News & Event
CUMBERLAND – Operation Stand Down Rhode Island will host its annual Outreach Stand Down Weekend on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14-16, at Diamond Hill Park, 4097 Diamond Hill Road, in Cumberland.
During the weekend, the military style encampment offers veterans access to a variety of service providers offering information on housing, employment, medical and dental, legal services and more.
In 2017, approximately 500 homeless and at-risk veterans attended Stand Down Weekend.
OSDRI is currently seeking tent sponsorships of the provider service tents. Sponsorships are $250, with proceeds helping to offset the cost of delivering services to local veterans in need. Sponsors’ company name and logo will be featured on the service provider tent and the event banner. For more information, contact Jessica Miller at Jmillser@osdri.org.
Courtesy of The Valley Breeze
PROVIDENCE – As part of its mission to build vibrant and sustainable communities, Rhode Island Housing, joined by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian, last week announced the relaunch of its popular “First Down” program, which provides $7,500 in down payment assistance to eligible first-time homebuyers purchasing a home in one of the Rhode Island communities hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis.
To date, more than 280 Rhode Islanders have taken advantage of the First Down program, and with this expansion, R.I. Housing expects to help an additional 800 families. First Down targets the six Rhode Island communities most affected by the foreclosure crisis: Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Warwick, Cranston and East Providence.
For more information on the First Down program, including eligibility guidelines and a list of participating lenders, call 401-457-1157 or visit www.firstdownRI.org .
By Amanda Milkovitz / Journal Staff Writer
Posted Sep 16, 2017 at 9:58 PM
Updated Sep 16, 2017 at 9:58 PM
Some 500 veterans attended the Operation Stand Down/Rhode Island outreach event at Diamond Hill State Park.
CUMBERLAND, R.I. — They served their country — some decades ago, some just recently, and some who deployed again and again.
And when they returned, some of them disappeared into the shadows of society and ended up on the streets, struggling and feeling forgotten by a public that claims to honor its veterans.
This is what three Vietnam veterans from Rhode Island — Tony DeQuattro, Robert O’Connor and Jack Ordner — saw happening to fellow servicemen and women decades ago. And, DeQuattro said Saturday, he was tired of waiting for the government to help.
So, 25 years ago, the three men held the first Operation Stand Down/Rhode Island outreach event. They set up a military-style tent city at the old Ladd School, in Exeter, and bused in homeless and at-risk veterans to spend the weekend, getting free medical and legal care, haircuts, and services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Forty veterans came to that first event.
This weekend, it was more like 500. And at Diamond Hill State Park, where the event has been held for the last 23 years, the number of volunteers and services have also expanded to help homeless veterans.
RIPTA and shuttle buses brought in veterans from all across the state. The District Court and Traffic Tribunal set up tents to help veterans deal with court costs, expungements and traffic violations, while the state Department of Motor Vehicles assisted them with reinstating licenses. Veterans could get haircuts, dental care, medical and mental health services, check if they have unclaimed property, and pick up clothing.
Gov. Gina Raimondo, U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Brig. Gen. Christopher P. Callahan of the R.I. National Guard and other Rhode Island dignitaries served meals. The veterans slept on fresh bedding and cots in tents named for fallen Rhode Island servicemen and women. Rhode Island motorcycle clubs provided security; most have members who are veterans.
The setting was meant to invoke memories of their military service, when they were treated with dignity and respect. In military terms, “stand down” means safety and rest.
Over the last 25 years, the need hasn’t changed, DeQuattro said. If anything, it’s grown with each new war.
So has Operation Stand Down/Rhode Island. The nonprofit organization now helps about 2,000 homeless and at-risk veterans find housing, employment and help with veterans benefits year-round.
DeQuattro’s youngest daughter, Dee DeQuattro Rothermel, was only 4 years old when it started, and she remembers playing with other children who came with their veteran parents. She realized as she grew older that those families were probably homeless.
