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Make Charlestown livable for middle class

Mike Dowdell (photo taken in 2013)

Families and children are what make a community vibrant and alive, but today, Charlestown’s future is slowly disappearing.

My parents moved to Charlestown in 1985 and had my three brothers and me. We had a great childhood here. We all attended the local Chariho schools from 1988 until 2010 and we all went to Charlestown Elementary School from kindergarten through fourth grade.

There were over 500 students with grade levels at 100 or more. Mine was one of the biggest classes at 125 students. Now, according to the district website, the principal of Charlestown School reports there are a total of 250 students. Think about that. There are only three kindergarten classes, one with only 13 students. This is less than half of the school population of a decade ago.

Charlestown’s numbers in local soccer, Little League and basketball need little ones to join. Our small businesses in town find it difficult to hire enough local summer help. My brothers and I were all town beach attendants and lifeguards, along with a lot of our classmates, but our own town hires many more summer employees from out of town or who are summer residents.

How did that happen?

Long before the pandemic, Charlestown’s planners and government boards had put the brakes on the ability for us young people to afford to live where we grew up. Homes north of Route 1 have become vacationland for out-of-towners who can’t afford beach areas south of Route 1. We are getting squeezed out of our hometown. Older folks who want to downsize can’t because the town won’t approve enough of the types of homes older people need.

I know that our summer residents are very important to our town, and I respect and understand that, but even they had to grow up somewhere.

Roadblocks against affordable housing for young and old are the biggest issue facing Charlestown from the young middle-class perspective. Even one of our town councilors just starting out had to move out of Charlestown to find an affordable place to live.

Residents of Charlestown who are builders and are trying to provide moderate housing for our age group and for seniors and are trying their best. But they are up against a group of elected people who aren’t working to have a real town for us who live here year-round. We all love open space, a clean environment and close proximity to the Atlantic beaches, but the focus on what’s important is upside down.

If we don’t find a way to welcome families and children, Charlestown as we knew it, which was a great place to grow up, will cease to exist.

Please vote for the group of people who support us too. I know that the group of candidates from Charlestown Residents United care very much about these issues. Please vote for them and give them a chance.

Mike Dowdell, Charlestown

The article appeared as a Letter To the Editor in The Westerly Sun on November 5.

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