News & Event
By GABRIELLE FALLETTA | Aug 18, 2017
EAST GREENWICH - Several Rhode Island towns are facing negative impacts after being notified in late July that many of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) applications for local programs and agencies will not receive the funding they typically see.
Locally, six social services programs applied for a total of $136,702 to fund several projects in the area, and after the meeting in late July, East Greenwich, along with many other towns across the state, were notified that none of their applications from the Plan Year 2016 will receive funding.
“Historically you’d ask for it, and you’d get something,” said Community Development Consortium Director Geoff Marchant. “You wouldn’t always get everything you asked for, but you got part of it, and now, nothing.”
According to Marchant, the reason the RI Office of Housing and Community Development announced the applications would not be funded is due to over expenditure in the Office of Housing and Community Development’s three “set-aside” programs: housing rehabilitation, affordable housing and economic development. Historically, East Greenwich is eligible for between $150,000 and $200,000 in funds through the CDBG grants, funds that provide necessary money to community agencies that support and provide services to the low income population. The town has been applying for and receiving funds from the program for the last 40 years.
“Last year somehow the state lost track of $4 million, and towns that had applied for federal Fiscal Year 16 money only learned about a week and a half ago that they weren’t getting anything, because the money is gone,” said Marchant.
East Greenwich is one of 33 non-entitlement communities eligible for the program, non-entitlement meaning all Rhode Island towns with smaller populations than the six larger cities; Cranston, East Providence, Pawtucket, Providence, Warwick and Woonsocket.
Aside from East Greenwich, many of the other non-entitlement communities including Cumberland, Barrington, Burrillville, Charlestown, Coventry, Exeter, Glocester, Hopkinton, Jamestown, Little Compton, Middletown, Narragansett, New Shoreham, Newport, North Kingstown, Portsmouth, Richmond, Smithfield, Tiverton, Warren, West Greenwich, Warwick, Westerly and Bristol are now facing the impacts of their projects not being funded.
After being made aware of the changes, the towns mentioned above wrote and signed a letter to Chief of Housing and Community Development Michael Tondra, objecting the proposed changes to the CDBG annual funding process. In the letter it was stated that several annual funding changes will now take place and HUD will no longer consider applications for public improvements such as streetscape or social services, adult education programs and ESL education.
“We are dismayed that public facilities and improvement projects and public services activities focused on low and moderate income communities are proposed to now be such low priorities that they are unlikely to be funded in the future,” the letter reads. “Much needed improvements to parks, roads, and municipal infrastructure, as well as social service programs are at stake. We have been receiving such funding since CDBG was created in 1972. Now, abruptly and with minimal notice and explanation, these critical projects and programs have been rendered practically ineligible.”
In addition, future applications related to affordable housing will be given highest priority and eligibility to apply for future annual grant rounds will be restricted to only the towns with the highest number of low and moderate income residents. However, according to a letter to Governor Gina Raimondo from South Kingstown Town Manager Stephen Alfred, no specific threshold or percentage was given for future eligibility criteria and the non-entitlement communities are unsure if they will be able to apply for funding rounds in the future.
“The changes being sought by OHCD could have major, negative implications for all 33 non-entitlement communities, including South Kingstown; however, the full extent of the ramifications of the proposed changes is unknown at this time,” Alfred wrote in his letter.
Locally, in April of 2016, the East Greenwich Town Council approved the CDBG applications for six projects including the East Greenwich Housing Authority to replace heating units throughout the public housing, Opportunities Unlimited requested funds to replace a walkway in front of a home that houses three women with developmental disabilities, Cornerstone Adult Services applied for funds to assist in providing adult day health services, Kingstown Crossing applied for money to provide intensive case management services for the formerly homeless and low income families who occupy the complex, Welcome House of South County is asking for funds to provide operations support for the state-wide emergency shelter, and London Bridge Learning Center in East Greenwich applied for $40,000 to assist in the sliding fee scale that helps low income families needing child care who do not qualify for department of human services assistance. With the recent announcement, none of the projects will be funded.
“These changes will have a significant, significant impact on the CDBG consortium,” said East Greenwich Town Manager Gayle Corrigan during last week’s town council meeting.