Now communications and development director for Operation Stand Down, DeQuattro Rothermel said the event is still a family affair. She met her husband, David Rothermel, a Marine, when he arrived at an outreach seven years ago and asked to volunteer. The couple came up with the “Boots on the Ground” memorial two years ago, as a way to honor the fallen.
“My dad is very modest, but it’s a huge thing that he started 25 years ago,” she said. “We’re proud of him. It’s an accomplishment.”
DeQuattro spoke to the gathering of veterans at a ceremony Saturday afternoon.
“I do it because God told me to,” DeQuattro told them, “and because we have to take care of our brothers and sisters.”
By NICOLE DOTZENROD, Valley Breeze Staff Writer
LINCOLN – The “Lincoln Lofts,” proposed to transform the former Sayles Mill building off Walker Street into apartments, moved forward in the planning process Tuesday night after the Lincoln Zoning Board agreed to grant parking relief to the project.
The developer, Dakota Partners of Waltham, Mass., came before the Zoning Board to apply for dimensional variance for parking relief to renovate the former factory building at 90 Industrial Circle into 45 units of affordable housing. Lincoln’s Technical Review Committee members recently called the mill complex “the Wild West for parking,” but recommended the approval of the application on the basis that the proposed ratio of 1.67 parking spaces per unit, or 75 spaces total, would be enough to accommodate the needs of future residents.
Under the town’s current regulations, 45 units of housing would require 90 parking spaces. The Zoning Board approved the developer’s application for a parking variance, bringing the required number of parking spaces down to 75 total, or 1.67 spaces per unit, due to lack of space for additional parking on the property.
Rio Sacchetti, a project manager for Dakota Partners, said market-rate rent is usually one parking space per unit, and affordable housing is usually .8, according to data by Rhode Island Housing. Board member John Barr noted that Lincoln has a very limited bus service, and that the RIH numbers may be based on the state’s urban areas and may not be applicable to this project.
“We originally proposed 64 spaces, and after meeting with the town planner, zoning official and Technical Review Committee, we came up with a parking formula based on the 100 percent affordable housing, which uses the number of bedrooms,” said Mary Shekarchi, attorney for the applicant.
Shekarchi said she worked with town officials on the formula, which essentially grants two cars for each of the project’s 30 two-bedroom units, and one car for the 15 one-bedroom units.
The developer was also granted relief from the town’s requirement that parking spaces be 9 by 20 feet.
The town’s definition of a parking space was originally 9 feet by 18 feet at the inception of this application back in 2006, Zoning Board Chairman David DeAngelis said.
“Since time has progressed, your application outgrew the ordinance, which is now nine by 20,” said DeAngelis.
Shekarchi and Sacchetti said parts of the property are environmentally contaminated, and that the 75 parking spaces were the best they can do while maintaining green space for residents.
“There were not great areas to add parking and have the green space around the building for quality of life of future residents,” Sacchetti said. “We don’t want people to be parking on the street … we don’t want a headache.”
Contamination on the site will be addressed as part of construction and paid for by Dakota Partners. The company will have to remove between one and two feet of existing soil and replace it with fill.
The cost of the environmental mitigation, according to Shekarchi, “is a moving target, but it’s going to be quite expensive … hundreds of thousands if not more.”
Parking relief aside, the project did not require any zoning relief concerning the conversion of the actual building into affordable housing. The property is owned by AF Homes LLC and under agreement with Dakota Partners, with Dakota planning to close on the property by early next year. This is Dakota’s first project in Rhode Island.
As an affordable housing project, units will be restricted to people making at or below a certain income, and/or rent-restricted. Rent is expected to be in the $800-$900 range for a one-bedroom, and $900-$1,000 for a two-bedroom unit, with heat and hot water included. The project will be required to meet HUD’s Section 8 Housing requirements.
A second-story bridge connecting 90 Industrial Circle to the building behind it will be taken down, while a shared loading dock will be removed and replaced with green space. The building is currently completely vacant, last used as commercial/light industrial space, and has fallen into disrepair.
