Upon reading the article in the Feb. 18 Westerly Sun concerning the proposed East Avenue condo development plans, there came feelings of a strong sense of a common parallel with concerns among many Westerly citizens. These citizens are concerned about how this development plan could have been passed through the process and reached this point by governing bodies of the town. As the president of the Westerly Town Council voiced, “I don’t understand how this project has got as far as it has.” These are the exact feelings of concern and fear that many Westerly citizens have felt ever since they became aware of the expansive development plans revealed by the owner of the Winnapaug Country Club. The Winnapaug owner and his attorney were able to promote, guide and convince town officials to place specific language in the proposed revisions of the Westerly Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinances to ensure their plans could be ultimately achieved. These town documents govern what the town is going to look like in the future. The town prefaces their main bodies of information with specific mission statements and goals that are the guidelines for the decissions made by their governing bodies. The Comp Plan states that they will “… keep the character, charm and historic presence of Westerly”. With regards to the Zoning Ordinances, it states: “Westerly’s identity and cultural heritage will be preserved and enhanced through reinvestment in its historic assets. Achieve the objectives of historic preservation standards and guidelines to promote the unique characteristics of Westerly’s neighborhoods and its overall sense of place”.
Because of the robust show of opposition brought upon by so many Westerly homeowners, the Westerly Town Council learned what grave consequences could occur at the hands of developers if the language in the Comprehensive Plan was passed with their suggested and guided changes.
These two current planned development projects appear to have disregarded these mission statements. Town officials need to be held to these guidelines and principles. To keep with Westerly’s Comprehensive Plan and Zoning Ordinances and the state of Rhode Island’s plans for Westerly’s economic growth and vitality, there requires an act of strategic balance. We must stay the course for the optimal future of Westerly by keeping in compliance to these mission statements.
Now that the 2020-40 Comprehensive Plan has passed, the town’s next task will be to address the proposed zoning ordinance changes. Please watch for the announcements for future Planning Board Zoning Ordinance public hearings in The Westerly Sun and on the town’s website. Find a copy of the proposed Zoning Ordinance changes on the Westerly website by typing in the search bar “copy of 2020 zoning ordinance changes” and clicking on the second item, called 2020-AMND-ZN-Jun 16, 2020. Please attend these upcoming meetings and make your voices heard. The zoom link is also found on the town’s website. Let’s work together to help keep Westerly the kind of town we have chosen to live in and invest in.
Elaine and John Doherty