I write to you today to provide some follow‐up to the recent workshop on Equitable Development presented by Smart Growth America, at which I provided introductory remarks. The workshop was open to the public and in attendance were members of the City Council, Planning Board, City Staff, and Newport residents. Towards the end of the workshop, a few Councilors and Planning Board Members made comments that suggested the proposed Equitable Development Plan would delay the North End Urban Plan (NEUP). I was confused by these comments, but could not respond then because of time limitations. I’m hoping to take this moment now to clear things up.
The North End Urban Plan (NEUP) is finished: it was approved by the Planning Board and then adopted by the City Council on January 27th. The next step in the process is implementation of the Plan. This is where, if the City is smart, it will take advantage of Smart Growth America’s expertise and presence.
What perhaps those Councilors and Planning Board Members didn’t realize is the NEUP acknowledges the displacement, the development it advocates for, will exacerbate. From the NEUP pg. 71: “While the North End Urban Plan takes active measures to promote equity through improved civic amenity and public benefit, the desired economic development is likely to increase displacement pressures on low and moderate‐income persons in the surrounding residential neighborhoods”. The plan goes on to recommend the development and adoption of measures to counteract that displacement. Also from pg. 71: “the City should continuously work to develop an understanding of the factors that contribute to displacement and should create solutions to maintain neighborhood stability. Such solutions may include taxation measures, zoning amendments, community benefits and other development incentives.”
Rather than a potential delay to the process, the Equitable Development Plan by SGA represents an opportunity for the City to have its displacement problem solved for it, for free, by the preeminent national experts in the field. It’s true, as the Mayor stated, Smart Growth America does not work for the City, they work for the Newport Health Equity Zone. What that means is the cost of the Equitable Development Plan is being paid for with fundraising, not City funds. That said, the HEZ is actively appealing to the City to participate in this planning process as a partner.
The City should take advantage of this incredible resource, brought to it by the community, to solve a problem its own plan highlights. The City Council and Staff should be thanking the HEZ, rather than implying it’s somehow throwing a wrench in the works. Quite the opposite, the HEZ has brought the exact wrench needed to fix this tricky problem.
Executive Director, Church Community Housing Corporation/Lead Organization HEZ Housing Working Group