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Stephen Stokes is not backing big-box stores

I would like to take a moment and respond to a letter to the editor published on Oct. 29 by Donna Chambers. In it, she asserts that I’m in favor of big-box stores.

“Stephen Stokes claims to be against big-box stores, but at a public hearing, he was the only one of 300 people who spoke against the will of the townspeople and in favor of a large Dollar General store in Cross’ Mills.”

To be clear, there were about 30 people at the public meeting I spoke at, of which 12 gave public comment, including myself. As for my own comments, I would invite people to watch the video (July 25, 2018, Planning Commission Regular Meeting). My testimony begins at the 2:02:10 mark.

Mrs. Chambers is correct that I did not speak against the Dollar General, however, she failed to articulate the entirety of what I said and the context. First, I stated that I wasn’t generally against the Dollar General store, but that I was concerned about design standards. I stressed that the aesthetics of the building were the most important part if the business was to be built. I also stated that I was fully in favor of the 5,000-square-foot limit in Charlestown’s zoning ordinances, which the Dollar General store did not comply with; again, stressing design standards. Had the standards I spoke of been implemented, you would not have had a “big-box store” but a store that looked correct for the area and was sized appropriately, much like the Dunkin’ Donuts or the Washington Trust buildings.

Unfortunately, the commercialization of the Traditional Village District has already happened. You have four major corporations with stores located within a mile of each other, as well as undeveloped commercial land. It is very important that we compile and enforce a set of design standards that ensure that no big-box stores are able to be built. I have stated before and will state again; I am not for big-box stores. I am for upholding future businesses to meet the character and small-town qualities we have come to expect in Charlestown.

Furthermore, the citizens of Charlestown should be thankful that the Dollar General decided to withdraw their appeal of the Planning Commission decision. Watch the video mentioned at the 2:46:00 mark and see how the CCA Planning Commission placed the town in jeopardy of an additional lawsuit from the Dollar General by having the negative findings prepared ahead of the supposedly impartial hearing. Those are exactly the kind of “crony politics” that Charlestown Residents United candidates are referring too.

As for the notion that the CCA candidates are not aligned with special interests; Charlestown Citizens Alliance, a registered political action committee who receives donations and engages in political lobbying, is by definition a special interest group. Charlestown Residents United is made up of Republicans, Democrats, independents, ex-CCA supporters and anyone else that wants the opinions of all the citizens of Charlestown.

I humbly ask for your consideration and vote.

Stephen Stokes, Charlestown

This article appeared as a Letter To the Editor in The Westerly Sun on October 31, 2020.

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