Two individuals spoke out with concerns about the property’s current state at Tuesday’s meeting, including Bill McManus of Rockridge Road, who said, “the renderings of this plan look very nice, but the physical condition of the property has been a serious issue for many years. It’s a dumping ground for people to dispose unwanted trash, box springs and mattresses, TVs … it’s a health hazard.”
McManus asked that the board recommend that prior to any consideration of approval, the area be cleared of trash, mattresses and furniture.
“As a zoning board we can’t do that,” DeAngelis said, adding that he would ask someone from the town to look into the situation.
Jean Birchell of Smithfield Avenue, where properties back up to the mill, echoed the concerns of McManus.
“If you stop at the light at Walker Street you can see the mattresses – there’s 18 of them in all,” she said.
Zoning official Russell Hervieux said AF Homes LLC has been cited several times for the state of the property, “sometimes successful, sometimes not. The town is addressing this as we speak.”
The board voted to move the project forward, granting parking relief at 1.67 spaces per unit.
Courtesy of The Valley Breeze
Courtesy of US News
LINCOLN – In the words of landowner John Cullen, “the odyssey has ended.”
On April 23, the Rhode Island State Housing Board of Appeals vacated the town of Lincoln’s denial of Cullen’s long-awaited Whipple-Cullen Farm Affordable Senior Development.
The Lincoln Planning Board previously denied the conceptual plan in June 2016, with its six members divided on whether the number of units was too many.
While the original proposal included 200 units, the number was brought down to 158, according to Town Planner Al Ranaldi.
Cullen has been fighting to create a conservation area and age 55-plus living community for Lincoln’s seniors for 25 years. Only two families, the Whipples and the Cullens, have owned the land through history, with the latter owning the property for the last 150 years.
The proposed one-story condominiums would be built on the 79-acre lot on Old River Road across from Lincoln’s Town Hall and Police Department. The lot is currently undeveloped farmland, including sloping, open fields and wooded areas. About half of the acreage will be left as undeveloped conservation land.
Cullen said he feels a kinship with Odysseus following the SHAB’s decision, which he saw was wrong and hurtful to his family. He said they’ve “been trying for years to do something good and preserve more than half of the land rather than do a cookie-cutter expansion.”
“The many people who want this project to move forward are elated. We’ve suffered a lot, but I think the years we’ve put into this will be worth it,” he said. “This is going to be such a wonderful addition to the Lincoln community.”
He said it will be the “pride of Lincoln and the Blackstone Valley.”
Cullen, who grew up making memories on the land, said he used to sell off lots to those who loved the land and opposed its development. Many neighbors have enjoyed his family’s farm as a back yard.
“Then, they turn around and oppose it when I want to open it up to seniors,” he said. “I could have lined Old River Road with houses years ago, but that would have injured mine and my family’s soul.”
Cullen said those who oppose his plan for the property have “run the day for almost 25 years … but we stood the course and it looks like we’ve prevailed for the benefit of my beloved town of Lincoln.”
He added, “We didn’t want a McMansion development. That would have ruined the views, scenic and historic value – the soul of the land.”
Cullen began the appeal process before the SHAB in April of last year, nearly two years after the Planning Board voted 3-3, effectively denying the project. SHAB members said the case was unique because the Planning Board voted down the proposal despite generally favorable opinions of the development from town officials such as Ranaldi and Town Administrator Joseph Almond.
“When this was in front of the Planning Board my phone rang every week about people inquiring about the units in a positive way,” Ranaldi said, noting that Lincoln has a demand for affordable senior housing as people age out of their large, two-story homes.
The community will not drain revenue from the town’s public services such as plowing and garbage pickup, Ranaldi said. He added that the likelihood of school-aged children in the development is very low.
If no one appeals the Housing Board’s decision, the development of the community can proceed to the preliminary plan review phase, which includes engineering roads, utilities and stormwater runoff and matters of regulatory compliance.
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