Governor Chafee signed the “Steep Slopes” bill

This spring the House and Senate passed bills taking away a town’s right to deduct steep slopes from the calculation of development potential on a parcel of land. Our State Representatives Walsh and Valencia and State Senators Algiere and Cool-Rumsey voted against the legislation, but it passed anyway.

This bill was opposed by the Charlestown Planning Commission, the Charlestown Town Council, American Planning Association – RI Chapter, the Rhode Island League of Cities and Towns, the Environmental Council of Rhode Island, other town governments, and nearly every environmental organization in Rhode Island. Many of these groups asked the Governor to veto the bill.

Rhode Island Bill Tracker has reported that the Governor signed the bill. He did not veto the bill as so many had requested.

This Act removes local control from land use issues and contradicts many established state wide land use and planning documents and programs.

Charlestown was excluding from development calculations, land where slopes exceed 15%. These 15 to 35% slopes are considered very poorly suited to community development according to the USDA Soil Conservation Service. Development on steep slopes can have an adverse effect on water quality as a result of increased erosion and sedimentation. Effluent from onsite septic systems on these lands can seep to the surface. These soils are suited to trees and woodland wildlife habitat, but not to housing development.

Forcing our town to approve higher density development in the Charlestown Moraine and other steeply sloped land will increase the number of septic systems and the nitrogen load in the watershed of the Coastal Salt Ponds. Allowing towns to deduct steep slopes does not stop development, it simply reduces the impacts when development is sited on parcels that contain these constrained land types.