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Planning Board Meeting

October 27, 2021


Planning Board Considers Plan Amendments, Wyoming District


By Cynthia Drummond for BVRCA


RICHMOND — Members of the Planning Board considered several amendments to the town’s comprehensive plan to resolve inconsistencies between the plan and the zoning map. The Tuesday meeting also included a discussion of the future of the much - maligned Wyoming district, along Route 138.

Town Planner Shaun Lacey told the board that the updated comprehensive plan, which has been approved by the Town Council, still awaits certification by the state, which has asked the town to make several changes.

“The expectation going forward would be that based upon the Planning Board’s input tonight, we would hope to try to get these changes back to Statewide Planning for a cursory review,” he said. “Hopefully, they’ll give us the green light to go forward and say ‘yes.’”

Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth said she had found and resolved certain inconsistencies in the updated plan and had incorporated suggestions the state had made to the town in a Dec. 2020 letter.

“The substantive changes are sections that Statewide Planning said that we did not include, for instance, an expanded discussion of how the transfer station works and a separate section dealing with natural hazard mitigation, and the population figures,” she said. “The population figures that we used were inconsistent.”

To address the state’s concerns, Ellsworth explained that she used data from the 2020 census as well as Statewide Planning’s populations projections, to the year 2040.

When Board Chair Philip Damicis said he did not understand the state’s concern with one item, the transfer station, Ellsworth explained that the issue was whether the facility would have the capacity to handle more trash if the population increases.

Ellsworth said she had contacted Public Works Director Scott Barber to determine the transfer station’s capacity in the next 20 years, and he said he would simply open the facility for an additional day.

There are several inconsistencies between the zoning map and the updated plan, Ellsworth said, all of which were noted by Statewide Planning in a letter to the town received last June.

“Those inconsistencies were inconsistencies between the map that was approved in March and the zooming ordinance amendments that were made in July,” she said.

Board member Nancy Hess said, “We did the future land use map and it said one thing. To implement that map, we then worked on the zone and the zoning ordinance map. We made some decisions, recommended to the council and adopted, that were not in sync with the land use map.”

The board addressed the five inconsistencies listed in the letter from the state: a property on Buttonwoods Road, a lot on Richmond Townhouse Road, the water tower property, Clark Memorial Library, and open space in residential subdivisions.

The board agreed to ensure that the zones of the five properties would be consistent with the comprehensive plan.

Board member Dan Madnick also pointed out that renewable energy was missing from the new comprehensive plan.

“Agree with it or not, [it] is something that we do have to consider when we’re making decisions,” he said.

Ellsworth proposed adding renewable energy to the land use section of the plan.

Lacey was asked to make the changes, the board will hold a public hearing to review the updated plan and the plan, with updates, will be submitted to the Town Council.


Revitalizing Wyoming


The board spent about an hour mulling the future of the Wyoming commercial district on Route 138. Marred by vacant lots and storefronts and a jumble of building styles, the area near Interstate 95 has long been a concern for town officials.

In a memo to the board, Lacey quoted the vision for the district described in the comprehensive plan.

“The Town has identified this area as the target for economic development, housing, and circulation improvements because it is the existing commercial center for Richmond and developed at a higher density than other areas of town,” the comprehensive plan states. “It has existing infrastructure and amenities such as sidewalks and access to the Town’s water service. Using the state’s Urban Services Boundary as a starting point, the Town has delineated this area for future infill and growth in the form of higher density commercial, multi-family and mixeduse [sic] development based on local preferences and needs.”

The Wyoming business district also lies entirely within the Aquifer Protection Overlay District, which would prohibit many current uses, such as gas stations, if they were to be proposed today. Planning staff and board members have discussed taking another look at the regulations with a view to encouraging economic growth without threatening the health of the sole source aquifer, which serves several towns.

“We do need to go through the table and look at what should not be there,” Nancy Hess said.

The board will also revisit a study conducted in 2007 by landscape architecture students at the University of Rhode Island. Member Andrea Baranyk said some of the students’ ideas might be worth exploring.

“Some of it may be not where we want to go, but I think there’s a lot of good ideas,” she said. “I would just need a little more time to get into it.”

Ellsworth responded, “I think the hardest part of it is trying to figure out how we would work around what’s there already, and I would really like to hear your suggestions on that.”

Several members said they favored a mixed use plan, which would include affordable housing.

“I think, after reading the URI study that the students did, the town pretty much squandered 14 years of potential,” Madnick said. “From what I’ve seen being on this board and being in this town for the last five years, there’s a lot of good ideas, a lot of things that we want to see done, but they’re always at the tip of this town’s fingertips, and nothing ever happens.”

Damicis closed the discussion by asking board members to continue to think about possibilities for the Wyoming district which will be considered at a future meeting.


OCTOBER 18, 2021


Town Council - Planning Board Agree on Marijuana Grower Control


By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA


RICHMOND — At a special joint meeting on Oct. 18, members of the Town Council and the Planning Board agreed to consider a zoning amendment that would require development plan reviews for medical marijuana growers seeking to open in the town. The regulatory measure was an alternative to proposed zoning ordinance amendments that would have prevented any new medical marijuana growers from opening in town.

There is currently one grower in town and an applicant has sought to open a second growing facility on Stilson Road. Marijuana retailers, or compassion centers, are prohibited throughout the town.

The discussion of prohibiting new marijuana growing facilities dates back to Feb. 2020, when the council approved regulations limiting growers to a few business and industrial zones.

In July, 2021, the council heard from local business owner Karl Wadensten, who, along with several other Stilson area businesses, opposed the Stilson Road grower’s application, citing the odor such a facility would generate in the neighborhood.

The council asked Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth to draft amendments to the zoning ordinance that would prohibit medical marijuana-growing in all zoning districts.

After discussing the council’s apparent intention, the Planning Board proposed a joint board-council workshop to discuss the town’s options.

Planning Board Chairman Philip Damicis opened Monday’s joint meeting.

“So the council has proposed some amendments to the zoning ordinance,” he said. “The board has previously looked at this. Tonight, we are here to have somewhat of a workshop, if you will, with the Town Council, to see what their ideas are as to why they’re proposing these changes and hopefully, after that, the board can vote on an advisory opinion to the council.”

Damicis also asked why the town was asking the Planning Board to consider the issue again.

“We addressed this a while ago, and I think we were comfortable with the zoning ordinance the way it was, so we’re looking for some insight from the council as to why you’re proposing these changes,” he said.

Council member Richard Nassaney said the applicant for the Stilson Road growing facility had already applied for another growing operation in a building on Main Street, but had not moved forward with that application.

“I think this gentleman is just property-hopping, and hopes to find a property where he doesn’t actually have to build a building,” he said. “This property that’s on Stilson, there’s a building there and all he has to do is move all his stuff in there, so I see it to be kind of disingenuous where he says ‘we’re going to do this or we’re going to grow marijuana and also have an opportunity to grow vegetables or fruits or whatever’ so it’s a form of agriculture and all of a sudden when the price tag comes up, he goes ‘wait a second, I can do it over here.'  So he’s just kind of searching around.”

Nassaney also noted that the Stilson Road property was next to several businesses, including VIBCO, which would be impacted by the odor from the marijuana plants.

“I don’t think that’s very fair, for this gentleman who has a property on Main Street that’s ready to go, and now he wants to put it next to a prominent business,” he said.

Damicis said that rather than amending the zoning ordinance to keep marijuana growers out, it would be more appropriate to mitigate the odor they produce.

“Basically, we should be addressing the odor problems rather than saying ‘let’s just zone this out of our town,’” he said.

Council President Nell Carpenter raised the issue of growers operating near a family home and reminded the board that marijuana-growing is prohibited in residential neighborhoods.

“Where this proposed location is that we’re discussing right now, next to VIBCO, is right across the street from a home,” she said. “…So although it is an industrial zone, there is a home in an industrial zone, right across the street.”

Damicis brought the discussion back to the proposed amendments.

“Not to cut you short, but the board isn’t here to do a development plan review of this particular property,” he told Carpenter. “As far as I know, we don’t have that before us for action tonight, so when you send us your recommendations for amendments to an ordinance, we can consider that particular property as one that may have issues, but we have to look at it from a standpoint of how does this ordinance affect all of the industrial, all the commercial, all the general business.”

Carpenter asked whether a grower could apply for a use variance to grow marijuana in a zone where it is prohibited, and Ellsworth replied what while variances were rarely approved, the applicant would have the right to ask.

Ellsworth reminded the council and board members that medical marijuana cultivation, including odor emitted from those facilities, is strictly regulated by the state, although enforcement was sometimes in question.

Damicis then proposed that rather than amend the zoning ordinance, the town require a development plan review which would consider every aspect of a proposed growing facility, including location, odors that might be emitted and water use.

“Development plan review is really our tool for evaluating the engineering and analyzing whether any development’s going to have an impact on the town,” he said. “We don’t have that tool in this particular case…Is there any way we could amend the zoning ordinance for the cultivation indoors of marijuana to say that it doesn’t matter if it’s in a zone where it’s permitted, you still have to go through development plan review.”

With council members and planning board members supporting Damicis’ proposal, both bodies agreed to vote against the proposed motion amending the zoning ordinance to prohibit all marijuana growing businesses and to approve a second motion for an ordinance amendment that would require development plan reviews for all marijuana- growing applications.