Corrigan also mentioned a $300,000 deficit in the CDBG Consortium due to the program changes, however; Marchant stated it was unclear where that amount came from.
“The financial analysis that Corrigan always refers to needs to be done,” he said.
Courtesy of East Greenwich Pendulum
Courtesy of The East Greenwich Pendulum
By GABRIELLE FALLETTA | Feb 11, 2017
EAST GREENWICH-As East Greenwich continues to become a popular destination to shop, eat and live, one developer is creating what he thinks is a much-needed place to live; one bedroom condos for purchase on Main Street.
Leonard Iannuccilli, along with his brother David Iannuccilli and their partner Joe Palombo, is ready to break ground on the 21 condominium units that will be located at 1001 Main Street. The project developers hope the units will fill a gap in the types of homes offered in East Greenwich.
“There’s a real void for some demographic groups in town,” said Leonard Iannuccilli, the project developer. “You have a lot of folks that are in their 20s and early 30s that are dying to get out of the family house, or they’ve been renting and they’re ready to purchase. You also have an older population who might not be ready for assisted living and there are single adults in their 40s and 50s. They can all live here.”
Leonard and David Iannuccilli are no strangers to real estate. Along with developing their current project, the two own a RE/MAX Professionals office in East Greenwich and have worked on several projects in town that provide housing for demographic groups who they feel typically miss out. Along with their partner, the trio is part of 620 Main Street Associates and hopes to have the Terrace on Main project complete by Spring 2018.
“We consider ourselves new urbanists, because we like to stay here in town and we look at sites that are underutilized, or they have a really poor use,” said Leonard, adding that 620 Main Street Associates has completed projects in East Greenwich including but not limited to Steeple View Office Park, Colby Place and The Cottages on Greene.
The 21 units as part of the Terrace on Main project will each feature one bedroom, one bathroom, an office, an open concept kitchen, and a living space, with the units on the second and third floor also including a balcony. In a relatively historic town, the units will all be brand new, offering amenities that many other housing options don’t have.
“This is brand new,” said Leonard. “A lot of our housing stock in town is old, and you don’t necessarily find granite, hardwood floors, and stainless steel there, but you’ll find that here.”
Each unit will be under 1,000 square feet, and the residents will also have access to a communal gym, outdoor patios and rooftop entertainment space that can be used to host parties, and other gatherings. However, one of the most attractive features of the condos will be the large parking lot, and the ability to walk into town easily
“Walkability is huge,” said Leonard. “The ability to walk to town and be around people, you’ll be happier being around people and nature. This is a lifestyle where you’re going to be communal.”
Along with being centrally located near the many restaurants and shops on Main Street, the condos will be close to Goddard Park, along a bus route, and residents will also be allowed to have pets.
In addition, six of the condos will be affordable housing units, and the price point starts at around $250,000 per-unit.
Units are currently available to be reserved, and more floor plans and information is available at www.theterraceonmain.com.
Allie Lewis | NOV. 17, 2018
EAST GREENWICH–The Planning Board continued an ongoing review of an affordable housing project that is anticipated to receive a comprehensive permit.
“I see no real impediment in my mind that should stop this project,” Board Member Christopher Russo said at the close of the meeting, giving feedback to the potential developers.
The project, now known as Brookside Terrace, would introduce 96 affordable housing units on South County Trail. The residential development calls for four apartment-style buildings, as well as a freestanding club house on approximately 18 acres. The site selected for the development was previously singled out by the town as an ideal location for affordable housing units.
Nearly three decades ago, Rhode Island mandated a 10 percent minimum of affordable housing per district, and East Greenwich is still a ways off from meeting it.
Presenting on behalf of Alfred Benesch & Company were Senior Landscape Architect Josh Egnatz and Senior Project Manager Will Walter.
From Egnatz the planning board heard more about the plans to separate the residential development from Ocean State Veterinary Specialists next door. The two sites would be sharing a driveway, but Egnatz’s plans call for natural separations between the two parking areas, like shrubbery.
According to Egnatz, all of the vegetation that will be added into the site will be indigenous to the community.
