2020 Draft Comprehensive Plan
South Kingstown’s existing Comprehensive Community Plan, here in after referred to as the Plan, was last adopted by the Town Council in 2014. While comprehensive plans in Rhode Island are traditionally updated every ten (10) years, the 2014 update was completed prior to changes to the required elements of Comprehensive Plans adopted by the State. For this reason, the current update of the Plan was undertaken in order to provide discussion of South Kingstown’s Plan for addressing natural hazards and climate change and energy resources and build upon the prior work of the 2014 Plan.
Efforts to update the existing Plan have been underway beginning in January of 2017. Over this time period, the Planning Board worked with Planning Department staff and a project consultant to prepare an update to the plan achieve the following:
- Develop elements relative to the topics of natural hazards and climate change, and energy in accordance with new state guidelines;
- Refine the goals, policies and implementation actions identified in the 2014 Plan in order to identify new priorities, refine existing language, and remove completed actions;
- Update data points used throughout the old Plan with current information; and
- Improve the usability of the document by reformatting the document, standardizing the information including in each element, and identify themes present through the 2020 draft Plan.
During the course this update to the Town's 2014 Plan, the Planning Board disseminated information about the plan revisions through use of a project website, numerous public meetings, and two separate interactive public engagement sessions with the community at large. In addition, over twenty-three (23) work sessions between 2017 and 2019 were held where the Planning Board discussed development of the Plan and received advisory opinions from the Town’s Conservation Commission, Historic District Commission, Affordable Housing Collaborative, and Economic Development Committee. Additionally, comments were also solicited from departments within South Kingstown’s municipal government, including the School Department, Library Department, Parks and Recreation Department, and Department of Public Services.
In preparation for a Public Hearing on this proposed update to the Plan, a Public Comment Period was advertised and ran for three (3) months from September through December 2019. On November 14, 2019, the Planning Board held a Public Hearing on the update to the Plan and received comments and feedback from members of the public.
Upon completion of the Public Hearing and closure of the Public Comment Period, staff collected, reviewed, and analyzed the responses received with the Planning Board in January of 2020 to determine what revisions to make in response to this input. That process has been completed and responses have been incorporated into the draft 2020 Plan.
STATE STANDARDS & PROCEDURE FOR REVIEW/ADOPTION
The Town of South Kingstown’s Comprehensive Community Plan must conform to specific standards established by the State of Rhode Island Division of Planning. As noted above, the current update of the Comprehensive Community Plan included planning for energy and natural hazard and climate change, two (2) new elements required by the State. Additionally significant efforts were undertaken to review the contents of the 2014 Comprehensive Plan to ensure that all required standards were included and that additional language and considerations were added, where necessary.
Once developed, a comprehensive plan must be adopted as an ordinance by the Town Council. Before a comprehensive plan is adopted, the Planning Board must:
- Disseminate information to the public about the plan revisions;
- Solicit oral and written comments during the preparation of the plan;
- Hold at least one (1) public hearing, either independently or as a joint hearing with the Town Council; and
- Submit a recommendation to the Town Council regarding the adoption of the plan.
PROPOSED NEW ELEMENTS
Two new elements were created in response to new state standards, ‘Natural Hazard & Climate Change’ and ‘Energy,’ additionally a third new element was created and referred to as ‘Citizens.’ The purpose of each new element is briefly summarized below.
Natural Hazards and Climate Change: This element assesses South Kingstown’s vulnerability to storm events and natural hazards in the face of increased precipitation, sea level rise, more intense storm events, and other symptoms of our changing climate. This element establishes high level priorities for improving resilience and reducing the impact of events upon the people and resources of the Town based upon a community vulnerability assessment process. This element is designed to work with the Town’s Hazard Mitigation Plan in order to establish a vision and the actions necessary to realize it. Two (2) goals are established in this element:
Six (6) priority impacts of natural hazards were also identified based upon the Vulnerability Assessment: Energy: This element evaluates South Kingstown’s municipal energy uses and opportunities to reduce energy consumption and utilize more sustainable energy sources. It further discusses the Town’s vision for responsible and well-planned energy generation, including through renewable energy systems. Three (3) goals are established is this element: