The traditional wood clapboards, wrap-around front porches and narrow, peaked roofs in the proposed Palmer Pointe affordable-housing project in Barrington haven’t eased neighborhood concerns about the development.
Like the 47-unit Sweetbriar subdivision completed three year ago, Palmer Point has stoked fears of urbanization and more traffic in one of the state’s premier bedroom communities.
A petition opposing the project was signed by 517 residents and circulated along with a letter titled “NIMBY,” referencing the often disdainful acronym Not In My Backyard attached to such efforts, outlining local fears about the development.
“There is a prospect, for all abutting landowners on both sides of the [proposed site], of waking up one morning knowing that within the mere distance of town-imposed setbacks they now have 195 new neighbors, with cars,” the letter, signed by the Community Opposed to Development 02806, warned in one of 12 bullet points.
Attempts to build affordable housing in wealthy suburbs bring controversy and court legal fights across the state and country, but in Rhode Island, no community has resisted the concept quite like Barrington.
When Sweetbrier was proposed, opponents appealed the project to the state Supreme Court.
Last year, as residents braced for developers to unveil their Palmer Pointe plan, town officials discussed organizing an East Bay revolt against the state’s affordable-housing law.
Like Sweetbrier, Palmer Pointe is possible because of the 2004 Low and Moderate Income Housing Act, which gives deed-restricted, government-subsidized, affordable developments a way around local zoning restrictions.
The law targets communities where less than 10 percent of all homes qualify as affordable and Barrington’s 2.5 percent affordability puts it firmly in that category.
Town planners looking to raise that number identified the 9-acre Sowams Road site of Palmer Pointe, now home to a plant nursery owned by Joseph and Maria Silveira, as an appropriate place to build.
But even though the affordable-housing law gives Palmer Pointe a permitting advantage over other proposals for apartments in the suburbs, the project’s developers are trying to design the complex in way that will make the community embrace population density.