standing Westerly Town Hall

WESTERLY — The Planning Board will continue work Tuesday evening on what some are calling a controversial aspect of the town's newly revised Comprehensive Plan. 

The board is scheduled to move more deeply into the process of neighborhood planning as discussed in the revised plan, which is currently under review by the state planning office. Residents have raised concerns that the neighborhood planning process might lead to undesired development near their homes.

According to a memorandum to the board from Town Planner Nancy Letendre and Principal Planner Alyse Oziolor, the neighborhood planning concept and specific zoning and policy recommendations of the plan are being examined for the downtown area and "Route 1 corridor." Both areas have been identified as priorities for study and have been selected by the board for study this year.

"The planning staff would like to discuss these priority plans with the board and establish a timeline for each study," the memorandum reads.

A few neighborhood organizations have expressed interest in the neighborhood planning process and have approached members of the town's Development Services staff about it, the memorandum states. The municipal Development Services Department includes the town's planning staff.

"The planning staff would appreciate the board discussing how they would like to be involved in creation of neighborhood plans being developed by individual neighborhood groups," the memorandum reads.

The revised Comprehensive Plan calls for development of an overall strategy for both the downtown area and commercial corridors that articulate the town's vision and attracts investors and commercial businesses. Planning for the downtown area should be guided by its designation as an arts and entertainment district, its recognition as a national historic district, and its location along the Pawcatuck River, according to the plan.

Consideration of the Route 1 area should "focus on the redevelopment of unattractive, unoccupied strip malls and and parking lot deserts into a vibrant commercial corridor that provides live-work opportunities through mixed-use development and improved connectivity to adjacent properties," the plan states.

The Economic Development Commission, according to the memorandum, has begun a study of both the downtown area and the Route 1 area and is conducting interviews with residents, business owners, town staff, and town officials on characteristics of the town's economy, 10-year goals, and ways to make the local economy resilient. As part of its data collection, the EDC plans to meet with the Planning Board and the Architectural Review Board in May.

Town planning staff has recommended the ARB develop a plan of action for development standards for the two areas and for the Planning Board to conduct a workshop meeting in June for a facilitated discussion of the studies to include participation from the EDC, ARB, and residents.

Staff members are also asking the board to determine its role in neighborhood planning process and how planning staff can assist. According to the memorandum the North End Neighborhood Revitalization Plan, completed in 2003, is the only formal neighborhood plan created in the town.

Tuesday's meeting, which is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m., will be broadcast live through Zoom at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82242029221. To access the meeting via phone, call 929-205-6099 or 877-853-5257 and use the meeting ID number "822 4202 9221."

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