To the Editor:
I represent a group of Block Islanders who have raised concern over some of the details of a proposed affordable housing development on the West Side of the island. I would like to take the opportunity to clarify and restate the intention of our opposition to the proposed Cherry Hill Lane development.
I believe that on the long, complicated road that our group has travelled discussing and debating the plan with the Housing Board, and recorded in the paper, our message has become distorted and misconstrued.
Our message is simple; we are opposed to the magnitude of this project and believe that, as it stands, the plan contradicts our town’s carefully crafted Comprehensive Plan. As a lifelong islander, I will admit that I was a bit embarrassed to have only just learned about our Comprehensive Plan in researching this project. As I delved into the language of the plan, I was impressed with the town’s foresight and careful consideration to the island’s future population, ecosystem and community.
We believe that the currently proposed design is too dense and too large to fit the confines of that plan, and that a disregard for the calculated guidelines of the Comprehensive Plan spells danger for future generations. We understand that this topic hits a nerve, many of the finest members of our community have or stand to benefit from an affordable housing initiative; we would like to restate that we are not opposed to having affordable houses built on this lot, we simply ask that the design is altered to fewer houses to better fit into the landscape, with careful consideration to the final impact that the development will make on the island overall.
As described in the Comprehensive Plan, this is the rural part of the island and we ask that steps are taken to ensure that it remains rural and does not take on the look of a suburban area. Block Island is one of Rhode Island’s greatest treasures, we are the second most densely populated state in the country, and, unfortunately, the opportunity for a working class Rhode Islander to get away from the hustle and bustle of creeping suburbia on a day trip vacation becomes more difficult each year.
We have a responsibility to maintain this rural, responsibly developed landscape to allow all Rhode Islanders a place to take a deep breath, and to uphold our tourism based economy. We believe that a balance can be achieved, where affordable housing needs are met, while the unique character of Block Island is preserved.
We have suggested that selling part of the lot to the Land Trust may help to offset the cost of the project to help keep the project affordable but to keep contiguous open space a priority. The Land Trust has stated that it is open to any proposal that would protect the environment of Block Island. The Housing Board has also recently purchased a plot of land adjacent to the West Side 20, perhaps the remaining two or three houses eliminated from the Cherry Hill Lane development would work best in this location where the houses can be accessible to public works like town water and sewer.
This responsible stewardship has kept Block Island’s charm intact and continues to entice so many visitors to support our tourism-based economy. We should not jeopardize our greatest asset with a crowded development when there are other options. We are a town that has been applauded for responsible stewardship of the land, certainly we can work together to meet the housing needs of our burgeoning year-round working class community, all the while preserving the very qualities and characteristics that keep all of us working class islanders in business.
West Side Road