OCTOBER 12, 2021


Board Approves Nooseneck Hill Road Preliminary Plan


By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA


RICHMOND — Planning Board members have approved the preliminary plan for a four-lot conservation development on Nooseneck Hill Road.

At a public hearing during the Oct. 12 meeting, the board heard the application by the Oxford Development Group for the subdivision, which would be built on a 9.3 - acre parcel in a residential zone.

Representing the Oxford Development, Group, attorney John Kenyon said his client had first come before the board when he presented the pre-application in May 2020.

“There was also a site walk on May 23rd 2020,” Kenyon noted. “At that time, the Planning Board members had several suggestions as to the design, which included a conservation design and also the use of shared driveways.”

The application has already received the necessary state permits. Neal Hingorany, of Narraganset Engineering Inc., said the portion of the parcel conserved as open space, a key component of a conservation development, has grown and now comprises 60.4 percent of the total property.

Patricia Pouliot, whose property borders the proposed development, asked whether the home owners’ association that will maintain the shared driveway and own the open space might decide one day to allow the property to be developed.

“So the homeowners’ association can’t do anything with that property?” She asked.

Richmond Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth responded, “That’s correct. They can’t.”

Board Chairman Philip Damicis said the four-lot subdivision was permitted by right.

“The board doesn’t really have, under the purview, the right to tell the applicant they just can’t develop their property,” he said. “The property’s currently zoned for residential development, so all the board can do is ensure that whatever development goes into that complies with the town’s regulations. I agree, from a conservation standpoint it’s not the most rural parcel. It didn’t start out that way and it’s not end up that way, however the conservation subdivision, it did allow the board and the applicant to have more flexibility in the site layout."


Comprehensive Plan update


Town Planner Shaun Lacey told the board that following comments from the Rhode Island Division of Statewide Planning on the draft of the town’s updated comprehensive plan, he would be proposing several amendments. The state must approve the new comprehensive plan before that new plan can take effect.

“I am not asking board members to take action at this time, but I just wanted to use this opportunity to share with you changes that I made to satisfy the state,” he said.

“It’s great progress,” Damicis said. “It’s good that the state is happy.”

Lacey said board members would be able to discuss the proposed amendments at their next meeting, on Oct. 26.

“I think our goal for the next meeting will be to share with you some of the text changes that Karen Ellsworth has been working on,” he said.


Joint Meeting


Before the meeting adjourned, there was a brief discussion of the upcoming joint Town Council and Planning Board special meeting to consider amending the town’s zoning to prohibit the commercial cultivation of marijuana in all districts. Commercial growing is currently permitted in some business and industrial zones, but compassion centers are prohibited in all zones.

Damicis wondered which body would run the joint meeting and another board member said she hoped the council chambers could be configured to provide participants with sufficient personal space during the meeting, which will be open to the public.

“I don’t want to sit right next to someone in a room,” Andrea Baranyk said. “I would still like to have some space.”

The special meeting, which can also be viewed online, will take place on Oct. 18 at 6 p.m..


By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA

Council Adopts Public Forum Amendments 


RICHMOND — After a brief discussion at the Sept. 21 meeting, members of the Town Council agreed to adopt amendments to the Rules and Procedures pertaining to conduct during the Public Forum segments of meetings. 


Councilors also approved an update to the council agenda format, which will now include communications received by the council.


Public Forum amendments, first proposed by council President Nell Carpenter at the Sept. 7 council meeting, would prevent members of the town’s public bodies from responding to comments made during the Public Forum.


Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth presented a draft amendment at the Sept. 21 meeting which, she said, more accurately reflected the position of the Rhode Island Attorney General on complaints regarding violations of the Open Meetings Act.


In a memorandum to the council, Ellsworth wrote,
“It seems to me that the intent of the OMA [Open Meetings ACT] is not to prohibit town council members from responding to comments made by members of the public during a public meeting. Nor do I believe the statute is intended to prohibit town council members from briefly discussing a matter raised by a member of the public if the purpose of the discussion is to obtain more information - for instance, to get more details that would help the town clerk describe the matter on a future meeting agenda, to find out how many other residents have the same concern, or to determine which official a problem should be referred to. Instead, I think the intent of the OMA is to prohibit a town council from making a decision on a matter raised during a meeting if the public has no way of knowing in advance that the town council might make a decision about that matter.”


Ellsworth’s proposed amendment, which the council approved, states that members of the town’s public bodies may respond to comments made by members of the public but,
“may not initiate discussion of a matter not posted, and the town council may not vote on a matter not posted except: 

I. To refer the matter to another body or official, or


II. When a vote is necessary to address an unanticipated situation that requires immediate action to protect the public health, safety or welfare.”


The council also approved the amendment adding “Communications” to Town Council agendas. The contents of written communications received to the town will now be included on council agendas, a practice which has already begun.

Wellness Committee

The council discussed the formation of the “Wellness Committee” proposed by Carpenter at the Sept. 7 meeting.


The town will receive $2.3 million in federal “American Rescue Plan” pandemic recovery - related funds, and Carpenter said the new committee would meet one of the requirements for inclusion in the federal grant program.


Carpenter also noted that she had researched acceptable uses for the funds on the United States Department of the Treasury website.

“I’ve printed this checklist out because councilman [Richard] Nassaney actually expressed some concerns at the last meeting regarding potential use, more importantly, what we are prohibited from using, and that is a concern I share too, because we need to be informative to residents in regards to the appropriate uses or eligible uses that the treasury department has given in this fact sheet, ” she said. 


Two municipal uses that Carpenter said were clearly described as unacceptable are using the funds to offset a reduction in tax revenue and depositing the funds to a pension fund.


Permitted uses include COVID-19 prevention support measures for vulnerable populations and behavioral health care support.


Carpenter said the town also needed to consider the establishment of recreational facilities, as described in the town’s comprehensive plan.
“We need to develop new community recreation facilities on town land, with the Richmond Town Council, DPW and Recreation Commission as overseers,” she said. “…We should be developing short and long term recommendations for improvements in these services and programs. This Wellness Committee will serve that very need.”


Council members discussed the wording of a resolution which would definite the membership of the committee, as well as its goals and tasks. Town Administrator Karen Pinch will place an advertisement in local news media soliciting members for the new committee.


Another funding opportunity

In other business, the council heard details of a “T-Mobile Hometown Grant” which awards up to $50,000 to towns for special projects.


Councilor Lauren Cacciola, who proposed the grant application, asked councilors to suggest projects and both Ellsworth and Pinch noted that a requirement of the grant is that it be used for a project that was already earmarked and ready to build.


“We could use a ton of new equipment at Beaver River Playground,” Pinch told the council. “Something like that would be great.”


Finance Director Laura Kenyon suggested that the grant proposal could be written as a more general request for funds for new playground equipment.

Ellsworth asked the council to make a motion asking town staff to look at the details of the grant and draft a proposal for the council’s approval at a future meeting.


No action on food trucks



At a continuation of a public hearing that began at their Aug. 17 meeting, council members also discussed, but on the recommendation of Karen Ellsworth, declined to act, on proposed amendments to the ordinances pertaining to mobile food trucks.


“Generally speaking, it’s not something that’s appropriate to regulate by zoning, because zoning is about the use of land and this is an activity that takes place on the land, so it would be really difficult for us,” she said.

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Council Mulls Changes to Public Forum


By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA


RICHMOND — With two members absent from the Sept. 7 Town Council meeting, council President Nell Carpenter, Vice President James Palmisciano and member Richard Nassaney agreed to wait until the next meeting on Sept. 21 to review proposed amendments to the Town Council Rules and Procedures pertaining to the public forum. 

Proposed by Carpenter, the first amendment would prohibit officials serving on town bodies from responding to comments made by members of the public. Carpenter also proposed a second amendment, updating the format of council agendas to include communications received by the council.

“What this was was…what we’re already doing now and what the suggestions are from the Attorney General’s office in regards to public forum and the communications that we’ve seen now, for the last two meetings in a row, we’ve seen these on the agenda,” she said.

Palmisciano made a motion to approve both updates, but Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth suggested waiting until the proposed amendments are in writing.

“I think what you need is a written copy of a draft amendment front of you to vote on so that you’re approving precise language and exactly where it goes,” she said.

Ellsworth also noted that there is already a provision in the rules regarding public forum.

“It says Town Council members may respond to public comments or may discuss a matter raised by a member of the public if that matter is not on the agenda,” she said. “The Town Council may not vote on a matter except to refer the matter to another body or official or when a vote is necessary to address an unanticipated situation that requires immediate action to protect public health safety  and welfare…My advice would be that this language does not accurately reflect either the statute that you’re citing or the Attorney General’s opinions on speaking during a public forum, but that’s of course up to you.”

Palmisciano withdrew his motion.

Ellsworth said she believed the Attorney General’s office was more concerned with council members starting new discussions during public forum “under the guise of responding to a comment by the public.”

Further, Ellsworth noted the statute states that “Town Council members can respond to comments made by members of the public. It doesn’t say that Town Council members can respond to comments made by other Town Council members. So, I think that the problem with the language that you suggested is the word ‘discussion,’ because I don’t know exactly what that means.

Carpenter responded,

“This is the verbiage that we’ve been using for the last five months, four months, and it works, because it protects the best interests of the town in not engaging in communication - I’m sorry, discussion - that begins in public forum. That is something that is not on the agenda…It’s inconsistent. We either walk up to the line or we avoid the line with a statement such as this and we don’t participate in communication.”

