Comprehensive Plan promises

November 16th, 2007

Today’s Providence Journal has an op-ed by Councilman Solomon defending the city’s passage of the “interim” comprehensive plan.  The op-ed simply reiterates all of the same “protections” the council mentioned the night they voted to pass the plan.  The Providence Working Waterfront Alliance remains deeply concerned about the process going forward.  Our main concerns are that:

1. Condo developers will point to the “interim” comprehensive plan as the official guiding document for the city.  As the Rhode Island Supreme Court has held:

“We believe a comprehensive plan is not simply the innocuous general-policy statement the town contends it is. Instead, the comprehensive plan, comprised of ‘text, maps, illustrations, or other media of communication,’ establishes a binding framework or blueprint that dictates town and city promulgation of conforming zoning and planning ordinances.” Town of East Greenwich v. Narragansett Electric Co., 651 A.2d 725, 727 (R.I.1994)

Pointing to the plan’s proposed mixed use Land Use change along the Allens Ave. corridor, developers will argue their plans are consistent with the city’s vision for the area and they should therefore be granted a variance.  This could happen before of any charrettes or final zoning ordinance changes are approved by the Council.

2. Charrettes will be mere charades as the city moves forward with its vision for neighborhood zoning changes regardless of community feedback.

3. Comp Plan language stating that future residents must understand that the noises, odors, and vibrations caused by working waterfront operations will not be considered a nuisance, is completely unenforceable.  It is inevitable that future condo residents would exercise their First Amendment rights to complain about their industrial neighbors and pressure their elected officials to pass operating restrictions.

Finally, we have noted with concern that the city Zoning Board of Review on Tuesday voted to grant a major variance for a proposed 12-story residential condominium building near Federal Hill.  This variance was granted despite the Council’s promise, outlined in today’s Projo op-ed, that “existing zoning, as well as existing uses, density and character, will remain in place until changed by the council.”

For all of these reasons, we will remain vigilant in holding the Council to its word, as outlined in today’s Projo op-ed.

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