all have seen increases: 2% for Richmond, and 1% for Hopkinton with Charlestown seeing the largest increase, 2.7%.
This second budget defeat leaves the School Committee with two choices: level-fund the budget or make more cuts and submit the budget to a third and final referendum in June. If a new budget has not been approved by July 1, the school district will continue to operate with the current budget.
Superintendent of Schools Gina Picard said that while the goal of the budgeting process has been to avoid cuts to staff, those cuts might now have to be made in order to present the level-funded budget that voters are demanding.
“I think the majority of voters that are coming out, I think that’s what they’re looking for,” she said. “…46% voted yes, right, so, when you say majority, it’s close, but it just wasn’t enough.”
Despite concerns voiced by parents of children in the four elementary schools that budget cuts will lead to larger class sizes, Picard said that scenario was now more likely.
“We’ll tighten the belts and class size in elementary will get a little bit higher than we really prefer,” she said. “…We’re going to review everything. Right now, we definitely know that there’ll be impacts to staffing.”
The one possible bright spot is the anticipated restoration of state transportation aid to the regional school districts, which, if it is allocated, will mean more than $500,000 for Chariho. Picard said she hoped the district would receive the aid but she noted that it was not a certainty.
“We created a plan to be ready if it was a no, and then honestly, if the transportation funding comes through, that will be something that provides us a better outlook. It’s an unwritten check, so we don’t have it in hand. You can’t count on that.”
The School Committee will discuss further budget reductions at the May 10 meeting. Picard said residents who have questions about the budget are welcome to contact her directly at: 401 364-7575 or by email: email@example.com
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
IMPORTANT UPDATE for Richmond Town Council Meeting of May 3, 2022
Council Hears Details of New Roundabout
Town officials have clarified the source of the map of the design for the proposed roundabout. As several council members pointed out at the May 3 meeting, the version of the map presented at the meeting was outdated, however, it was attached to the council meeting agenda as background information only and was not provided by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation for discussion at that meeting. The DOT has since sent an updated map to the Town Council. The new map will be attached to the agenda of the next council meeting on May 17, when the discussion of the roundabout will continue. In the meantime, town staff and administrators will join DOT representatives on a site visit next week, and will draft a resolution supporting the project for the council to consider. Despite state ownership and authority over the three roads in question, the state is seeking to ensure that the project, which has been in the works since 2015, still has the town’s support.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
Council Hears Details of New Roundabout
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – Town Council members received new information at their Tuesday meeting regarding the timeline for the construction of the new roundabout at the intersection of Kingstown Road (Route 138), Richmond Townhouse Road (Route 112), and Carolina Nooseneck Road.
First proposed in 2019, the roundabout is expected to improve safety at the busy intersection, which has been the site of multiple vehicle accidents over the years. Another significant change will be the reconfiguration of Richmond Townhouse Road, between Routes 112 and 138, from a two-way road to a one-way, eastbound direction.
Rhode Island Department of Transportation engineer David Capalbo explained that the Richmond roundabout will be different from the roundabouts in the Apponaug village of Warwick because it will have a single traffic lane rather than two.
Councilor Ronald Newman asked Capalbo how traffic would flow through the new roundabout, given the volume on the three busy roads and the number of trucks passing through the town.
“How is this going to be, as far as trucks going in and out, cars, I mean I think the numbers, and I don’t know what they are, are phenomenal on those roads,” he said.
“Similar roundabouts have been built in other high-volume roadways,” Capalbo replied. “…Apponaug is something that comes to attention, Route 117 in Warwick. Apponaug is actually a fourlane roundabout, two lanes in each direction. This would only be a one-lane roundabout in each direction.”
Town Council Vice President James Palmisciano then raised a question about the DOT design plan of the intersectionpresented at the council meeting. The rendering presented to the council appeared to be no longer accurate, he pointed out, pre-dating the reconfiguration of nearby Richmond Elementary School, which took place in 2019.
“You can see here at the top of the north side of 138 is Richmond Elementary School,” Palmisciano said. “That image of the lay of the land is an old picture and they’ve redone their entryway, so it doesn’t look anything like that, so I was wondering whether that could be at least updated.”
One of the concerns, Palmisciano added, is the volume of morning traffic in front of the school as parents drop off their children.
“The parent pickup and drop-off procedure they have there in the morning, if you look at this right now, where cars back up to, are pretty much right here sometimes,” he said, pointing to the drawing. “So, you’re going to have, potentially, people backing up into a roundabout, so that’s something to be concerned about.”
