No. Smithfield Town Council OKs new comprehensive plan

No. Smithfield Town Council OKs new comprehensive plan

Zoning changes to be addressed at separate meeting

NORTH SMITHFIELD – After several years of discussion and review by the Planning Department, members of the Planning Board and town residents, the Town Council approved a new comprehensive plan on Monday, setting in motion the town’s vision for growth over the next 10 to 20 years.

The new plan consists of 12 chapters covering topics such as land use, natural resources, recreation facilities, energy resources and historic preservation. It is intended as a guiding document for future development and decisions by town departments and boards.

While the plan also includes a list of proposed zoning changes at 22 locations, Town Planner Tom Kravitz and members of the council opted to address those changes at a separate meeting after notifying property owners and abutters per the legal requirements of the zoning process. The old zoning map will remain in effect until the changes are considered in early 2019, a condition of the council’s approval of the new plan.

Among the changes in the new plan is an increased emphasis on growing the town’s commercial tax base through business development, specifically in Branch Village and along Route 146. Another area targeted for long-term commercial development is Whortleberry Hill, a forested area currently under consideration for a controversial 40-megawatt solar farm.

The plan also identifies areas to be conserved as undeveloped land. Of the 22 proposed zoning changes, according to Kravitz, 13 involve changing a zoning designation to “open space.”

The Town Council held several public hearings throughout the fall to allow residents to weigh in on the plan. While community input on the document, a significant step in the town’s long-term growth, started off slow, resident involvement picked up after Cynthia Roberts, co-founder of a group called Engage North Smithfield, asked if the group could host a joint workshop with town officials to allow residents to share their views in a more casual setting. The group held two workshops on Oct. 4 and Nov. 10 and, along with Planning Board members, contributed ideas that led to the addition of a “Community” chapter in the final draft. The chapter provides an introduction to the comprehensive plan, listing long-term goals for health and physical development along with a list of recommended community activities and events.

“People want more than just more things being built, they want public spaces to use together in more ways than just organized sports,” Roberts told councilors this week.

In addition to the community chapter, Roberts said group members were interested in participating in an annual review of the comprehensive plan. Such a process, she said, would hold residents and elected officials accountable and ensure the plan continues to meet the needs of the community.

“People in the group felt like we really want this to be a collective work in progress, because it’s really only revised every 10 to 20 years,” she said. “We feel like there might be things in the comprehensive plan that we might want to live into and understand better as time goes by.”

Councilors were receptive to the idea of reviewing the plan on a regular basis and even discussed updating it more than once per year to make for an easier draft process when the town creates a new plan after 10 to 20 years. State law allows the town to review and make changes up to four times per year.

“Because we have the opportunity to review it four times a year, I think we should look to review it quarterly to ensure we’re still meeting the need,” Councilor Douglas Osier Jr. suggested.

Comments

I cant think of any town with more open public space than North Smithfield.

...think again.
The Townspeople voted a bond in 2006 for spending $3 million dollars to acquire Open Space/Park land.
The Town's last 2 Town Administrators have defied the will of the Townspeople by spending $500,000. of the 3 Million Dollars.
Where's the Beef ?
The Townspeople be damned...

Open space is great but the town seems to have a penchant to preserve difficult to access wetlands. Let's be smart with that $3M