TOWN OF CHARLESTOWN, RI, RFP: Commercial and Village Design Standards


The Town of Charlestown, RI is seeking proposals from qualified design consultants with expertise in the areas of architecture, landscape architecture, historic preservation, community planning and other similar qualifications for the development of design standards to be applied to new development and redevelopment in its commercial and mixed-use zoning districts.


The adopted and approved 2021 Charlestown Comprehensive Plan has a number of recommendations relating to the town’s commercial districts.  These include the enactment of village center overlay districts governing Carolina, Shannock and Cross Mills, with specific design standards for development in these historic villages.  There is also a need to better define standards for the current commercial districts, which includes the mixed-use Traditional Village District (TVD) encompassing areas along the Old Post Road corridor, and the C-1, the C-2 and the C-3 Zones.  The Comprehensive Plan recommends that the nomenclature of the three C Zones change to Village Commercial, General Commercial and Scenic Highway Commercial, respectively.  Applicants wishing to build also need a clear understanding of the process for project review and what is considered good design, including the visual representation of such.  The need to develop and adopt commercial design standards for Charlestown has been discussed for years.

Project Objectives

The project objective is to develop commercial design standards for new and redeveloped commercial and mixed-use buildings and sites in the Town of Charlestown, to include the three village overlay districts of Carolina, Shannock and Cross Mills, as proposed in the Comprehensive Plan; the Traditional Village District; and the three commercial districts.  This will result in specific standards to achieve attractive and viable commercial and mixed-use districts unique to Charlestown.

Scope of Services

The design consultant will work closely with the Planning Department and the Planning Commission, specifically a commercial design subcommittee of the commission, to undertake the tasks described below.  The town, through its GIS Department, will provide necessary project mapping.  In addition to the Town Planner and the GIS Manager, the involvement of other town staff, including the Building and Zoning Official, will be needed to integrate new development standards, both building design and site standards, into the zoning ordinance.

Commercial Design Subcommittee

In addition to members of the Planning Commission, it is expected that the subcommittee will consist of members of the Charlestown Economic Improvement Commission and the Zoning Board of Review, a liaison from the Town Council, a representative from the Charlestown Historical Society, a local designer/builder and others as appropriate.

Project Tasks

The activities to be undertaken are described below in three phases.

Phase 1: Background Review and Analysis

  • Review of the town’s existing zoning regulations, including the sections now regulating development in the Traditional Village District and the Historic Village Overlay, as well as the articles governing most new development in town, Article XII Development Plan Review and Article XIII Development Standards.
  • Review of the relevant portions of the Charlestown Comprehensive Plan including the chapters on Economic Opportunity and Land Use, and all other relevant documents, including the “Shannock Historic Mill Village Design Guidelines for Building in the Village”, October 30, 2010, by the Horsely Witten Group and Donald Powers Architects.
  • Field review of the three village districts, the Traditional Village District and the three commercial districts (supplemented or guided by mapping prepared by the town).

The consultant will be provided with GIS mapping of the commercial districts with the recommended adjustments to the zoning district boundaries contained in the comprehensive plan (Future Land Use Map).  Any available data from the town, such as GIS map layers and tax assessor data, will be provided in a mapping format as needed.

  • A written analysis of the areas described above including general nature of development, mixture of uses, area of land available for development, quality and age of the buildings, existence of historic or iconic structures and other defining characteristics.

Any maps with new information, such as site analysis or building information developed by the consultant, to support the written analysis will be prepared by the consultant.

  • Preparation of initial recommendations for guiding development in these areas.  This will include recommendations on how comprehensive the regulatory requirements should be.

The procedures for development plan review will be evaluated by the consultant who, in consultation with town staff, will provide needed text changes to the appropriate sections of the zoning ordinance.

  • Public Outreach Session

Following the completion of the background work and initial recommendations, an outreach session will be held to receive public input on the design components that could be added to the town regulations.  The town will be responsible for organizing and advertising the outreach session, and the consultant will be responsible for facilitating this discussion.

Phase 2: Draft Design Guidelines

  • First draft of design guidelines, in an illustrated format, for new development specific to:
  1. The mill villages, including residential, institutional, and mixed-use buildings
  2. The Old Post Road corridor (Traditional Village District)
  3. Village commercial (the small-scale commercial areas within the villages)
  4. General commercial (areas of commercial zoning throughout town which are not within the villages and not along Route 1)
  5. The Route 1 scenic highway commercial corridor, with special emphasis on treatment of facades and landscaping within the view corridor.

