Sand Trace: Too many units in rural Smithfield

Sand Trace: Too many units in rural Smithfield

Smithfield is about to undergo a major shift toward becoming a city, not a town, if its Planning Officer Michael Phillips has his way, to authorize a 78-building, 180-unit condo development at Log Road, over the Stillwater Reservoir, called The Sand Trace, using a loophole to do so, along with several other sites, if this Master Plan Stage is approved on March 21.

We call it The Sand Bag, and here’s why: Although town councilors and residents alike realize the inclusion of Low to Moderate Income Housing (LMI) ratios are required by the state, councilors agree off the record that the proposed size of Sand Trace is a bad idea for a rural area zoned R-80. However, Smithfield’s Planning Board now controls this approval process, bypassing our Zoning Board, and can decide whether to allow up to eight times more units than are currently allowed there now. If the 22 homes now allowed at Sand Trace were even doubled to 44, and 25 percent of those units, 11, were LMI, we’d be in compliance for LMI. You’ve seen full page ads in prior Valley Breeze issues, and it’s true: The state doesn’t tell each town how to provide LMI, just that it get done somehow. Why so many more units are being welcomed by this planner, in opposition to neighbor concerns, is anyone’s guess. In Narragansett, Exeter, Barrington, and three other towns, LMI has been implemented in ways that are more in line with the character of their towns and common sense zoning.

Taxpayer alert: With our excellent school system that will be closing one elementary school this year, and statewide Pre-K on the way, we’re now paying tax increases of $250 to $300 on average for the next five years – a special assessment created by passage of school improvements on our three elementaries, and a new fire station. When hundreds more of Low to Moderate income housing is created for families, what will school enrollments look like in 5-10 years when thousands of these units are phased in, on top of mandatory Pre-K? What does Smithfield’s Budget Board think about how this will work, and how much more extra spending is in store for us?

Public safety-wise, Log Road, the primary way in and out of these 180 condos, was recently a washed-out causeway, down to one lane, a little two-lane blacktop that carries fire and emergency traffic, with no sidewalks. Sand Trace is in no way ideal or suited for this part of town. Jan. 29 rains created a complete spill from the Sand Trace site into the reservoir. Now factor in storm runoff with pet waste downhill, into our public water supply. So these roads that can’t be walked, run or bicycled without great injury potential will need to be rebuilt as wetlands and waters rise.

Smithfield seems to have accepted the bacterial mess at Slack’s Pond and Georgiaville as a way of life. Are we now trying to destroy the Stillwater Reservoir? The Comprehensive Plan’s introduction says the town values its water resources and quality of life, but the town’s words certainly do not match its actions.

Infrastructure: How will the Georgiaville water system support these hundreds more units, and will our 60-year-old pipes and systems support Sand Trace? What about water pressure?

Town Council President Suzy Alba said on Jan. 22 that the council cannot review and remove this poorly conceived Table H-25 from our Comprehensive Plan until the fall. Why not now? That makes no sense and we challenge her to identify a provision in the law that requires such an amendment “to wait until the fall” (when, conveniently, the Sand Trace project will have already been approved).

The Sand Trace needs to be completely vetted before Smithfield commits itself to becoming a city over time. Unite at tonight’s hearing and stay on top of this precarious recklessness. Home and business owner petitions will be available for signatures at 6:30. All hands on deck!

Cynthia & Thomas Mulvey