Capalbo agreed that the drawing did not reflect the final design plan.
This prompted Councilor Newman to request a current design plan.
“Looking at old pictures, with no disrespect to you, it’s not the quite the right thing to be looking at, so if we could have the right thing, forward, and then, maybe, meet with you again? Are you comfortable meeting, because again, no disrespect, but it’s kind of ridiculous to be looking at something and we’re asked to have our opinion and we don’t have the right stuff,” he said.
Council President Nell Carpenter noted that a small garden on one side of Route 138 will be lost when the roundabout is built and asked whether flowers could be planted in the center island.Capalbo said an island planting bed would be possible.
One resident, an avid cyclist, wondered about a bicycle lane in the roundabout, which, Capalbo said, would not be possible due to safety concerns.
“There are bike lanes proposed within the approaches to the roundabout, but there is no bike lane itself in the roundabout,” he said.
The DOT will solicit bids for the project in August and construction will begin in April, 2023. Work will take place at night to minimize traffic disruptions and will be suspended altogether during the Washington County Fair, from Aug. 17 to Aug. 21.
The project is expected to be completed by Dec. 15, the official end of the Rhode Island road construction season.
In other news, Town Administrator Karen Pinch announced that she had heard from Congressman James Langevin’s office that two recent grant applications submitted by the town had been denied.
The funding requests were $208,000 for an integrated, town-wide security camera system and $490,000 for a new communications tower. The tower would be located in Richmond but the funding request was submitted by the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency.
“Those were the projects for the radio tower and the camera system,” she said. “As you know, we did receive $587,000 through his office in the last round, so, you know, we can’t be surprised that we don’t get funded two years in a row.”
The council also passed a resolution opposing proposed state legislation that would allow the sales of wine and malt liquor byconvenience stores, grocery stores and markets.
Reasons for the town’s opposition include the potential financial impact on Richmond’s two package stores, more work for the police in enforcing underage drinking laws and no tax revenue for the town.
The second resolution called for the restoration of state aid for school transportation. When the financial incentives for regional school districts ended in 2010, they were replaced, in part, by categorical aid for transportation. The amount requested by Gov. Dan McKee for transportation aid this year will result in a shortfall of $590,584 for the Chariho Towns of Charlestown, Richmond and Hopkinton.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
New Sign at Preserve Entrance Has Residents Buzzing - April 29, 2022
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND – There’s a new sign at the recently - completed entrance to The Preserve Sporting Club and Residences at 87 Kingstown Road (Route 138). While it is currently just a large, black rectangle, it is a digital sign that will soon be illuminated, and that is causing quite a stir. Some residents worry that the sign will be too big, too bright, and too distracting to motorists on the busy road.
However, despite considerable hand wringing and speculation on social media, the sign is a permitted use in the “Planned Development Resort” zoning district developed in 2016 for the sporting club and upscale residences.
Town Planner Shaun Lacey, who was not yet employed by the town when the special zoning district was approved, said he understood that it had been created to cover the many diverse uses planned for the parcel, which has since become the largest generator of jobs and property taxes in the area.
“The purpose and the intent at that time was that the town didn’t have a set of regulations that encompassed the range of intensities and uses that the Preserve had planned for,” he said. “So, the town basically developed a sort of floating zone specifically for the Preserve to allow them to go through the permitting process for the various types of amenities and services that they offer at that facility.”
At a Town Council meeting on December 17, 2019, members approved amendments to the new zoning district that had been requested by Preserve owner, Paul Mihailides. One of the approved amendments was for a single, illuminated sign of up to 770 feet on Interstate 95, as well as two illuminated signs, each placed at an entrance to the 750-acre development.
Town Council Vice President James Palmisciano who was not on the council at the time of the December meeting, said that after receiving inquiries about the new sign from several residents, he went back and watched the recorded meeting minutes.
“I did receive a lot of questions from people, both in person and from constituent emails, asking about that sign, because of course, for many people who may not have followed what had happened, suddenly it was there, and they wanted to know what it was, why it was there, or how it was there and how it happened,” he said. “So, I went back and I watched the meeting from December 17, 2019, and watched the presentation to the council, and I looked at both what was written and what was presented in the meeting, and the council did approve that sign. They approved two, 16-foot signs at the entranceway, one at each entranceway, and there was also a request – there were several – I think there were five different ordinance changes on the docket, an initial one which included a sign that would be on [Interstate] 95 which was to be 65 feet up in the air, very similar to what you see at Centre of New England Plaza…If anyone goes back and watches that meeting, they’ll see how the events transpired.”