Design standards for the three mill village overlay districts shall be based upon the previous work done for Shannock Village.  It is not expected that these standards will be altered, only folded into the larger effort. 

The initial standards will be reviewed by the design subcommittee prior to their introduction at a public workshop.  The consultant will recommend which standards require incorporation into the zoning ordinance directly, and which can be included by reference.

  • Preparation for and attendance at a public workshop to present the background work and the first draft of standards and revised zoning regulations.

This workshop will be a collaborative effort by the town and the consultant.

Phase 3: Final Work Product

  • Final draft of design guidelines, in both written and illustrated format.

Following review of comments from the public workshop and the input of the design subcommittee, a final draft of the guidelines will be prepared by the consultant.  This work will be coordinated with the preparation of final draft zoning ordinance amendments.

Preparation for and attendance at a Town Council public hearing to adopt the updated procedures under Development Plan Review.

A formal presentation on the design standards will be done as a collaborative effort by the town and the consultant.  It is expected that the public hearing will take two or more evenings.

Submission of final documents and materials.

Design Standards

At a minimum it is expected that the standards will address:

  • Building architecture, including building type and massing, roof forms, window style and placement, architectural elements, exterior materials.
  • Building location and relationships on site, including placement of multiple and/or accessory buildings.
  • Overall site design including parking, driveways, outside spaces (patios, courtyards), stormwater management, on-site solar.
  • Landscaping, buffers, fences and walls.
  • Signage and lighting.

Meeting Requirements

As stated above, a commercial design advisory committee, as a subcommittee of the Planning Commission, will be established to work with the selected consultant.

The consultant team will attend meetings or have contact with the planning and other town departments as necessary to gather all relevant data and input for the development of the commercial and village design standards, as well as preparing for and attending a separate schedule of the subcommittee meetings and finally, workshops and hearings directed at the general public.  The proposal should specify a meeting schedule which includes the number of meetings and intended time allocations.

The Planning Department and/or the office of the Town Clerk shall be responsible for all required public meeting notices and public hearing advertisements, both in local newspapers and on the town website.


The principal work products for the project are the following:

  • Design guideline booklets to be used by property owners and applicants when developing in the mill village and commercial districts.
  • Written design standards to be included within the Charlestown Zoning Ordinance.

Project Schedule

The project period will begin on or about June 15, 2023, with a completion date of September 30, 2024 but will be extended as needed.

Proposal Content

The Town of Charlestown will receive scope of work and fee proposals for developing commercial design standards for new and redeveloped commercial and mixed-use buildings and sites in the proposed three village overlay districts, the Traditional Village District and the three commercial districts.  At a minimum, the proposal must include the following:

  • Narrative description of the scope of work, which substantiates the company’s understanding of the project objectives;
  • General project schedule;
  • Company’s experience with similar projects, and list of references;
  • Experience of personnel to be assigned to the project, including resumes for each individual, qualifications, licenses and professional registrations, and hourly rates; and
  • Total project fee, broken down by task, with all anticipated costs for providing services.

Qualifications should include company history, description of relevant projects, familiarity with the Town of Charlestown, and knowledge of Rhode Island comprehensive planning and zoning laws and requirements.

Submission Deadline

Four (4) paper copies and one digital copy of the proposal are due by 3:00 pm May 8, 2023 to be publicly opened on May 9, 2023 at 10:00am at the below address.

Mail or hand deliver copies of each sealed proposal, clearly marked “Charlestown Commercial and Village Design Standards”, to the following address: 

Charlestown Town Clerk’s Office

4540 South County Trail

Charlestown, RI 02813

Supervision and Acceptance of Design Consultant’s Work

Coordination of the development of the commercial and village design standards project will be the responsibility of the Town Planner.  The consultant shall appoint an individual to serve as project manager on the consultant’s team behalf.  The project manager will serve as the primary point of contact and be responsible for coordinating consultant activities.

Payments on the contract shall be made on the basis of invoices submitted by the consultant for deliverables accepted and approved by the Town Planning Department.

For additional information or any questions please contact Jane Weidman, AICP, the Town Planner at (401) 364-1225 or