October 26, 2014
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‘Take time,’ planner urges of city blueprint

After more than two years in the making, neighborhood workshops, public hearings and hundreds of responses to surveys both online and in hard copy, City Planner William DePasquale is asking the City Council not to rush a vote on the city comprehensive master plan.

In an interview Friday, he said he would be happy if the council postponed a vote when it considers the plan on Feb. 10.

The planning department is slated to make a presentation of the 20-year plan that night, followed by a hearing during which the public will have the opportunity to comment. It’s those comments, both from the council and the public that DePasquale wants to hear, and possibly incorporate into the plan.

“It’s very important that the community has its fingerprint on this plan,” DePasquale said.

DePasquale would prefer to gather that input, make plan changes if needed, and return for a vote in March.

To use DePasquale’s metaphor, there are already lots of fingerprints on the plan. In fact, like clay on a potter’s wheel, the plan has been shaped into a vessel that contains many concepts but instead of a single artist, there have been hundreds.

A common thread to the plan is neighborhoods: Warwick residents value their neighborhoods; they want to preserve them and, going forward, they look for them to be more vibrant. It’s no mistake that the tag line of the plan is “21st Century Warwick, city of livable neighborhoods.”

“It is the underlying current. The neighborhood is always there. The love for it and the challenges it faces,” said DePasquale.

The city, by law, had two choices going into the process: It could update the existing plan; or, as it chose to do, draft an entirely new plan.

In view of significant changes, including redevelopment across from Green Airport in “City Centre Warwick”; a declining and aging population; village development; need to prepare for climate change and a rise in sea level; and recognition that the city’s environmental assets are key competitive resources, the decision was to go with a new plan. It is the first full update of the comprehensive plan in 20 years.

The extensive plan identifies 10 key concepts and strategies to preserve quality of life and competitiveness in Warwick’s future.

They are to:

l Make the City Centre Warwick a new hub of growth and economic development.

l Make historic village centers into hubs of walkability, amenities, events and mixed use development.

l Promote compact development options to preserve open space.

l Promote walkable neighborhood activity centers.

l Intensify efforts to make Warwick a “green” community with the planting of more trees and the protection and enhancement of streams, ponds and coastal waters.

l Creation of a Warwick innovation district to attract technology and advance manufacturing and office development with zoning and development incentives.

l Maintain the city’s role as a regional retail center with a Bald Hill enhancement corridor design overlay that would bring improvements in design and function, “so that this important tax base for the city continues to be competitive.”

l Enhance connectivity throughout the city by linking neighborhoods to parks, schools, villages, shopping areas and other destinations by designated walking and bicycle “green corridors.”

l Continue efforts to include a signature public open space at Rocky Point and enhance other open space areas.

l Monitor airport impacts and agreements to mitigate the environmental and other impacts of the airport.

The plan includes a 10-year implementation matrix spelling out a timetable to achieve specific elements of the plan and calls for annual public hearings to provide updates and progress reports.

The vision for the city as defined at the conclusion of a summary is that:

“Twenty-first century Warwick combines the best of traditional suburban life with the amenities of village centers, affordable access to the coast, convenience to travel hubs, and a forward thinking community.”

The City Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. on Feb. 10.

The agenda had not been posted as of Monday, but it could be a long night as the council is also scheduled to hear the wetlands petition of the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC). RIAC is seeking approval of its plan to mitigate wetland impacts caused by the extension of the safety roll-off area to Runway 16-34.


Comments
1 comment on this item

Good stuff. I like the planning to "green" the city. Need more natural beauty such as trees to be planted. especially those ones that have pretty flowers in the spring, or the maples that turn vivid colors in the Autum.

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