PAWTUCKET – For a second straight year, the City Council has unanimously approved a resolution opposing bills prohibiting single-family zoning in communities of 20,000 residents or more.
And council members on April 20 again expressed surprise and frustration that members of Pawtucket’s General Assembly delegation never came to them to talk about the bills and why they’re being proposed.
The Breeze reported last week that there were mirror bills on the House and Senate sides to prohibit single-family residential zoning in communities with populations greater than 20,000 people, which would include neighboring North Providence and other cities and towns.
Councilor Clovis Gregor last week asked if there’s a specific reason the council was opposing the bills with a resolution, and the resolution’s author, City Council President David Moran, then asked if he had read it. He said it’s “unfathomable” that this could happen for a second straight year, without the respect of contact with the City Council or mayor’s office and after an almost identical resolution was passed by the council last year.
Councilor Roberto Moreno and others said they were strongly in favor of the resolution.
Mercer said the bills as presented target municipal rights on a very basic level, “usurping” the most local task of municipal government, which is zoning. The legislation demands that communities revise carefully thought out and defined comprehensive plans, he said, calling it an “overstretch” and “counterintuitive.”
Further, said Mercer, if leaders really wanted greater investment in more housing, they would be targeting smaller communities with large lots, not densely populated cities such as Pawtucket with 5,000-square-foot house lots. He said this “strikes at the heart of homeownership” for people trying to buy a piece of property for themselves where they don’t have to live in the same building as someone else.
Gregor said he’d thought the bills applied to all communities, and Mercer said that it is only for those with a population greater than 20,000. Even if it did include everyone, he said, state leaders shouldn’t be telling local communities what to do with their zoning. Gregor then responded that he does find the bills “just a bit overreaching.”
Councilor Marlena Martins Stachowiak then sought and received clarification that the delegation never came to talk about the bills, and the council voted 9-0 in favor of Mercer’s resolution.
Pass it with a sunset clause. Most land in the United States is zoned for single family ONLY. It's given us suburbanization, sprawl and unwalkable communities. I love my car but we could weight the scales on the other end for a while.
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