Ellsworth proposed wording that would affirm councilors’ right to respond to a member of the public during the forum, whether or not the subject of the comment is on the agenda, but council members would be prohibited from initiating a discussion of the matter or voting on it, except to refer the matter to another board or commission or in a case where immediate action is necessary.

Carpenter said she supported the amendment as originally proposed, in order to avoid possible violations of the Open Meetings Act.

Palmisciano said he wanted to see Ellsworth’s version in writing.

“I would like the opportunity to see in writing what the solicitor said to compare, because right now, I think it sounds like there could be a compromise of the two and making sure it addresses the needs…Is there a way that we could have a opportunity to review that and find that middle ground that works best and go forward from there?” He said.

Palmisciano made a motion, approved by Carpenter and Nassaney, to continue the public forum item to the next council meeting and Ellsworth suggested that the communications item also be continued. 


In other business, Carpenter asked the council to consider the possible establishment of a Wellness Committee which would include members of the public. The town is expecting to receive a total of $2.3 million in federal “American Rescue Plan” pandemic recovery - related funds.

“This would also be a means in which we could gather data and precise information as how the COVID pandemic has affected our community specifically, mentally, physically, emotionally in all areas is the scope and the purpose of this committee,” she said. “What I would like council to consider is to have specific individuals in mind who will represent this committee. They don’t have to be residents of Richmond. We can decide that, as long as they’re stakeholders, but individuals who would be able to gather that information, to supply council with concrete data on, as I said, in regards to the effects that the pandemic has had on our community, and the ultimate goal and the ultimate hope is to use these funds for a wellness facility.”

Finance Director Laura Kenyon explained that the terms of the funding require the town to commit the grant money by 2023. 

“We have until, basically, 2023, to commit it, where we’re going to spend it,” she said.

The council asked Ellsworth to draft a resolution describing the parameters of the new committee, including the terms of membership, which members will discuss at the next meeting.


Cynthia Drummond





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Richmond Land Trust Meeting - August 30, 2021 


Land Trust to assess trail damage following storm


By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA


RICHMOND — Meeting in person on Aug. 30, members of the Richmond Rural Preservation Land Trust agreed that a survey of all land trust properties was needed following Tropical Storm Henri, to identify trails that might be blocked or damaged by fallen trees and tree limbs.

“We made a plan for each of our trustees to survey a property,” land trust Chair Suzanne Paton said. “We want to make sure the trails are safe.”

The trustees were also briefed regarding progress on trail - building and trailhead parking at the 112-acre Saila Preserve, the land trust’s newest acquisition.

Eagle Scout candidate Aiden Pickett from Troop 44, aided by several Scout volunteers, has begun his project of cutting a public hiking trail on the property.

The engineering firm, Horsely Witten, is designing the parking area at the trailhead, and the land trust discussed, but did not vote on, a proposal to modify a section of the trail to make it accessible to visitors in wheelchairs.

In other business, the land trust approved five permits for deer hunting on its properties, four at the Saila Preserve and one at the Bradner Preserve.

“These are all people that have requested permits in the past,” Paton said.

Permission was also granted to University of Rhode Island researcher, Laken Ganoe, to continue an ongoing wildlife camera monitoring study through 2023.

In addition, the trustees agreed to cancel the “Almost Full Moon” hike in mid-September because many similar hikes will be offered around the same time throughout the state.

“The Land Trust Council has a whole bunch of hikes,” Paton said, “so we decided to cancel ours. We just have too many things going on…It can be quite an event, and we weren’t really sure who would be able to lead this hike.”


It was also announced that a new trustee is being sought to fill a vacancy on the seven-member panel, following the resignation of Thomas Bietz, whose term would have ended in 2024.

Cynthia Drummond


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Council Discusses Performance of Town Solicitor


By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA


RICHMOND — Members of the Town Council spent more than an hour of the August 17 meeting considering the job performance of Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth and complaints made against her by council President Nell Carpenter. While discussions of job performance are usually conducted in executive session,  Ellsworth had requested that the discussion of her job performance be conducted during the open council meeting.

Carpenter took issue with learning about complaints regarding possible violations by the council of the Open Meetings Act from a post on the internet, rather than from Ellsworth herself.

Council member Richard Nassaney has filed two complaints under the Open Meetings Act and a resident, Lucas Marland, has filed a single complaint, following previous, hybrid council meetings during which the audio was not functioning and council members could not be clearly heard by those watching on their computers. 

"The council was made aware of three formal complaints under investigation by the Rhode Island Attorney General's office, from a social media post on July  27th, a piece in which the solicitor offered an opinion and comments regarding the response that had been submitted on behalf of  the Richmond Town Council, unbeknownst to the Richmond Town Council," Carpenter said. 

Citing American Bar Association regulations regarding the obligation of attorneys to consult with their clients, inform them promptly and obtain the client's consent before taking action, Carpenter, who appeared to have the backing of a single council member, Lauren Cacciola, said she believed that Ellsworth had withheld information from the council.

"I believe the solicitor had a duty to officially inform both the clerk and all public bodies of these complaints versus withhold. I believe she did not represent the best interests of the town in withholding information."

Ellsworth, (a member of the Rhode Island Bar but not the American Bar) responded that she believed the issue was how she had responded to the complaints

"I think what this is really about is not whether I withheld information from you, but how I responded to the Attorney General," Ellsworth said. "I think that you wanted me to say that there was no Open Meetings Act violation and I don't see how I could have possibly done that after sending all of you a memo saying I thought there was."

Carpenter also admonished Ellsworth for comments she made to a journalist regarding Carpenter's determination to hold hybrid rather than remote meetings, despite the lack of adequate audio equipment - an issue which has only recently been rectified.

In an interview for a story published on the Beaver River Valley Community Association Facebook page and later posted on the Richmond Community Facebook page, Ellsworth stated,

"Nell Carpenter insisted upon conducting an in-person meeting despite the fact that the audio visual equipment to enable a hybrid meeting had not yet been installed in the Town Council chambers, and despite the fact that the governor's last executive order allowing hybrid meetings was still in effect."

Carpenter said Ellsworth's comments had been inappropriate since she had not spoken first with council members.

"The comments in that social media post were based off of communications that I had not seen from my town solicitor who represents the town of Richmond," she said. 

Nassaney disagreed, saying Ellsworth's comments had been posted on the association's Facebook page and only later posted on the community page. 

"It may come as a personal attack, you may hear that, but it is not something that she is doing to harm us," he said. "She is doing what she needs to do to protect the town."

Longtime council member Ronnie Newman said he believed that Ellsworth had represented the town well and responded promptly to councilors' requests.

"I think we're very fortunate,'s like having a personal attorney. I know many town solicitors have other jobs within the legal system. I'm not sure what Karen has, but she gets right back to you and she's always answered my questions. I think her job performance has been outstanding, if not incredible," he said.

Councilor James Palmisciano, a sales enablement director at Schneider Electric, re-focused the discussion on the need for a formal job performance assessment process.

"What we're doing right now is called a performance review and I think it's fair to say, looking at my fellow members of council here, that I probably have more experience conducting performance reviews than everyone else on the council combined, having done over 100 performance reviews myself in 19 years," he said.

After reading a generic definition and scope of a performance review, Palmisciano referred to a list of litigation Ellsworth had handled for the town beginning in 1995, in which there had been only one defeat.

"It's important to mention that a performance evaluation should be judged against specific goals using clearly defined metrics," he said. "Now I know there's a lot of information that everyone at this table has said, pro and con....I am stepping back. I have taken exception to this entire conversation and I understand that, solicitor Ellsworth, that you wish to have this be a public discussion and that is your right, and I understand that, but I don't agree with that personally. ...There are many different forms of metrics that we could use to evaluate. Performance metrics can vary by industry. We don't have an evaluation form or criteria set for the solicitor, so we should use an evaluation rubric."

Palmisciano's comments concluded the discussion of Ellsworth's performance and no further action was taken.

In other business, councilors considered, but did not approve, an ordinance regulating food trucks. Ellsworth reminded the council that a town ordinance would have to comply with existing state laws.

"If we have an ordinance, it needs to be consistent with the state law and the state Department of  Business Regulation and they're a little bit confusing," she said. 

Ellsworth also noted that the council could exempt certain food trucks at specific locations from the new ordinance. The hearing was continued to a future meeting.

Town Administrator Karen Pinch announced that Randall Gemme had been hired to replace outgoing Emergency Management Director Joe Arsenault.

Chief of Police Elwood Johnson requested and received council approval to raise the salary of Animal Control Officer Anne Fisher, who, he said, had served the town for 25 years and was earning several thousand dollars less than her counterparts in neighboring towns. 

The pay raise, Johnson said, had already been approved in the budget.

"I'm asking that we adjust her salary to increase it  by $1,900 for this fiscal year without getting money from any other source but the ACO budget," he said. "There's ample funding in there."

The increases, which the council approved, will be made over three years.

Richmond Rural Presentation Land Trust Chair Suzanne Paton briefed the council on progress at the Saila Preserve. The land trust has hired the engineering firm, Horsely Witten to design an access with three parking spaces at the end of Chelsea Farm Drive. Eagle Scout candidate Aiden Pickett from Troop 44 will organize a volunteer project to build a public trail through the property.

