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By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN â€“ The North Kingstown Planning Commission engaged in a lengthy discussion Tuesday evening regarding a comprehensive plan amendment that was denied by the Statewide Planning Program that dealt with the Schartner Farms property.
The discussion centered around a March 26 letter from the planning program to the NK Planning Department explaining the denial. The piece of property was originally zoned village-residential and the town changed it to commercial in 2007, which was reflected in the future land use map and zoning ordinance.
Planning Director Jon Reiner told the commission it was denied, however, because it was outside the urban services boundary.
The Urban Services Boundary (USB) was developed for the Rhode Island Statewide Planning Program as part of a Geographic Information System (GIS) overlay analysis of land suitability and availability for the Rhode Island Future Land Use Map.
The USB is the stateâ€™s plan for conservation and development. The boundary represents the extent of the areas within which public services supporting urban development currently exist, or are likely to be provided, through 2025. Within the boundary most land should be served by public water service and many areas will have public sewer service available as well.
Reiner explained that in order to â€śrightâ€ť the situation, the town could go in one of three directions. They could change the zoning and land use map back to residential and take away the zoning for that property ... but Reiner said that would probably end up in litigation. Another option would be to amend the urban services boundary or designate the area as a growth center.
Statewide planning would endorse the latter two options.
â€śWeâ€™ve been told by Statewide Planning that the town needs to figure out its water service area and what their intent is for that particular intersection,â€ť said Reiner. â€śItâ€™s ultimately up to the town council, but any guidance from us will be helpful.â€ť
In conjunction with the planning department, public works and some other departments, between $750,000 to $1 million in grants are brought into the town for various projects. If the town doesnâ€™t have a statewide planning-approved comprehensive plan, future grants will be taken away, in addition to the Community Development Block Grant funding.
Reiner told the commission that going with the amendment to the USB wouldnâ€™t be desirable because it would essentially be promoting all growth and development in an uncontrolled environment.
The benefit of adopting that area as a growth center is development would be concentrated in one area with a compact-mix of uses. The state is looking for the town to either have a physical design of the area or a written report stating â€świthin this area we will have x amount of business-zoned structures and within this area we will have no more than two pharmacies, three banks and two restaurants.â€ť
A joint meeting between the town council and planning commission will be scheduled in June to discuss this issue.