Friday, January 14, 2005
Benfield consultants focus on site plans, public funding options
On January 6 the Benfield Task Force kicked off the New Year with presentations by the outside consultants. While details are still preliminary, two options for siting the playing field and the affordable housing development are beginning to be firmed up, in preparation for a presentation to the town in early February.
With about ten abutters in attendance, questions and opinions were volleyed for most of the three-hour session. Clearly, the town-owned Benfield Land is not being developed behind closed doors; everyone who has an opinion is being heard — if they come to the meetings.
Two locations for playing field
Architect John Winslow brought in two plans that differ primarily in the location of the playing field. Plan A showed the location of the playing field adjacent to South Street with the housing development set in the woods above the stone wall that delineates the boundary of the conservation land. Plan B showed both the playing field and the housing development above the stone wall.
According to Winslow, "We could pretty up the drawings with colors and refine the look of the housing but until we know which location the town will choose, it wouldn't be productive to go further." John Ballantine reminded everyone that the goal for now is to arrive at the zoning restrictions for the development. The detail work will follow from those decisions.
Exploring public funding
Housing finance consultant Toby Kramer passed around a draft of the sources and uses of funds for both rental and ownership options. Cautioning that the amount of public funding will not be known for sure until the applications are submitted and awarded, she believes the numbers she presented are reasonable. If the town offers the 26 units for sale, the funding gap is about $76,600. If the units are rented out, the funding gap is about $559,000. These preliminary numbers will be refined over the next few weeks.
Traffic study in progress
The traffic consultant has almost finished collecting and analyzing traffic flows along South Street that will suggest where the development road will need to enter the site and what, if any, modifications to South Street will be needed. The consultant will be asked to attend the next task force meeting to present his findings and answer questions.
According to Tim Fohl, the Narragansett tribe's report on the Indian stones on the property is complete but is not yet available for the town to review. The committee was concerned that this delay in receiving the report may make it difficult to accommodate the tribe's wishes.
Presentation in February
At least one more meeting will be needed prior to a public presentation of the pros and cons of the alternative plans at a public session, planned for early February.
© 2005 The