Arsenault proposed honoring volunteers and first responders for their service during the COVID 19 pandemic and Palmisciano also proposed recognizing the town's COVID heroes with plaques and a "Richmond Covid Heroes Day" on Dec. 14 - the day the vaccine was first administered to members of the public.

Cynthia Drummond


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Planning Board Considers Application for Storage Building


By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA


RICHMOND — Welcoming a development proposal as a potential benefit to the town, members of the Planning Board considered a pre-application by Michael and Kathryn Colasante for a storage facility for their millwork business. The 6,000-square foot structure would be located on a two-acre parcel at 71 Buttonwoods Road, in an industrial zone where millwork is permitted by right.

After members asked several questions about erosion control, lighting and underground utilities, board Chairman Philip Damicis said he believed the proposed project would be a good fit for the town.

“To me, this is a value added to the town,” he said. “We’ve got this vacant site that is not attractive and we’re going to allow commercial development on it.”

The board requested a bond, the amount of which was not specified, that would cover landscaping and erosion control. In addition, because the property is located within 100 feet of a residential property, the developers must screen the building with a buffer consisting of either vegetation or a solid, six-foot fence.

The proposal will now move forward to the formal development review process.


Medical marijuana


The board declined to act on a request from the Town Council to recommend an amendment to a zoning ordinance pertaining to the cultivation of medical marijuana.

At the July 20 council meeting, business owner Karl Wadensten, who was also representing several other local business owners, cited the strong odor that such a facility would generate and asked the council to keep new medical marijuana growing operations from opening in the town.

Town Planner Shaun Lacey said he had been contacted by an individual who wanted to explore the possibility of opening a growing facility on Stilson Road, where Wadensten’s company and others are located. The property is in an industrial zone, where marijuana cultivation is permitted.

“An abutting property owner learned about the possibility of the facility moving onto Stilson Road and made a presentation to the Town Council opposing the nature of the use and imploring the council to revisit the overall use code,” Lacey said.

Board members had received the draft zoning amendments, prepared by Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth, but Damicis was skeptical.

“So an adjacent land owner adjacent to the property where somebody was going to renovate a building for a commercial use that is permitted and we have spent a lot of time going through our land use maps and zoning, somebody was opposed to it for some reason and the Town Council wants us to change it? I just don’t understand why,” he said.

Ellsworth explained that the concerns Wadensten had expressed were issues that are already regulated by the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation.

“All of the things that he mentioned are things that are regulated and controlled by the DBR regulations concerning the cultivation of medical marijuana,” she said.

Damicis said he didn’t feel the board should revisit the issue, since the town had already prohibited marijuana cultivation in all zones except industrial.

“I thought we were almost overstepping our bounds to some extent way back when when we zoned commercial cultivation of marijuana out of the residential areas, because as I think you had advised us, Karen, [Ellsworth] was that it’s a permitted use by state law in every zoning district in the state and we’re kind of riding the very edge and saying ‘yeah, we understand that. Technically we can’t zone it out but you know what? We’re going to say we don’t think it’s a compatible use to residential properties.’”…Correct me if I’m wrong, it sounds like this would not be consistent with Rhode Island state law if we were to make this recommendation,” he said.

Board member Daniel Madnick proposed that the discussion be tabled to a meeting when the full board would be present. Several members did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.

“I feel like only having four of the board members, we do ourselves a disservice, so if you may, I would prefer to make a motion to table this discussion to a subsequent meeting when we have more of the board available,” he said.

The board agreed to table the item until the September meeting.

“I’m good with deferring this, and lastly, request some more information from council as to why they think this is necessary,” Damicis said. …”I think our ordinances are written in such a way that cultivation of marijuana right now, we’ve already protected the town and the abutters from any negative impacts that they may be concerned about.”

In other business, board members discussed a review of the zoning ordinance related to land use in the Aquifer Protection Overlay District.

In a memo to the board, Lacey described the district as covering two areas in the town.

“The first area extends from the northwest portion of town to the Charlestown town boundary,” Lacey’s memo reads. “ This area covers the villages of Arcadia, Wyoming, Alton and Wood River Junction, while also extending through portions of Interstate 95 and Route 3. The second area is located towards the east side of town, extending along portions of Route 138, and covering the villages of Haygarden, Usquepaug, Shannock and Kenyon.”

Many current uses in the district, especially in the commercial center of Wyoming, would not be permitted if the chapters pertaining to  regulations and uses in the aquifer protection district were to be applied today.

Lacey asked the board to look at existing uses in the district and determine whether some uses should require special use permits while others might be prohibited altogether.

Damicis said protecting the aquifer was the board’s highest priority.

“It’s probably one of the most` critical aspects of planning we have,” he said. “…I will say, in our use tables, we were very conservative. If there was any question whatsoever, we said ‘no,’ and then we could change it.”

The board agreed to schedule a workshop, the date of which is to be determined, to further consider the matter.




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Cynthia Drummond


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By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA


Technical Issues Continue and “My name is Madam President. You WILL address me as such…”


Councilors and staff, with the exception of council member Richard Nassaney, conducted the July 20 Town Council meeting in person in the council chambers, however issues with poor quality and frequently unintelligible audio that had plagued the June 1 and June 15 meetings persisted.

The chamber is without connected microphones as the town awaits the installation of new audio visual equipment, making it difficult for those watching the proceedings online to understand what is being said.


Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth said council President Nell Carpenter had been adamant that the meeting take place in council chambers.

“Nell Carpenter insisted upon conducting an in-person meeting despite the fact that the audio visual equipment to enable a hybrid meeting had not yet been installed in the Town Council chambers, and despite the fact that the governor’s last executive order allowing hybrid meetings was still in effect,” she said.

Nassaney, who participated in the July 20 meeting via Zoom, has been protesting the poor audio quality at meetings since early June. In a June 9 complaint to the state filed after the June 1 council meeting, he contended that the proceedings were difficult or impossible to understand and therefore constituted a violation of the state’s Open Meetings Act because they hindered public participation.

“During the meeting, there were multiple complaints being texted to the administrator, to myself, and to [Town Clerk] Erin Liese while she was trying to run the meeting and people were saying that they can’t hear what’s being said, so that was told to the Chair [Council President Carpenter] and Erin tried make adjustments accordingly,” he said. “The chief of police made a comment that it was really hard to hear and Erin again tried to make some adjustments…People couldn’t hear. Multiple people emailed me later on and the solicitor was going to offer some legal advice but hesitated, because she knew the audio was not of good quality. So she did not offer that, and basically just kind of silenced herself, and at that point, I made up my mind that I was filing an Open Meetings violation, because people could not hear what the council was saying or what was happening within the chambers and I thought that that was just wrong.”


Several matters were voted on at the July 20 meeting, including an amendment to the town’s zoning map. In addition, the council approved an amendment to the Code of Ordinances pertaining to the advertising of vacant town staff positions.

Nassaney complained that the continuing poor audio quality had made it difficult to understand the presentation on the new proposed zones by Town Planner Shaun Lacey.


“It was a very elaborate presentation and I was trying to follow along and it was difficult,” he said. “Every time somebody moved something, or bumped or coughed, the audio skipped and garbled for a moment and then you couldn’t hear what was being said.”

As of July 23, all public bodies in Rhode Island are required to return to in-person meetings in accordance with the Open Meetings Act, but live-streaming of meetings in addition to in-person meetings is still permitted.  Town Administrator Karen Pinch said Signet Electronics, the company installing the equipment in the council chambers, was expected to complete the work in time for the next council meeting, on Aug. 17.

“The vendor for our new AV [audio visual] system has advised us that a few of the necessary parts are backordered due to supply chain issues,” she said. “They estimate that the parts should be in by the end of July, which should make it possible for us to be up and running for the August Town Council meeting.”


With Nassaney casting the single dissenting vote, the council approved amendments to the zoning map creating two new zones: “Conservation and Open Space” and “Public and Governmental.”


The council also unanimously approved an amendment to the Code of Ordinances that will require the public advertising of all open town positions, both paid and unpaid.

In other business, a date was set for a public hearing on a reorganization of the Department of Public Works, proposed by department Director Scott Barber, and the council heard a request by Karl Wadensten, owner of VIBCO, and several other Stilson Road business owners, to keep a proposed medical marijuana - growing operation out of the district because of the odor it would generate.


Food truck dust-up


The issue of food trucks in the town was also raised as councilors considered setting a date for a public hearing to discuss possible amendments to the Code of Ordinances pertaining to “mobile food establishments.”

Carpenter said she had consulted the state’s Department of Business Regulation regarding food truck regulations, and objected to Ellsworth’s drafting of a food truck ordinance for consideration by the council.

“This is a 24-page memo that has already been drafted,” she said. “In my opinion, a step has been missed. It should have been for discussion with the direction of council if we support it,” she said.

Ellsworth replied that the draft of the ordinance had been accompanied by  a copy of the state regulations as well as the state law regarding food trucks.

“All of which, the taxpayers have paid for, without the council’s direction,” Carpenter said. “That’s where my concern is, that this was complaint-driven from a neighbor and we have no idea what the backstory is there, and when we start humoring complaints from neighbors to other neighbors in forms of potential zoning amendment, I believe it’s a very slippery slope.”

Ellsworth responded,

“This is not a zoning amendment, first of all,” before Carpenter interrupted, saying that she did not believe it was appropriate to require some businesses to obtain outdoor entertainment permits while others were exempt from doing so.

