2017-11-09 / Front Page

Town eyes purchase of Carr Lane parcel

7-acre property would be subdivided for affordable housing, watershed protection
BY TIM RIEL

The town wants to purchase private property off North Main Road that would provide affordable housing while preserving the watershed of the main reservoir.

The lot at 91 Carr Lane is 6.7 acres with an existing house and garage. The front 1.2 acres, where the structures are sited, would be used for permanent affordable housing, according to Town Planner Lisa Bryer. The southern 5.5 acres at the rear, which border North Pond, would be used as contiguous open space for watershed protection, she said.

The owners, Jim and Lisa Rafferty, approached the town with the proposition. The property was assessed at $550,000 in 2015, but Bryer said the terms still are being negotiated. She did, however, say the Raffertys were “amendable to a bargain sale.”

Although the town would purchase the property at a single price before subdividing the lot, Bryer has split the cost in advance for grant purposes. The 5.5 acres would qualify for the state’s open space grant, a $4 million fund administered by the Department of Environmental Management. There is a $400,000 maximum and the town must match 50 percent.

For Carr Lane, the town has estimated the land acquisition, not including the 1.2 acres in front, to cost $307,500, which means the state would contribute $153,750. In the application, the town references the comprehensive community plan, which recommends “aggressively” purchasing all properties within the watershed. That’s because the town is federally designated as a sole source aquifer, which means one reservoir supplies at least half of the water in town. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are no “reasonably available” sources for drinking water if North Pond were contaminated.

The Rafferty property, which contains deciduous wetlands and shrub swamps, is part of 133 acres that protect and filter drinking water before it flows into North Pond.

“This step is critical in maintaining the pristine reservoir quality,” the application indicates.

Moreover, the town’s purchase of this property would provide recreational opportunities because the network of existing trails can be accessed from North Road, East Shore Road and Eldred Avenue. In the application, the town indicates the 5.5 acres would be managed by the public works department.

The town councilors at their Monday meeting unanimously approved a resolution for Bryer to pursue the grant.

Aside from the $307,500, the front 1.2 acres will be financed by the town’s housing trust. Bryer said that money could be replenished through Community Development Block Grants and funding available from Rhode Island Housing. The property, she added, could be purchased without asking taxpayers for a dime in the fiscal 2019 budget.

“This really is a great opportunity,” she said.

While the prospect is appealing, Town Administrator Andy Nota is cautious about his optimism.

“It would be nice, but we have a bunch of steps to take,” he said. “The number really doesn’t work without that open space grant.”

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