Responding to a request for comment, Mihailides, in a written statement, described the new sign as a reflection of positive economic growth in the town and throughout South County.
“The Preserve Sporting Club and Residences continues to build on its reputation as the finest facility of its kind in North America,” he said. “On May 1, we will become a member of Preferred Hotels and Resorts, which will further burnish our reputation and, in turn, that of the South County area. With the further addition of Ocean Side Medical and the OH spa, and upcoming plans for the outdoor brand Orvis to enhance our offerings, The Preserve is going to continue to attract positive attention and economic growth both locally and regionally. Our new signage reflects the positive developments at this property and the area. The sign will serve to help us drive increased business into the community as the gateway to Rhode Island.”
The new entrance sign is smaller than the maximum allowable size of 360 square feet, measuring 330 square feet and 16 feet high. Lacey said he expected the sign would be the type on which the Preserve’s advertising can be posted and changed.
“The sign itself is permitted to be digital, so I think the expectation that I would have is that it will have the ability to have changes in intensity, brightness and color, blinking, flashing, fluttering lights and so forth, you know, anything that is associated with a typical digital reader board sign,” he said.
Palmisciano said the image of the sign that was shown to council members at the December meeting appears to have been different from what was installed.
“I wonder if there were misunderstandings or misconceptions at the time of what exactly was to be going up, and I don’t want to speak for any former council members, because when you’re in that deep, in the moment, you’re trying to make the decision as best you can, but the image that was shown in the council meeting, and if you go back and you look at the image that was held up of the artist’s rendering of the entranceway, it shows a beautiful sign over the archway and it shows an entryway driveway, but nowhere in the image is there a picture of that black, electronic sign,” he said. “That said, in the written piece of the ordinance, it does say ‘two 360 - square foot, 16 - foot - high signs.’ So, that is what I had done for research to answer constituent questions.”
The town does have a dark sky ordinance, which applies to outdoor lighting, but does not include outdoor signs.
Editor’s note: to view the recording of the December 17th Town Council meeting, click on the link provided in this story, and scroll down the menu on the left side of the page to: Town Council, Town Council Minutes, 2019 council minutes, and December 17, 2019.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
Richmond Planning Board Update for April 26, 2022
Planning Board Hears Development Assessment Report
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND — Members of the Richmond Planning Board heard a presentation at their April 26 meeting on the town’s “Low Impact Development Site Planning and Design Techniques Municipal Self-Assessment.”
Conducted by the University of Rhode Island Cooperative Extension with the Wood - Pawcatuck Wild and Scenic Rivers Stewardship Council, the assessment looked at the town’s code of ordinances and land development and subdivision regulations to determine where low impact development or “LID” practices could be included in the development regulations.
The project was sponsored by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation and supported by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management.
URI graduate student Hayden McDermott presented the findings of the assessment, and explained the three goals of LID, all of which are designed to mitigate stormwater runoff by preserving, whenever possible, the natural features of the land.
“LID has three-pronged approach that attempts to … lower impacts by preserving and protecting much of the natural site conditions as possible, reduce impacts by reducing the amount of impervious surfaces such as pavement,…[and] manage impacts by treating stormwater runoff as closely as possible to the point where it reaches the ground,” he said.
McDermott added that while the state granted municipalities the legal authority to implement LID practices more than a decade ago, the towns usually do not enforce them.
“Although developers are required by the state to apply LID practices, municipal ordinances often either prevent the use of LID or favor conventional practices, but because municipalities are in authority over land use, municipalities are responsible,” he said.
McDermott also had some interesting news for the board. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management asked municipalities to perform self-assessments, back in 2011, to determine how LID principles could be incorporated into their regulations, but Richmond is the first town in the state to have completed the assessment.
McDermott said the 66 questions in the assessment attempted to gauge how the town was progressing on the three LID goals.
“The areas in which Richmond’s protections were strongest were project review, installation and maintenance,” he said. “The areas in which the regulations had the most room for improvement were avoiding the impacts of development and minimizing impervious cover. Having strong regulations at reducing impervious cover are crucial in shaping future development projects.”
The town’s responses to the questions in the assessment resulted in the establishment of two priority goals: reducing impervious surfaces, such as pavement, and protecting vegetated areas, like woodlands.
Board Chair Philip Damicis noted that Planning Board members usually walk proposed development sites to determine which features should be preserved.
