Change is difficult to stomach. When you're happy with the way things are, change, however well intentioned, is something we push back against. But to say change is always bad, or to convince ourselves that things should never change, is naive.
The parcel of land on Phenix Avenue, a stone's throw away from Route 37 and the 295 interchange, is a valuable piece of property. It is identified in the Comprehensive Plan as a potential area for development, and frankly, a residential zone designation is not fitting for the future of that parcel. No matter how much residents in the area resist, that land will eventually be developed. It can and will serve as a transition between residential and commercial properties, and thanks to its accessibility, makes it a worthwhile investment for any number of developers.
That being said, the proposal for The Lodges at Phenix Glen is not the right fit for that land.
Yes, development is imminent, and yes, the city could benefit from additional tax revenues by selling the site. But we believe the revenues claimed by The Procaccianti Group to be grossly overstated.
Slight fluctuations would likely come from an issue raised by Councilmen Stycos and Farina: the city's motor vehicle tax revenues include commercial vehicles, so to take an average without accounting for that, is not a true snapshot. Snowbirds splitting their time between Rhode Island and Florida could likewise influence that revenue figure, as vehicle owners take advantage of favorable rates in the south.
More importantly, though, the figures used to determine costs for education seem entirely unlikely. To propose 192 rental units and say that only 10 school-age individuals will live there, in a family-friendly city like Cranston, is off base. And even if only 10 kids live there, what happens if one of those children has special needs? A $9,000 per pupil average doesn't come close to reflecting the costs associated with special education. Out-of-district placements inflate that number exponentially. One student could cost 10 times that average.
Even more unbelievable is a 100 percent occupancy assumption. In this economy, people can't pay $2,000-per-month mortgages. What makes TPG believe they can get 192 individuals or families who can pay $2,000 per month just to rent? If rents drop, then this complex would attract a different type of resident, and the chances that he or she or they have children increases. If that is the case, then this development will be a cost burden to the city - not a revenue source.
Concerns of residents aside - traffic, aesthetics, quality of life, historic character of the area - reasonable though they may be, these numbers pose a serious question as to how beneficial this development would be for the city. It would create short-term construction jobs and an infusion of cash, but once the cranes have gone and residents move in, it could be a different story. The City Council needs to look at this proposal through a long-term lens. Cranston doesn't need more taxpayers - it needs more tax revenues. Wouldn't a commercial development be preferable to a high-density residential property? The revenues would be higher, the risk to the city lower, and the vehicular volume likely less burdensome in an area that already has traffic woes.
We know development is coming, but at what cost?