Winnapaug Road definitely gives locals migraines should they wind up in the slug line going to the beach when they are not. We have places to go and dates to keep and need a way to take that right at the Shore Road intersection. “Breakdown lane” doesn’t even exist in RIGL Chapter 31-15 Passing, Use of Lanes and Rules of the Road of Title 31. So, finding a plausible use for that space with a little planning and a few strategic signs benefits everyone and segues easily into why the nightmare in the first place?
What is not plausible are town officials who ignore residents’ wants and needs even as they push theirs on us. Our adopted Comprehensive Plans and ordinances apparently mean nothing unless they happen to coincide with their goals and objectives. The adopted Comprehensive Plan lays out mechanisms for enhancing our community’s quality of life through orderly development. The Westerly Town Council implements those mechanisms to bring our goals to fruition.
So, how is the town doing? Do officials control the appearance of tourist-related development? No way, it’s the topic they can’t get enough of, and both are out of control. How is the town addressing the residents’ weak level of support for tourism? By cramming more and more tourists and more and more bike lanes, without our consent, down our throats. Do elected officials make it their business to periodically review the plan, highlighting areas that need addressing like Standard and Poor’s note that the town’s tourist based economy constrains the town’s rating? What about some serious discussion about clean industry and open space that the residents favor instead of the easy fix, tourism, 24/7? Officials may actually find they’re excited about the change in venue. Wouldn’t that be nice?
It is extremely disappointing when a town employee, who is paid to carry out the edicts of the people, does otherwise. Nowhere in the 2010 Comprehensive Plan or the 1987 Airport Master Plan or the 2009 Airport Layout Plan Update or, dare I say, Rhode Island Airport Corporation officials themselves, is there any mandate that would direct the town or the airport commission to “develop the airport to its intended capacity,” whatever that is. That gross, arrogant and patently false statement came from one who clearly felt no obligation to consider the health, safety and welfare of those he served and the public at large. Let’s not mince words here when lives are at stake. Yes, the plan says adopt and implement an Airport Hazard Area ordinance to control potential hazards in the vicinity of the airport. The council adopted an ordinance but totally failed to control the hazards. In fact, it gave the hazards to the airport commission so it could come back and take them by eminent domain.
And, both the council and the airport commission fail to acknowledge that the airport’s proximity to residential areas presents challenges to any expansion of use. The 1987 Airport Master Plan makes it exquisitely clear that whatever the airport’s “intended capacity” is, it had been met. Don’t yell at me, I’m just the messenger. 1. “Expanding residential and industrial development around the airport will strain the state’s ability to maintain the current usable length of the two runways.” Note: Runway 32’s threshold had already been displaced 608 feet by 1987. 2. “The airport is surrounded and hemmed in by the Post, Airport and Tom Harvey Roads.” 3. “The land surrounding the airport is not sufficient to buffer residential neighborhoods from airport operations.” Though they’ve been reminded ad nauseum, one critical fact everyone ignores: The FAA and airport commission have no authority to dictate what happens off airport property any more than the town and council can dictate what happens on airport property. Where was the town solicitor to advise them?
In the last election, residents voted overwhelmingly for an Ethics Commission by July 2017. Now the council is attempting to get rid of it and others that were also approved by cherry-picking questions that suit them and making the wording confusing for this November’s referendum. Of course, they don’t want an Ethics Commission — none has a clue what transparency means. Since the first of this year, the council president called for more than 44 special meetings and most have been executive sessions, which means we have no clue what business is really being transacted behind closed doors. Those 44 special meetings are 23 more than the council’s own adopted 21 regularly scheduled meetings through Aug. 6.
Warning to candidates for the town council: Assuming you already are familiar with current issues facing the town committees, commissions and agencies, you would be well advised to start studying, not perusing, the Charter, the Council Rules of Procedures, primary Goals and Actions in the 2010 Comprehensive Plan, all the town departments, including the Department of Development Services; its Composition and Purpose, all Town Committees, Commissions, Agencies and Duties of the Planning and the Zoning Boards. Because you’re going to be quizzed on them. The nasty history of talking the talk then doing as you please is over. You work for us. Don’t forget it.
Hatsy H. MooreWesterly