“Generally, there’s areas where there’s wetlands, maybe buffering a river or some body of water,” he said. “I think what we try to do is, we try to create contiguous open space, create greenways, so if we have existing open space, we try to link those together.”
Another tenet of LID is the reduction of areas devoted to lawns. Damicis said he expected to encounter resistance to a proposal to reduce lawns in residential subdivisions.
“It’s such a standard for a number of reasons,” he said. “I think private developers - it’s easier to plant the lawn, walk away from it, you’re done, rather than have to come up with some kind of landscaping.”
One way to make progress toward attaining the goals articulated in the assessment is a design concept already familiar to Richmond planners known as conservation development, which clusters buildings and protects at least half of the site as open space.
However, Damicis pointed out that another feature of conservation developments, where the lots were clustered and therefore, smaller, is lawns that usually continue all the way to the street.
“They basically take it right to the edge of the pavement,” he said.
While he recognized the benefits of conservation development, Damicis repeated his assertion that he did not believe a proposal to reduce the sizes of lawns would get a warm reception.
“We’d get too much pushback,” he said. “We’ve already taken these two-acre lots and said ‘you can only develop really a half acre’.’”
Board Vice Chair Nancy Hess suggested looking at public rights of way.
“We need to look at our right of way, our street profile design, what width of pavement are we requiring and then, within the right of way, what’s happening on the shoulders of the pavement that’s controlled by the town,” she said.
In other business, the board resumed a discussion, which began at the March 22 meeting, of amendments to the town’s Aquifer Protection Overlay District ordinance.
Members continued their consideration of “compliance, development standards and procedural requirements” as well as permitted activities within the district, which has been divided into two sub-districts: a groundwater and wellhead protection area and a second sub-district, which comprises the groundwater recharge zone.
Board members are going through the use table, considering each use and whether it should be permitted in one or both sub-districts, either by right or by special use permit. The discussion is expected to continue at the next meeting in May.
Beaver River Valley Community Association
P.O. Box 10, Shannock, RI 02875
Council Briefed on Town Budget, Wellness Committee Progress
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
RICHMOND — Town Council members discussed several fiscal matters at the April 19 meeting, including the latest iteration of the municipal budget and several grant opportunities. The council also heard a report on the progress of the Wellness Committee and its recommendations. Council President Nell Carpenter and councilor Lauren Cacciola did not attend the meeting.
The proposed 2022-23 municipal budget was presented by Finance Director Laura Kenyon during a public hearing. The proposed budget is $7.4 million, an increase of 3.37%, or $240,650. The town’s share of the Chariho Schools budget, which was rejected by voters but will be amended and voted on again on May 5, will be $20.9 million. The new property tax rate has not been established, however tax revenue for the current year is up by 1.06%. State aid for education is up by $42,590 and revenue from federal American Rescue Plan funds will total approximately $2.3 million. The unassigned fund balance, or surplus, will be $14.78%. While this means the fund balance will be lower than the recommended 15%, $60,000 of the surplus was used to offset a projected tax increase, which, Kenyon explained, was lower than the amount allocated from the fund balance in the current and previous years. “We’re only using $60,000 to offset the tax increase,” she said. “This year, it’s $150,000. We’re slowly getting back to where we’ll be able to support the budget without the use of our unassigned fund balance.”
Kenyon also explained the allocation of the town’s anticipated funds from the American Rescue Plan. $174,050 from the federal program has been moved from the town’s operating budget for possible use in capital projects. Those include $64,000 for upgraded police radios, computer software, at $24,000, new equipment for the Beaver River Playground, $20,000, a new compactor and dumpster for the transfer station, $45,000, a generator for the Town Hall, $30,000, and $18,000 for the new dog park. “I will be updating this worksheet to the council and the public, probably on a monthly basis with my monthly reports, but again, the important item here is the $174,000 that we had moved from the department requests to American Rescue [Plan],” Kenyon said. Economic Development Commission member William McIntosh received council approval for additional funds for an upgrade of the commission’s web page. The council voted to allocate $2,000 to the commission, in addition to the $1,500 it is budgeted to receive. Residents will vote on the proposed spending plan at the Financial Town Meeting on June 13. Details of the budget are available on the town’s website.
Roads and Zoning
During the public hearing, the council approved a $2.5 million bond for road work. Members also approved amendments to the town’s zoning ordinance which will eliminate the “Planned Unit Development” zoning district, which is no longer used.
In addition, the council voted to amend another cha