I just watched the video of the Charlestown Planning Commission’s Oct. 26 meeting where it considered the “Shoreline Plaza” Master Plan application for an office/retail complex to be located at the very eastern Charlestown end of Old Post Road. Although I don’t live near this property, I have followed this proposal out of a general concern regarding development in Charlestown.
One of the CCA’s touted candidates for Planning Commission, Carol Mossa, spoke against this application. It was immediately clear her candidacy is motivated by personal interest in this application. She lives next door. I found her sworn testimony to be shockingly illuminating as to what we might expect from her should she be elected.
Regardless of one’s personal opinion of any project, there is a legal process by which the town and the applicant must adhere. The online application for this proposal reveals that the 9.12-acre property is located in the Traditional Village District and has been zoned as commercial property for several decades. The proposed uses for this commercial property, offices and retail, are in complete compliance with zoning and no variances are necessary.
Ms. Mossa purchased her .26-acre property, next door to the subject property in the TVD district, in 2017, presumably knowing and understanding that she purchased a residential structure adjacent to mostly vacant commercial property. Ms. Mossa addressed the commission more than once, but led with these comments: “I was here in June and addressed Mr. Sullivan by saying that I understood that he has a legal right, an absolute legal right to develop his commercial property, his 9.2 acres right next to mine. But, just because you have the legal right to do something, doesn’t mean you should do it … What you bring to us presents no value.” Later she declared, “this makes no sense.”
I found these comments appalling, arrogantly dismissive, and completely devoid of any true understanding of zoning, planning, or equity. She dismisses the legal rights of a property owner because she has a personal interest. This attitude and complete disregard for statutory standards will subject our town to potential liability and costly legal battles. Charlestown zoned and taxed this property as commercial. The owner has every right to seek to develop its legally permitted, zoned uses.
Ms. Mossa’s comments should be accepted at face value. She does not care that an owner seeks to use their property for permitted uses or that an owner pays substantial taxes for commercial property. She doesn’t want it next to her. (Can you say NIMBY?) This owner should simply let Ms. Mossa enjoy her well-buffered home and not utilize his commercial property. What does this attitude portend for future applicants should she be elected to the Planning Commission? Her comments clearly disqualify her as someone who could be fair and impartial.
It is important that we elect individuals who will serve our community and who understand due process. Conservation, not confiscation. Vote for CRU candidates, not CCA. Fairness matters.
Catherine Graziano, Charlestown
This article appeared as a Letter To the Editor in The Westerly Sun on November 2.