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It wasn’t broke, so why did CCA fix it?

Two letters to the editor (in The Westerly Sun) — by Ruth Platner on Oct. 10 and Suzanne Durney on Oct. 15 — paint a picture different than the one I witnessed at the Charlestown Town Council’s public hearing on a proposed Conservation Design Ordinance.

The first letter claimed that opponents of the ordinance wanted to increase, or even double, the yield of available building lots in Charlestown.

I was one of many residents who opposed the ordinance as it was presented. I urged, argued, and pleaded to the council to reject the proposal because I believe the current cluster-subdivision regulations already suit the needs of Charlestown. I have difficulty understanding why the cluster-subdivision ordinance needed to be replaced entirely when the Planning Commission themselves presented several past Charlestown subdivisions as examples of what promising developments look like when accounting for rural character and open space buffers.

Additionally, while true that the number of lots will not increase in the new regulation, it has allowed lots to be tightly packed into one area on as small as ½-acre parcels. That is not rural by any definition, I know. So now a person moving to Charlestown went from owning a few acres around their house to owning a lot you would find in any densely packed town in Rhode Island.

Why, I asked, can’t people be stewards of their land? Our family has owned a large parcel in town for nearly 70 years.

Every possible land use was proposed to us including a gravel bank, junkyard, camping ground, solar, wind, cell, and, more recently, housing.

It is still a farm. We have no plans to sell, but we do not want our value to be diminished or our land rights to be taken away.

I believe that a 3-acre lot is more appealing than 1 acre or less. I also think that having a septic system and a well on a larger building lot is far more conservation-minded. Condensing building lots puts wells and septic systems closer together, endangering groundwater quality.

One letter stated that “the preservation of this rural paradise is no accident” and alluded to the CCA being responsible for that. I am here to tell you that statement is a testament to the people of Charlestown since its incorporation in 1738 until today. My family has resided in Charlestown since 1750. The CCA has held the council majority for the last 12 years, and it is a nice gesture to give them credit for the ruralness of Charlestown, but it’s families like mine and many others that preserved this town and left something for the future.

The Oct. 15 letter to the editor ends with the adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” and then it goes on to endorse CCA candidates. The land ordinance that the CCA changed existed for the last 30 years, and the spirit of it for far longer, so why did they choose to ignore the majority of the citizens and “fix” something that wasn’t broken?

William Coulter, Charlestown

This article appeared as a Letter To the Editor in The Westerly Sun on October 27.

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