“The optics of this are, we are picking winners and losers, we are choosing who we’re going to require a permit for, while simultaneously allowing other entities to operate without and it’s concerning. It’s incredibly concerning to me. The optics are pretty bad.”

Contacted after the meeting, Ellsworth said she had drafted many ordinances which were then presented to the council for consideration.

“It’s not unusual for staff to generate an ordinance for the consideration of the Town Council,” she said. “Usually, it’s discussed by the Town Council first and they request a draft, but that’s not always what happens.  Sometimes, an ordinance is drafted first and presented to them for discussion, and that’s what happened Tuesday.”

Ellsworth pointed out that minutes earlier, the council had approved the drafting of a zoning ordinance amendment after receiving a complaint from a business owner.

“This is, of course, 20 minutes after the council itself did exactly the same thing when they asked me to draft an ordinance amendment prohibiting cultivation of medical marijuana as a result of a complaint from Wadensten, the owner of VIBCO,” she said. “It apparently did not occur to her that she was accusing me of doing something wrong when the council had done exactly the same thing, not 20 minutes earlier.


Issues at the June 15 meeting


In addition to audio problems, a motion made at the June 15 council meeting had the potential to derail the Washington County fair, which will take place from Aug. 11 to Aug. 15.

Proposed by Lauren Cacciola, the motion to continue the license hearing would have delayed council approval of an outdoor entertainment license for the Washington County Fair until July 20.

After Fair Committee Vice Chair Clyde S. Fish informed the council that a July 20 license hearing would be too close to the fair’s opening and might result in the outright cancellation of the iconic Rhode Island event, at the suggestion of councilor Ronald Newman, council members agreed to grant the license.

The June 15 meeting also exposed ongoing tensions between council members, in particular, Carpenter and Nassaney.

Before that meeting adjourned, Nassaney addressed Carpenter as “Miss Carpenter,” eliciting a heated response.

“Point of order. Absolute point of order,” Carpenter said. “My name is not Miss Carpenter. My name is Madam President. You will address me as such, okay?”

Cynthia Drummond


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Richmond Planning Board Meeting June 8, 2021


Board Approves Eight-Unit Subdivision


By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA


An application for the eight-unit Highlander Estates subdivision at 3 Carolina Nooseneck Road cleared a major hurdle Tuesday with the Planning Board’s approval of the master plan. The remote hearing was a continuation of a public hearing that began on May 25.


Submitted by developer William McIntosh IV, the proposal calls for six market-priced and two affordable housing units on a 4.5-acre parcel. The board denied the application in April 2020, citing its incompatibility with the town’s comprehensive plan. McIntosh appealed the decision to the State Housing Appeals Board, which remanded the application to the Planning Board.

Board members had already reviewed the draft decision to approve the application, with several conditions, written by Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth and Town Planner, Sean Lacey.

A persistent concern is the drinking water supply and the impact that new wells for the densely-built subdivision might have on neighboring properties. Ellsworth addressed those concerns by including an amendment to the conditions for approval.

“A hydrogeological analysis must demonstrate that installation and operation of four wells on the site will have no negative impact on surrounding properties, including, but not limited to, lowering of groundwater elevation or loss of well yield during the seasonal low groundwater period, and that sufficient water will be available for all eight dwelling units,” she stated.

Michael Resnick, the attorney representing the developer, proposed changing Ellsworth’s amendment to allow greater flexibility regarding the number of wells in the subdivision, which might be fewer than the four in the plan.

“I think it does the same thing, but it doesn’t particularly tether the applicant to four wells, and if there’s a way to accomplish the same flow and service with less than four, in my personal opinion, I think that would be better language,” he said.

Resnick also requested that the draft be amended to ensure that his client would not be responsible for the conditions of existing wells on nearby properties.

“… while this [hydrogeological] study is meant to determine that us drilling wells, us serving those eight units will have no impact on the surrounding property and the residential property, I don’t think that it’s fair or appropriate for this condition to say that sufficient water will be available for all eight dwelling units and the abutting residential property, because my client’s not going to guarantee that the neighbor’s well works forever if there’s a condition or issue that’s outside of our control that has nothing to do with we have done on site or the draw that we’ve made from the water source,” he said.

Board member Nancy Hess said her priority was ensuring that there would be enough water for the new units and neighboring homes.

“We’re increasing the density over the R-3 zoning district ,which is based upon one house for every three acres, and that R-3 zoning was developed a long time ago to assure that there will be adequate water quantity and quality in people’s houses as the town develops,” she said.

During the public comment period, abutter Lisa Tefft said she worried that the subdivision would impair her water supply.

“I do feel that there’s going to be problems with the water, regardless…if this does continue on and if there’s eight units on this hill,” she said. “Rich [another neighbor] and I have both learned how to control our water usage. I mean, I sometimes take showers at one o’clock in the morning, so it’s all a matter of supply and demand and trying to control it, and if there’s eight more units, potentially 16, 18, 20 people up on the hill, all trying to get ready for work and school in the morning, everybody’s going to be using the water at the same time.”

“We share your concerns over the well issue,” board Chairman Philip Damicis said. “That’s the reason we’re doing the hydrogeological study, and we’ll see what the results are. It’ll undergo a peer review by the town’s engineers and we’ll address it when we get the results.”

Board members voted unanimously to approve the master plan. The developer will now seek preliminary approval for the project.


Cynthia Drummond


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Update: Richmond Planning Board Meeting 5/25

McIntosh Appeal Remanded to Planning Board for Hearing; Conditional Approval Granted.


By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA


RICHMOND — Members of the Planning Board agreed Tuesday at a remote public hearing to grant conditional approval the master plan for a housing development at 3 Carolina Nooseneck Road. (The master plan is the first stage of the approval process.)  Submitted by William McIntosh IV, the proposal consists of six market-priced and two affordable housing units. The board denied the application in April 2020, citing its incompatibility with the town’s comprehensive plan. McIntosh appealed the decision to the State Housing Appeals Board, or SHAB, which remanded the application to the Planning Board.

Town Planner Shaun Lacey explained the configuration of the buildings on the lot, which also fronts Route 138. “The eight dwelling units are broken down into two, single family residential structures along with two triplex structures that will be sold as condominiums,” he said. “The project also subdivides the existing four and a half - acre parcel into three different lots.”

A log cabin which is already on the property will serve as one of the two affordable units, with the second unit in one of the triplexes.  Project engineer Pat Walker shared a plan of the project, and landscape architect Mark Butler described the plants that would be added to replace those lost during construction and provide screening at the busy intersection, for both residents and passing motorists.  “We feel that we’ve done a great job at providing supplemental plantings for the benefit of the development, the developer, the town, and anyone traveling up and down 138, and preserving the native forest that currently exists on the site,” he said.

The attorney representing the developer said that after reading Lacey’s report, he felt he needed to remind the board that while the town’s updated comprehensive plan has been submitted to the state for approval, until it is approved, the old, or current plan was still in effect.  “It’s important that the board members understand that presently, until it’s approved by the state, there is no new comprehensive plan,” Michael Resnick said. “Moreover, it is the comprehensive plan that was in place at the time of the application.”

Resnick noted that because the application was remanded to the board, it was “inappropriate” to cite the new comprehensive plan, which has not yet been approved.  “There is nothing to suggest that this project is not in conformance with that comprehensive plan or is otherwise not in conformance with local regulations,” he said.

Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth agreed with Resnick that the old comprehensive plan would apply to this project.  “The old comp plan applies to the application, because it was filed under the old comp plan,” she said.

Some board members expressed concerns about whether there was sufficient water at the site to supply eight dwellings without impacting neighbors’ wells.  “We’re talking the hydrogeological study, and then whether or not there’s going to be proper, sufficient water sources for this property and existing, current landowners,” Daniel Madnick said. “So I for one look forward to reviewing that documentation when we get it at prelim [preliminary] plan. ”Board member Nancy Hess said she wanted to see the results of a test to determine how much water was available on the site.


“Based on the fact that previous information submitted was generic and inconclusive to establish a yield for wells for the project and whether or not there would be negative or no impact on neighbors, I suggest a revised hydrogeolic analysis be done that includes a 24-hour pump yield test, conducted during seasonal ground water lows and translating the results into projected gallons per minute for each well on the existing site,” she said.


During the public comment period, two neighboring property owners said they worried about the water supply, with one homeowner describing his water pressure as already low.  Board chair Philip Damicis said he wanted more detailed information about the landscape plan, and asked Butler to prepare a drawing of what it would look like.  “If you put together a rendering that takes away all of the foliage, the landscaping that’s in the right of way, get rid of that, and show us what will be remaining and what will be there with your new landscaping,” he said.  Damicis also wanted to know whether the buildings could be shifted further to the West so the units would have larger back yards, but Walker said moving the buildings would impact other components of the development, such as driveways and septic systems.  “I still think you could have had a much better design and you could have minimized the impact on the surrounding land uses and not only that, you would have had a more attractive housing development,” Damicis said. “I think it’s a poor design, quite honestly.”

The board asked Lacey to draft a final report which members would consider when the hearing continues on June 8, however, Resnick requested an immediate initial approval of the master plan.