The project has also been working with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management to secure a wetlands permit. The property will be built near a wetland area, but Walter ensured the planning board that they’re well within the 50 foot radius. Within the site they will also be removing boulders and adding in more vegetation.
“We’re going to increase the quality of the wetlands by taking care of the boulders,” Walter said.
Members of the board also raised some concerns regarding the placement of transformers, trash removal, and school bus access, but Walter ensured them that all concerns could be addressed fully within the next few days.
Also speaking to the board was Stephen R. Ulin, who looked over crash data from the past three years in that area. Although he is not licensed in Rhode Island, Ulin is licensed in Connecticut and Massachusetts. He believes that introducing all 96 units will not affect the number or rate of crashes to occur on South County Trail.
From Aug. 2015 to July 2018 , Ulin said there had been 139 crashes, but no fatalities. The majority of crashes had been either rear ending or angle crashes, and almost all of them had resulted in property damage only.
When asked by the board if he’d come across anything concerning, Ulin said “nothing jumped out” at him.
“Nothing out of the ordinary, nothing where this development will increase the type of accidents or the frequency,” Ulin said.
He suspects the increasing number of rear ending accidents over the years are mostly due to an increase in distracted driving. Most of those drivers, he guesses, are busy looking down at their cell phone when they should be breaking.
After being presented with new information on the project’s development and been able to raise questions and concerns, the majority of board members in attendance showed support for the project in their feedback and closing statements.
Board member Nathaniel Ginsburg said the project goes a long way in increasing the town’s percentage of affordable housing. He said it’s hard to argue against the new development when the town’s comprehensive plan has already identified this as an ideal location for such a project. Brookside Terrace is the first, completely affordable housing project he’s seen come before the planning board.
“It’s a sign of a healthy community when you have different options to serve different people,” Ginsburg said.
Board member Muhammad Akhtar did not show support of the project, however, as he hasn’t in past meetings. His biggest concern is the financial strain this development could place on the town. He thinks the development could cost East Greenwich as much as $1.5 million per year.
“Our town is in rough shape,” Akhtar said. “We were in the red last year. Our schools are stressed to the max.”
He said he realizes the town is behind on reaching a 10 percent minimum on affordable housing, but that he doesn’t feel the project is in the best interest of the town. Akhtar also pointed out that the development company has changed names several times over the years, and that they’ve been sued in the past.
When the project’s legal council, William R. Landry of Blish and Cavanaugh LLP, asked where Akhtar had found this information, he simply replied “online.”
“I think the town of East Greenwich has been sued a few times too, but that doesn’t say much about the town of East Greenwich,” Landry said. “I don’t see how any of that is pertinent.”
Proposed apartment complex on Exchange Street spark resident concerns
By ANDREW THORNEBROOKE | firstname.lastname@example.org
EAST GREENWICH—Members of the town council were on the defensive Monday, after hearing an impassioned plea by local resident Aimee Heru, that they should be more involved in the planning board’s attempt to build a new apartment complex on land that is believed to have previously been a scrapyard and waste dump.
“Scrapyards are known to harbor all sorts of terrible toxins: heavy metals, acids, hydrocarbons,” Heru told the council. “Fifty, a hundred years later, the lead, calcium, chromium, cobalt, arsenic, mercury, they remain.”
At the heart of Heru’s concern is the fear that the site’s developers cherry-picked soil test samples for results that would be favorable to the development by solely collecting samples from previously tilled earth that was allowed to be exposed to fresh air and water over the course of a year, and thus may not reflect the actual toxicity of the land.
“I did a soil same earlier in the year myself. The paperwork exists,” Heru said. “With all due respect to the members of the town council, we need a phase two soil test of the entire land.”
The development in question, at 32 Exchange Street, drew widespread criticism earlier this year when the planning board approved by a 302 vote a move to allow the developers to build a 12-unit complex that would normally only allow for a maximum of six units. The approval was given due to the fact that the proposed development would make accommodations for affordable housing, and thus was given exemptions regarding rules concerning the maximum number of units and minimum number of parking spaces. Further enflaming tensions were the facts that the development will require the destruction of a potentially salvageable historic house, and that the property is alleged to have been the storage site of toxic chemicals in the 20th century.
