You own a piece of property in Charlestown. You want to subdivide it into two lots; one lot, 5.3 acres; the other lot, 5.7 acres. Your land is in a 3-acre zone (you need 3 acres of land to build a house).
You go to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission issues an approval of your plan with conditions.
One of the conditions is that you need to “grant a conservation easement to the Town of Charlestown.” That’s right, “grant,” not sell. That means give an easement to the town, and you get nothing in return. Is that conservation of land, or confiscation of land?
This happened to property owners on Kings Factory Road. The property owners fought against this confiscation of their land. They offered to deed-restrict part of their land, rather than give the easement to the town. That was not acceptable to the Planning Commission. What is the financial cost to the landowner to fight this in court? It costs the members of the Planning Commission absolutely nothing. It costs the taxpayers and the property owner plenty.
Charlestown Residents United candidates believe that these actions by those endorsed by Charlestown’s other political action committee are unfair. This is taking property without compensation. This is wrong.
The Planning Commission claims that a deed restriction will expire after 30 years and that’s why they have to get an easement.
This is simply not true.
Rhode Island General Law 34-4-21 provides for an expiration of restrictions only when a time frame is not set forth in the deed.
So, if the property owner self-imposes restrictions in perpetuity, there is no reason for the town to exact a conservation easement.
Moreover, the subdivision regulations contain powerful tools for enforcement of conditions of approval.
What if it were you? Would you be okay with the Planning Commission taking an interest in your land for the town?
Would you be okay with the Planning Commission confiscating your property?
The candidates endorsed by Charlestown Residents United support the conservation of land, not the confiscation of land. I respectfully ask for your vote, along with Grace Klinger, Lorna Persson, Rippy Serra and Stephen Stokes for Town Council; Gabrielle Godino and Patricia Stamps for Planning Commission and Charlie Beck for town moderator.
Deborah Carney, Charlestown The writer is president of the Charlestown Town Council and is running for reelection.
This article appeared as a Letter To the Editor in The Westerly Sun on October 25