“I would request a vote this evening,” he said. “Again, SHAB has retained jurisdiction of this and I would request that there be a vote taken.”  Ellsworth explained,  “You would be voting on a motion to approve, subject to approval of the written decision on June 8,” she said. “There’s a motion pending before SHAB and they want an answer by, I think, the end of this week, on whether it’s going to be withdrawn.”  Several board members said they were confused by the request and asked Resnick to explain why an immediate vote was necessary.   “It’s just a procedural mechanism where I needed to preserve the opportunity that these issues could be resolved by the state board as opposed to this local board, and during the process, Karen [Ellsworth] and I discussed that because of the way things were going and because of the way our future before this board with respect to preliminary and final approval and potentially other projects that we would hold it in abeyance and withdraw it when appropriate,” he said.  That withdrawal, Resnick added, had to be submitted this week.

The board voted unanimously to grant conditional approval to the master plan, subject to the approval on June 8 of a full, written decision.


Cynthia Drummond


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Town Council Meeting May 18th Update: Council denies permit for holiday light show


By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA


RICHMOND — There will not be a holiday light show at the Wawaloam campground this year. Members of the Town Council voted unanimously at the May 18 meeting to deny a permit for the event because the owner of the campground property does not want to host it.

Appearing on behalf of the show’s producer, BOLD Media of Holtsville, N.Y., Daniel Dwyer said his company proposed to stage a drive-through holiday light display at the campground, as it did in 2020.

However, the owner of the campground at 510 Gardiner Road has said that because of traffic problems and safety concerns last year, Wawaloam would not be willing to host the show for a second year.

Nicole Smith, general manager of the campground, said the property owners had attempted to rectify the traffic and safety concerns, without success.

“We knew that there was a problem, so much so that we ourselves got out and actually helped out,” she said. “Many times, I said ‘you need to come. We need more help. We need more help.’ And I was always left with a little bit of resistance there, saying ‘you should be able to run this with two people.’…I just want the community to know that we did our best. There was nothing we could do, basically, with our hands tied.”

Council President Nell Carpenter said the property owner’s refusal to host the event was the principal factor in denying the permit.

“We have documentation from a representative of the property owner stating that they are not giving permission for this event, and we have to respect that,” she said.


Council approves budget


The council voted in a public hearing to approve the proposed 2021-22 budget.

Finance Director Laura Kenyon presented highlights of the spending plan, which will include a property tax increase of 1.2%, or $20.62 per $1,000 valuation.

“If a $300,000 home had a tax this year of $6,114, next year, it will be $6,186, which is $72 for the year,” she said.

Residents, none of whom commented at the hearing, will be asked to approve the budget at the Financial Town Meeting, which will be conducted on the Zoom remote platform on June 9 at 7 p.m.


Staff hiring


The council agreed to hire Morgan Cusumano, a longtime summer camp employee, as acting Recreation Director, replacing Sally Lambert, who has resigned.

Councilors engaged in a protracted discussion at the May 4 meeting regarding the need for hiring transparency, with several members suggesting that in the interest of fairness, the town should advertise for open positions.


Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth told the council that she had researched hiring practices in other cities and towns, and none had a requirement that open positions be advertised.

“Most cities and large towns do not have any provision in their code of ordinances at all for the method by which employees are solicited,” she said. “In fact, most of them seem to use a placement exam and interview procedure. They give examinations, they rank candidates, and they maintain a list of qualified individuals for different positions.”

Town Administrator Karen Pinch said she currently advertises open positions on the town’s website and Facebook page as well as the website of the Rhode Island League of Cities and towns.

Council members asked Ellsworth to research the matter further and revisit the issue at a future meeting.


Cynthia Drummond


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Council Meeting Update:  MAY 5th Town Council hears proposed budget, debates recreation hiring


By Cynthia Drummond for the Beaver River Valley Community Association


RICHMOND — Town Council members heard a report at the May 5th remote meeting on the town’s proposed fiscal year 2021-22 budget. They also considered hiring protocols for the recreation program.


The budget


Finance Director Laura Kenyon presented an overview of the new $27.7 million budget, which contains a modest property tax increase, due primarily to an increase in the town’s share of the $21 million Chariho schools budget.

The spending plan is a 3.3%, or $900,000, increase over the current budget.

Estimated revenue from property, tangible and commercial taxes will increase 2.45%, from $20.38 per $1,000 valuation to $20.88, but Kenyon said the final property tax rate will not be known until evaluations and assessments have been calculated.

“There are still some exemptions that need to be evaluated,” she said, referring to the tax exemptions the town gives to older and disabled homeowners.

Personnel costs, the result of planned salary increases, will be going up in the new budget.

“There are no new positions,” Kenyon said. “There is a planned salary increase for most employees at 2% and the police are at 2.5% [increase] per their contract. The pension has been adjusted downward as the rates came down and that saved us about $8,000.”

Health insurance will see a minor increase, under 2%, and dental insurance will decrease by 3.5%.

The town will also save about $269,000 in debt service, because one of its bonds has been paid off.

Kenyon said an additional $10,000 will be allocated to the police budget for a crisis intervention specialist, whose salary will be shared by several southern Rhode Island towns.

“That’s in collaboration with the towns in Washington County and it’s a wonderful service that has been provided to our town,” she said.

The capital improvement budget will increase by $430,000, most of which, $300,000, will be used for road work.

Voters will be asked to approve borrowing $350,000 to chlorinate the town’s water. (Most residents are served by private wells and do not use town water.)

“If we go with the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank, there will be a principal forgiveness of $100,000 on that,” Kenyon said. “The debt will actually only be charged to the people who are on the water system, not every taxpayer in the town.”

Residents will have an opportunity to comment on the proposed budget at the May 18 Town Council meeting.



Recreation Department Hiring Debated


As preparations ramp up for the town’s summer day camp, Recreation Director Sally Lambert requested that Morgan Cusumano, a longtime camp employee, be hired as Assistant Recreation Director. Lambert also asked the council to approve the hiring of four camp counselors.

In addition, council members learned that Lambert, who did not attend Tuesday’s meeting, is leaving her position with the town.

Council member Richard Nassaney said that since Cusumano had been with the department for several years, the town should hire her as Recreation Director to replace Lambert.

Councilor Ronald Newman agreed with Nassaney, however other councilors said the position should be publicly advertised.

Lauren Cacciola said,

“I think for transparency reasons we need to open it up, knowing this new information, we need to put it up, … so I will not be for approving.”

Newman, who works for the Rhode Island Department of Agriculture, disagreed, pointing out that it was common practice to promote employees without publicly posting the positions.

“If you work at the state, if someone has someone that did a good job the previous year, and we know the job that they did, we would just continue on,” he said. “My vote won’t change because I’ve known that Morgan has done a great job. I’ve heard nothing but compliments about her, so I don’t see the advantage of not giving it, moving on and hiring an assistant director.”

Council President Nell Carpenter said she had concerns about promoting Cusumano to director, but Town Administrator Karen Pinch reminded the council that the item on the agenda referred only to hiring Cusumano as Assistant Director and therefore, the position of director could not be discussed.

Carpenter said she would have preferred to advertise both positions.

“It is imperative, optically, we advertise for paid positions as a municipality,” she said. “I requested this two years ago. So, I understand that we are in the lurch right now, I understand that, so I will go with the suggestion of the administrator at this time, but going forward, we cannot show favoritism for people who have participated in camp before. We must open this up for people to apply. We must.”

Asked whether the town was legally required to advertise the open positions, Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth said there was no ordinance requiring advertising, but that the existing ordinance could be amended to require it.

Nassaney said with the summer program ready to go, it would be important to have someone in place who was already familiar with the camp.

“You have people that are already cohesive and they work well together,” he said. “Why disrupt that? You want to do something, you want to change something, then you do it next season. This season’s already set. It’s ready to go.”

Council Vice President James Palmisciano agreed with the argument for continuity in the program, suggesting the town hire Cusumano for the Assistant Director position but he also urged Town Administrator Karen Pinch to try to interview her for the position.

“It satisfies both the business continuity and the transparency,” he said.

The council voted unanimously to approve hiring Cusumano as Assistant Director of the summer camp and to hire the four counselors.




In other business, Pinch said the Town Hall was expected to fully re-open on May 17. Public Works Director Scott Barber is completing the modifications necessary for safe, in-person transactions.

“I think everyone’s looking forward to not having to run back and forth to the window and just having some social interaction with the public as well, as I’m sure the public will be happy to be able to come in also,” she said.



Next Town Council Meeting will be Tuesday, May 18th 2021 at 6:00pm


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Survey: Rhode Islanders willing to pay to keep large solar arrays farther from their homes


By Cynthia Drummond for the BRVCA


KINGSTON — Rhode Islanders polled on their preferences for the siting of commercial solar arrays said they viewed forests and farms as the worst locations for commercial solar projects. Participants in the three-year study were also willing to pay more for electricity to ensure that large solar arrays are kept out of open spaces.

Conducted by researchers at the University of Rhode Island, the study is a collaborative project involving URI’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resource Economics and the College of the Environment and Life Sciences.

Entitled “Here Comes the Sun: Incorporating Resident Preferences into Solar Siting Policy Recommendations for Rhode Island,” the project was funded by a $300,000 grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Participants were chosen from a random sample pulled from the state’s voter registration records. Of the 3,000 people invited to participate, 510 responded online and 159 responded to the paper version.

