Charlestown: Looking Back on 2012 and Forward to 2013

The following Letter to the Editor by Tom Gentz was published in local newspapers in December and is printed here with permission of the author

Thomas B. Gentz
Thomas B. Gentz

The year 2012 was one of collaboration in Charlestown. Volunteers, town staff, and elected officials worked in concert to create public policy in the best interest of all Charlestown residents. Together, we found common ground that gave Charlestown the third lowest tax rate in RI, funded three affordable housing projects, enacted the Dark Skies and Residential Wind Turbine Ordinances, and resulted in the successful negotiation of Charlestown’s four collective bargaining agreements. We hired a new police chief, and he worked tirelessly with town staff and Charlestown Emergency Management to respond quickly and effectively to Superstorm Sandy and its aftermath. Chariho Schools remained a bright light for our towns, and I applaud our high school for moving up eleven places in the state rankings to sixth place overall.

Charlestown’s collaborative environment continues to attract outside funding for local Affordable Housing projects. Charlestown bond money, with the approval of Town Council, was used for three non-profit Affordable Housing projects for a total of 42 units in local growth centers. Edwards Lane in Carolina will contain seven affordable homes, three of which will be built by Habitat for Humanity and the other four by Washington County Community Development. Shannock Village Cottages will provide eleven rental units, and ChurchWoods in the Traditional Village District will have 24 units for adults ages 55+. I am proud to share that Charlestown is the only community in Rhode Island that has utilized town bond money for affordable housing.

Collective bargaining contracts are in place for the next three years for the Police, Dispatchers, Teamsters, and Professional bargaining units. Town employees received fair salary increases, and Charlestown reduced its healthcare costs: a win-win for the employees and the Town.

Two significant ordinances passed by Town Council show our commitment to good public policy. The Dark Skies Ordinance will keep Charlestown’s night view of the skies for future generations, and our Residential Wind Turbine Ordinance allows residents to place appropriately sized wind turbines, not industrial sized turbines, on their property to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

As I look forward to 2013, I see a number of issues worthy of consideration to maintain our low tax rate, rural character, and outstanding schools. The Town will hire a permanent Town Administrator. We will work closely with CRMC and the RI DEM to rebuild the homes on Charlestown Beach Road and Surfside Avenue damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The Town will work with Westerly and the RI DEM to protect Charlestown residents from quarry blasting that creates deafening noise, personal property and foundation damage, and diminished water quality.  Rock crushing causes dangerous granite dust.

At the state level, the following policy items are my priority:

1) Implement Low and Moderate Income Housing (LMIH or Affordable Housing) moratoriums on comprehensive permits benefiting for-profit developers until June 2016 and reconstitute the State LMIH Study Commission per Charlestown’s resolution

2) Oppose proposed Dry Lands Legislation that would remove zoning control from Charlestown and give authority to the state

3) Obtain a ten-year permit for Quonochontaug Breachway dredging to begin in 2014-2015. (Quonnie breachway needs a settlement basin than can be dredged every five years. This maintenance dredging will maintain the eelgrass that is essential for fish stocks in the region, aquaculture in the ponds, sea bird nesting grounds, and recreation in Charlestown.)

I am proud to have served as your Town Council President since 2010 and was honored to be re-elected for another two years. My family and I wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy holiday season, and all the best for 2013.

Tom Gentz