Last night was the first public workshop to discuss the updated draft of the 1992 Comprehensive Plan. The good news is that Director of Planning, Peter Lapolla, said that he has never been to a Comp Plan update workshop with more than 15 people; I estimated that there were at least 40 people in attendance last night. The buzz among those in attendance was that they had not seen the one article advertising the meeting in May 9â€™s ProJo but had learned about it through emails sent by SCOS, CCRZD and Friends of the Pawtuxet.
There was no agenda for the workshop, which Mr. Lapolla acknowledged at the beginning of the evening, and he plans on having a format for the subsequent workshops. Hopefully the future workshops will have a new location and format that are conducive to promoting dialogue among the attendees and Planning Department. Prior to beginning the discussion of the Housing Element, Mr. Lapolla gave some background on the State Comprehensive Plan process and the status of Cranstonâ€™s 1992 Comprehensive Plan and this update of it.
Cranstonâ€™s 1992 Comp Plan was adopted by the Planning Commission and City Council, but was rejected by the State of RI due to a conflict between the City and the State regarding the amount of control Cranston could exert over the development of the Howard Complex/State Prison land. This sparked a lengthy conversation, which Iâ€™ll try my best to summarize.
1. By 1988 State Law (RIGL 45-22.2), municipalities are required to prepare and adopt a Comprehensive Plan, which is then approved by the state if the State finds the plan is consistent with the guidelines it set
2. If, like Cranstonâ€™s 1992 Plan, the State rejects the Plan, but the municipality adopts it, then it has local force of law. (Translation: Since the City had adopted it, the plan became enforceable law in Cranston even though it was never recognized at the state level). There are no sanctions taken by the State if a municipality does not have their Comp Plan approved at the state level.
3. The State requires that Comp Plans be updated every 5 years, however the last Comp Plan approved by the City of Cranston dates to 1992. There are no sanctions taken by the State if this 5-year forecast is not followed.
4. As those involved with the Cullion land dispute are aware, the zoning in a City is supposed to be changed to become compatible with what the Comprehensive Plan calls for, but this again, has not been enforced. (That also sparked conversation about the role of the zoning board).
The goal of last nightâ€™s session was to have public discussion on the first 3 elements of the updated draft of the Comprehensive Plan: Housing, Natural Resources and Open Space/Recreation. The Housing element was discussed, although not in entirety, until the meeting was adjourned around 9:45pm. The workshops will each focus on specific elements of the Comprehensive Plan and the future Land Use Plan will be discussed lastly. THAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF THE PLAN, IN REGARDS TO PROTECTING OUR NATURAL RESOURCES AND MAINTAINING THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF CRANSTON RESIDENTS!!!!
Although the meeting was extremely long and the majority of the attendees did not remain through its entirety, residents need to continue to attend these workshops and offer feedback. The current draft also includes some feedback from workshops and surveys from 2004-2005. The final draft of the Comprehensive Plan Update will need approval from the Planning Commission and City Council, which will require public hearings. The Planning Department will be posting the updated elements of the Comprehensive Plan for all to review in the upcoming weeks, as well as feedback that they receive, I will share that link once it is sent out.
I feel that the most important thing is to find out is how much of the plan has already been decided or â€œset in stoneâ€? and how much it can be influenced not only by residents, but also by our elected officials. We need to continue to work together to protect our neighborhoods and the future of the City.