Corey Lang, an associate professor in the Department of Natural and Resource Economics, presented the findings in an April 27 webinar co- hosted by Kate Venturini, program administrator at URI Cooperative Extension.

Rhode Island has ambitious renewable energy goals, Lang said, which in some cases, have encouraged what is known as solar sprawl.

“Starting about five-ish years ago, we started to see a real ramp-up in utility scale solar arrays being built, and it started small and then just really escalated,” he said. “A lot of arrays are being proposed, and a lot are being built and that is going to help us meet those ambitious targets, but people are not always happy with the siting of these.”

Lang described an issue familiar to residents of rural towns such as Richmond and Hopkinton: the clear-cutting of hundreds of acres of forest for solar energy projects.

“That strikes a lot of people as antithetical to environmental goals,” Lang said. “Sometimes, they’re sited on farmland and that can be beneficial to a farmer, but maybe it’s inconsistent with the type of landscapes that people want.”

Landfills and carports are also potential sites for solar panels, but those sites are more expensive to develop than forests and farmers’ fields. It is on those already built or environmentally-compromised sites, however, that survey participants said they preferred to see solar projects.

The goal of the survey, Lang explained, was not to advocate for or against solar energy projects but to measure people’s preferences for different aspects of commercial scale solar development and then incorporate those preferences in siting decisions.

“Ordinary residents are often excluded or they’re being minimized in a siting decision because they’re not a central part of the transaction,” he said. “The central actors in a transaction are the developer and the landowner and then there’s the state, which is pushing for the development; it’s setting incentives. So those are the parties that are involved, but there are a lot of parties who are outside of that transaction who are still affected by some of the solar developments.”

The study also determined the values of non-monetary qualities such as rural character. One way natural resource economists measure this is by finding out how much people are willing to pay for certain amenities.

“Things like your views as you drive by, or from your house. Your preferences for open space,” Lang said. “These are not things that are bought and sold, but people still care a lot about them, and so their innovative approach is to try and understand what those preferences are and put monetary values on them so that they can be brought in to the same playing fields as those other monetary benefits and costs that the developer and the landowner are talking about.”

Lang described a sample survey question in which the respondent’s monthly electric bill would be reduced by $10 and the commercial solar array would not be visible, but it would be built on farmland.

“By asking people to make these tradeoffs and having a lot of different people do them, then we can understand the preferences for each of these attributes,” he said.

Of all the renewable energy choices, 87% of survey respondents preferred solar, but siting was a major issue. Lang’s team set out to determine people’s willingness to pay higher electric bills to avoid certain siting scenarios.

 “There’s a pretty strong willingness to pay to avoid full visibility,” Lang said. “…the average household is wiling to pay $7.30 [more] per month to avoid a fully visible solar array.”

In addition to asking people to choose between different siting and project size options, the survey attempted to gauge respondents’ feelings regarding residential development on those sites.

“We’re making the choices difficult,” Lang said. “We’re forcing people to make tradeoffs between multiple things that they like or multiple things that they don’t like.”

Asked to rank their feelings about residential development instead of solar,

people were willing to pay more to reduce the chance of solar development, but they were more likely to prefer solar when residential development was a possibility.

Finally, survey participants were asked how much more they would be wiling to pay to prevent or encourage solar development on various sites.

Four types of land were considered: farmland, commercial land, forested land and brownfields.

“People are willing to pay to avoid solar development on farm and forest land - and a lot, particularly forest land.” Lang said. “… $40 per month people are willing to pay to avoid that development happening on forested land.”

Respondents were also willing to pay more to encourage the building of solar arrays on commercial land and contaminated sites.

Now that the study has documented Rhode Islanders’ preferences, Lang said he hoped a way would be found to include that information in Rhode Island’s energy policy.

“What we have is a set of incentives, per kilowatt hour, that are justified by people’s preferences, and so, as we think about how we incorporate people’s preferences, this is it,” Lang said. “This is offering incentives to the developers to move development from forest to commercial.”

Venturini said the survey results would be shared with state and municipal policy-makers.

“Get it into the hands of the people who are, bless them, tasked with making these decisions that have a 25 year or more impact on environmental function and land use and tax revenue,” she said.



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Dear Members and Friends of the Beaver River Valley Community Association,


Council Considers Return to In-person Meetings

RICHMOND — Members of the Town Council are considering allowing the resumption of in-person meetings in addition to the current web-based format, but have agreed to proceed with caution.

The topic was on Tuesday’s meeting agenda at the request of council President Nell Carpenter, who asked the council to consider protocols for re-opening the Town Hall, the senior center and Town Council meetings to the public.

“The reason I wanted to have this on the agenda for discussion was to be proactive, because we will, at some point, have direction from the governor’s office,” she said. “Obviously, our actions are contingent on the governor’s orders, but I would like to be able to hit the ground running in this community when that order comes down."

Carpenter noted that the Department of Public Works had been installing modifications in the council chambers to make public meetings safer.
“My understanding is that there is an anticipation of being ready to open the doors, so to speak, in May, mid-May, late May, I believe and with that, have resuming services in the various offices of Town Hall,” she said.

Members of the town’s senior center are eager to return to social activities, Carpenter added, and the town’s boards and committees are also discussing the resumption of in-person meetings.

Meetings at the Town Hall would require participants to register in advance, since the capacity of the council chambers, which is already NO more than 50 people, would be further reduced. People would still have the option of watching meetings online.

Councilor Ronald Newman had a list of questions about the re-opening.
“How can we ensure everyone is properly able to socially distance themselves in chambers? What sanitation disinfectants would be used? How can we ensure safety if there’s still not, you know, adequate immunization yet? The U.K. variant now is starting to come our way, and we’ve got to worry about that especially when we’ve got a gathering? How can we ensure Town Hall employees themselves will remain safe with people coming into council chambers and the Town Hall itself?…What is the sudden movement that we have to really meet in person? he said.

Newman said he was comfortable with online meetings and wondered whether re-opening in May might be too soon.

Carpenter said she was exploring re-opening strategies and intended to continue with web-based meetings.

“I share your concerns, Ron,” she said. “Please don’t think that I’m trying to start this before it’s safe.”

In other business, the council discussed a “notice of claim” filed by The Preserve LLC on Mar. 30 against the town by attorneys John Tarrantino and Nicole Benjamin. The claim seeks $100,000,000 for damages resulting from The Preserve’s treatment by town officials.

Owned by developer Paul Mihailides, 3,500-acre “Preserve Sporting Club and Residences” has been managed since Sept. 2020 by Ocean House Management LLC, which operates the Ocean House in Westerly.

The notice of claim, addressed to Richmond Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth and the Town Council, accuses the town of discriminatory treatment which resulted in the loss of an opportunity to build a hotel on the property.

Ellsworth said she had asked that the document be added to the council agenda so it would be public information.

“Under state law, someone who is going to sue a municipality for money damages has to file a notice of claim 45 days before the suit is filed,” she said. “We have not been sued and this does not necessarily mean that we are going to be sued. This is just a notice of claim and if you would like to discuss it, we have to do that in executive session.”

The council agreed with Ellsworth’s recommendation that the notice of claim be referred to the town’s insurance carrier.

The council also heard an update by Town Planner Shaun Lacey on flooding mitigation in the Valley Lodge Estates and KG Ranch Road neighborhoods.
The Southern Rhode Island Conservation District was awarded a flood resiliency grant from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service and has targeted that area of Richmond for a mitigation project, the engineering of which would be undertaken at no cost to the town.

“We’re still waiting on the allocation of funds from the federal offices over at NRCS down to the state, and we’re probably looking at five to six weeks out from that funding being made available,” Lacey said. “So still in a little bit of a holding pattern but we’re actually reasonably confident that the planning budget is probably going to be increasing, so that’s pretty good news.”

Lacey said a full presentation on the mitigation project would be provided to the council once the state has authorized the conservation district to proceed.

Please email if you would like to receive Town Council, Planning Board, Zoning Board and other updates or visit our website at


Thank you for your continued support. 



Beaver River Valley Community Association

Dear Members and Friends of the Beaver River Valley Community Association,

We have a number of updates to share related to the Beaver River Valley and town business.

GD Beaver River Solar I LLC and property owner William Stamp Jr. are appealing the denial by the Richmond Zoning Board of an application for a special-use permit to build a commercial solar array in a residential zone at 172 Beaver River Road. The facility would be constructed on a 41-acre agricultural property owned by Stamp. Filed in Washington County Superior Court on March 10 by attorney John Mancini, the appeal names as defendants the Zoning Board, its five members and Richmond Finance Director Laura Kenyon.

Owned by Green Development of Cranston, GD Beaver River Solar applied to the town for a special-use permit in 2018 and in a unanimous decision on February 22 2021, the board denied the application. The appeal asks the court to reverse the board’s decision and award the developer attorney’s fees and costs.

“The Zoning Decision was without substantial justification and a clear abuse of discretion, warranting an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees, pursuant to R.I. Gen. Law 42-92-3, otherwise known as ‘Equal Access to Justice for Small Businesses and Individuals’,” the appeal states.

Reasons for the Zoning Board’s denial included the project’s distance from the nearest electrical substation, which is father than two miles away as required by the town’s zoning ordinance, as well as its incompatibility with both the town’s comprehensive plan and the surrounding property. The parcel is bordered to the west by Beaver River Road and to the east by the Beaver River. The river is part of the Pawcatuck River watershed, which recently received a Wild and Scenic designation from the federal government. The Beaver River Valley Agricultural District is also currently under consideration for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places.