“We need to know what is in the soil before it is dug up and tossed into the air,” Heru argued. “The planning department told me that they will not respond to the residents’ concerns. Even though I read on the EG town website that planning had interest in ‘promoting the health, safety and morals and general welfare of the citizens of the town.”
In light of the potential risk to local residents, Heru asked that the town council interface with the planning board to ensure due diligence was carried out in ensuring the safety of the town.
“I feel it is your responsibility as elected members to the town council, to keep the residents safe,” Heru told the council. “Please offer guidance to the planning board members.”
Heru’s comments were not well received by the council, however, and her efforts were rebuffed by Council Vice-President Michael Donegan.
“I am an environmental lawyer by trader and have closed a dozen landfills,” Donegan said before explicating how Rhode Island statutes measure lethality based on chronic exposure to toxicity in such a way as to provide relatively conservative assessments of when to allow development on such land. “To give you some comfort.”
“No. It doesn’t give me a comfort. You just sound like a lawyer complicating a situation,” Heru responded. “We need a phase two soil test.”
The crux of the disagreement between the council and resident rests on what is legally permissible for the council to do in terms of influencing the policies and practices of other sections of the local government. It is illegal, Donengan argued, for the town council to attempt to influence the planning board’s decisions.
“The planning board approves those developments,” Donegan said. “By statute, we are not allowed to reach over and act as if they were not created and have their own independent authority, and try to exert political control over them.”
“I think you have a responsibility to the residents to keep us safe,” Heru responded, “and I think you do have influence and can speak to the board members.”
“No,” Donegan said, “the board members are independent.”
Donegan, who was on the planning board for six years, maintained that it would be unethical for the council to attempt to sway the planning board in either direction, but did state that the public could begin the long battle of appealing a decision made by the board, going to the courts if necessary. As far as lobbying for the residents’ desires, however, the council’s hands are tied.
“What I won’t do,” Donegan said, “is commit an ethical violation because you don’t like what the planning board is doing. They’re going to do their job.”
“It’s not a matter of liking,” Heru argued. “Our citizens will be threatened/ Our lives and our health.”
The council encouraged local residents to attend public hearings on the issue with the town planning board.
Courtesy of The East Greenwich Pendulum
By CHUCK HINMAN • OCT 17, 2017
Woonsocket and East Providence will receive nearly $2.4 million in federal grants to help revitalize local neighborhoods and increase affordable housing. The grants were announced on Sunday by Rhode Island's U.S. senators, Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse.
Woonsocket is slated to receive the bulk of the money: more than $1.2 million from the Community Development Block Grant program. East Providence will receive nearly $700,000.
The grants come on the heels of a report that shows the availability of affordable housing remains a chronic problem in Rhode Island, and it may be getting worse, at least by some measures.
The 2017 Housing Fact Book, released last week by HousingWorks RI at Roger Williams University, found recent increases in home prices and rents reduced the number of municipalities where lower-income residents can find affordable housing.
As defined by the federal government, affordable housing means housing that costs 30 percent or less of a family's gross income.
By that measure, according to HousingWorks RI, there is no housing in the state that would be affordable for residents making $30,000 a year or less. And if you make $50,000 or less, it’s not much better.
"If you're under $50,000, you can afford to own in two communities: Central Falls and Providence (excluding the East Side)," said Brenda Clement, Director of HousingWorks RI. "Your choices are a little better if you're looking to rent. You can afford to rent in about six communities, but that's down from 11 communities in 2015."
In 2004, Rhode Island directed cities and towns to work toward a goal of making at least 10 percent of housing affordable, under an amendment to the RI Low and Moderate Income Act. But Clement said municipalities have been slow to reach that goal.
"Only 5 of the 39 municipalities have achieved or exceeded that goal: Central Falls, Newport, New Shoreham, Providence and Woonsocket," said Clement. "So we know it's got a ways to go."
Clement cites a legislative commission convened to study the Low and Moderate Income Housing Act, which is expected to continue its work next year, "to see what incentives or requirements we may add or strengthen to that act, to work in concert with communities to get closer to these housing goals."
Ultimately, says Clement, housing and affordable housing "are something that we all share, and that we all need to work towards the solutions for."
Courtesy of RIPR
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