Help keep Charlestown a great place to live

The following letter appeared in local newspapers and is reprinted here with permission of the author Frances Topping. Frances is running for election to the Charlestown Planning Commission.

Frances Topping

Charlestown is a great place to live. I think so and so it seems do many other people…and they would like to keep it that way.

In the course of going door-to-door campaigning to see what people think of Charlestown many people have emphasized their appreciation of the quality of life in Charlestown. When I tell them that work on the Charlestown Planning Commission will include updating the Comprehensive Plan, which guides the vision for the town for the next 20 years, they cite love of the quiet, the woods and open spaces to walk in that support wildlife. People appreciate the beaches, fishing, kayaking and enjoying quiet recreation. These open spaces protect our low tax rate — the third lowest in the state. Development usually increases it as roads, schools, fire and police cost more. Greater amenities often mean higher taxes. They have to be considered carefully. We all have rules to live by to ensure a safe, healthy, respectful place, necessary for a considerate society.

Charlestown is a haven between built-up Westerly and busy Wakefield. If we wanted big-box stores and busy, built-up streets we would have chosen to live elsewhere, but we chose Charlestown instead.

It is a good town, currently well managed, comprising a variety of income levels, tradesmen, service people and professionals, retirees, young families — a mix of people. Tourism is a major consideration, especially for businesses. I may have only lived here for 12 years, but I have come to know and love the town. Running for local government office, in this case Planning Commission, is a way to give back to the community.

To be viable, a community such as Charlestown needs to be livable for a variety of people, young and old — that means a good school system, and mixed levels of housing that keeps families in the same area; businesses that can thrive, despite seasonal changes, that respect their customers and the environment and that locals use; locally available food, which means enabling small farms to flourish.

The enactment of this vision needs a governing body that works collegially with the volunteers who make up the town’s boards and commissions to reflect community values. I feel the Charlestown Citizens Alliance candidates will make that effort and share the vision. A variety of opinions, civilly shared is good. Plans for the future should pay attention to keeping those assets that make Charlestown a special place — stone walls on rural winding roads, clean beaches, a thriving ocean with healthy salt pond nurseries for fish, woods that protect our groundwater and wildlife, fields that produce our food, places for children to play, good schools to learn in and a healthy, safe, quiet environment with dark skies. My door-to-door work leads me to believe this vision reflects the majority of our citizens.

Look not to the short-term, where individual gain might prevail, but to the long-term, our children’s future health and welfare.

Frances Topping
The writer is a candidate for Charlestown Planning Commission.