At the March 16 meeting of the Richmond Town Council, the Town Council approved a resolution supporting the nomination of the Beaver River Road Historic District to the National Register of Historic Places. The unanimous vote took place without discussion or debate.

The agricultural district has already received a formal determination of eligibility for inclusion in the register from the U.S. Secretary of the Interior. The nomination will be made to the Department of the Interior by the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission. Drafted by Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth, the resolution comes in advance of the April 5 meeting of the commission’s review board, which will consider the nomination.

The addition of the district to the National Register of Historic Places will not restrict the rights of property owners or impose additional guidelines for development review.  The Beaver River Valley Community Association, which contracted with the Rhode Island Public Archaeology Laboratory to create the nomination papers, is working to increase awareness of the historic and cultural significance of the district which, in turn, will support the preservation and protection of the area. The resolution reads:

WHEREAS, the Beaver River Road Historic District is a unique and valuable reminder of Richmond’s agrarian past; and

WHEREAS, the district, which extends almost two miles along Beaver River Road, parallel to the Beaver River, is a visually cohesive rural landscape of historic farmsteads, stone walls, and open, cultivated fields and pastures; and

WHEREAS, as a result of federal legislation enacted in 2019, the Beaver River, one of seven rivers that comprise the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed, is a nationally-recognized Wild and Scenic River; and

WHEREAS, Richmond’s 2021 Comprehensive Community Plan recognizes the Beaver River Road Historic District as a valuable natural, historical, and cultural resource; and

WHEREAS, on April 5, 2021, the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission’s Review Board will consider the Beaver River Road Historic District for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places,

THEREFORE, the Richmond Town Council strongly supports inclusion of the Beaver River Road Historic District on the National Register and urges the Review Board to approve the nomination.


In other land-use related news, the Town Council adopted the latest update of the comprehensive community plan, with councilor Lauren Cacciola casting the only dissenting vote. During a public hearing on the plan, Town Planner Shaun Lacey provided an overview of the document, which is required by state law to be updated every 10 years and will guide all land use in the town. Lacey prefaced his presentation by explaining that there are a few minor changes still to be made to the document.

“I did just wanted to bring up one point that was brought to my attention,” he said. “I’m led to understand that the council may have some concerns rehearing the final draft tonight and specifically, why the comments from the Planning Board’s public hearing last month were not incorporated into this plan at tonight’s meeting. The reason for that is that the comments that we received from last month’s meeting with the Planning Board were generally thought to be grammatical and formatting-related, so my plan for tonight was to walk the council through those recommendations during my presentation to you tonight.”

Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth suggested the council first hear Lacey’s presentation and then make a decision regarding the adoption of the plan. “Why don’t you let Shaun put on the presentation that he planned to put on and then you can make a decision about whether you’d like to continue it, or vote on it tonight,” she said.

Cacciola said she had not had sufficient time to review the changes. “I do see some things that I would like to review a little bit more so I can get more information and that way, it can be completed,” she said. “If it’s not complete now, then what’s the difference of waiting, legally, I would say, because if something’s wrong and someone goes ahead and says ‘I’m just going by the comp plan’ and that’s not what you mean, then it’s not complete.”

Ellsworth responded that the plan, with or without the additional edits, was a legal document. “It’s legal either way,” she said. “What I suggested was, you listen to Shaun’s presentation and then if you’re still uncomfortable with enacting the whole thing tonight, you can continue it to another date and have him post the entire revised document on the website.”

The council opted to hear the presentation, which concluded with Lacey telling the council that the next step would be to submit the plan to the state.

“Following the ultimate adoption of the plan, whether that’s tonight or at a later meeting, we’ll go ahead and expect to share the document with the state for their review and hopefully, that will result in a notification that we have a state-certified comp plan at the end of the day.”

The council, with the exception of Cacciola, voted to adopt the comprehensive plan.

Later in the meeting the council accepted, with regret, the resignation of Town Clerk Sarah Rapose, who is leaving Richmond, having accepted a position in West Warwick. Rapose’s last day will be March 26, however, the town has already hired her replacement. Richmond resident Erin Liese, who has served as Town Clerk in West Greenwich and Jamestown was confirmed as Richmond’s new Town Clerk.

Liese is currently earning $3,200 more than the Richmond position would pay, but the council agreed to raise her salary to $68,000 in the first year and to $71,000 in fiscal year 2022. The council voted unanimously to approve Liese for the position.

In other town business, Planning Board Chair Philip Damicis presented a review of the activities of the Planning Board over the past year. Damicis also noted that he was pleased to welcome Travis Putnam, the newest member of the board, confirmed earlier during Tuesday’s meeting by a unanimous council vote. The Planning Board membership is now complete, with all positions filled.  Damicis said Putnam’s background in landscape architecture would be particularly useful to the board.

“As of tonight, with your appointment of Travis Putnam, we have a landscape architect, which will be a valuable member,” he said. “You know, every development plan review we go through has some element of landscape architecture, so it’s going to be really nice to have Travis as a member of the board.”

The council voted to re-schedule the next meeting, originally scheduled for April 6, because the Chariho budget referendum is taking place on that date.

The next Town Council meeting will be held on April 20.

If you would like to be added to the BRVCA mailing list, please email


Thank you,


Beaver River Valley Community Association

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Dear Members and Friends of the Beaver River Valley Community Association,

We are pleased to report that tonight February 22nd, the Richmond Zoning Board UNANIMOUSLY VOTED TO DENY Green Development's special use permit request to construct a commercial-scale solar utility system at 172 Beaver River Road. 

We are grateful to the Zoning Board for recognizing and protecting the historic, natural, and scenic value of this landscape. 

Thank you to the many Richmond residents who came together to protect our unique town and its rural character.  Your advocacy, community outreach, meeting attendance, letters and public comment over the past two years has helped raise awareness of the importance of the Beaver River Valley. Thanks to your collective efforts, the rural character of this area – and its wildlife, watershed, and land – will not be sacrificed for utility-scale solar development by non-resident owners and corporations.       

The BRVCA will continue to provide updates regarding this application and any appeals. We remain committed to preserving this beautiful corner of our community for all residents and visitors.  

Thank you for helping us Keep Richmond Rural. 


Beaver River Valley Community Association 

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Dear Members and Friends of the Beaver River Valley Community Association,


This Monday, February 22, the Richmond Zoning Board will meet to discuss and vote upon Green Development's proposal for a commercial-scale solar installation at 172 Beaver River Road. Many of you have followed this process for more than two years and expressed your concerns about this proposal. If allowed, this development will forever change the pristine Beaver River Valley from a rural, scenic landscape into one ruined by energy utilities that profit an out-of-town developer. 


Please join us on Monday at 7:00 p.m. via Zoom using the details below. 


Join via computer or mobile app: 

Or iPhone one-tap: US: +13017158592, 82058808855# or +13126266799, Meeting ID: 82058808855# 


Or Telephone: US: 1 646 558 8656 or 833 548 0282 (Toll Free) 

Webinar ID: 820 5880 8855 

International numbers available: 


Thank you for your continued support. 



Beaver River Valley Community Association

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Dear Members and Friends of the Beaver River Valley Community Association,


This week the Town of Richmond will hold two public meetings that may be of interest to all Richmond residents. 

On Tuesday, February 9, at 6:30 p.m. the Planning Board will hold a public hearing regarding the updated Comprehensive Community Plan. This document helps guide all land use decisions and therefore it is critically important that it reflect the interest of Richmond residents. The updated plan can be read here: The Planning Board meeting will be held via Zoom and the details are included below. 

On Wednesday, February 10, at 7:00 p.m. the Richmond Conservation Commission will hold a special meeting dedicated to the Beaver River Watershed. The meeting will feature a presentation by environmental engineering firm, Horsley Witten Group, which was commissioned to study the Beaver River Watershed. There will also be opportunity for public input and questions. The Conservation Commission meeting will be held via Zoom and those details are outlined below. The meeting agenda can be viewed here:


Planning Board

Time: Feb 9, 2021 06:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting:

Meeting ID: 841 5186 6334

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Meeting ID: 841 5186 6334

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Conservation Commission

Join via phone:           Dial: 1-646-558-8656 or Toll Free at 833-548-0282

                                    When prompted, enter meeting ID 835 5941 5767#

                                    Press # again to join the meeting

Join via computer or mobile app:



Beaver River Valley Community Association

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Dear Members and Friends of the Beaver River Valley Community Association, 


On Monday evening, the Richmond Zoning Board met and continued reviewing Green Development's special use permit request to install a commercial-scale solar utility system at 172 Beaver River Road. The meeting included testimony from Green Development, an attorney representing an abutter opposed to the project, and many Richmond residents who also oppose the project. The meeting lasted more than three hours. 


The Beaver River Valley Community Association would like to express our gratitude to the residents, neighbors, members, and supporters who attended and shared their concerns. We are also grateful to the Zoning Board members who were patient, thorough, and thoughtful over the course of the meeting. A full summary of the meeting can be found in Cynthia Drummond's article in The Westerly Sun, attached here. 


The Zoning Board is scheduled to meet again on February 22 to render its findings and vote on the application. Please mark your calendars and join us on February 22 at 7:00 p.m. via Zoom. 



Beaver River Valley Community Association


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