Why so many are concerned about setting up an RDA: Example of a Failed RDA Project

During the public hearing at the Town Council Meeting on Feb. 17th, many NK residents expressed concern about setting up an RDA.  One of our HistWick members did some research on RDAs and uncovered a nearby example of the risks.

Redevelopment Authority Woes (Monday, February 22, 2010)

The Boston Business Journal reported that “The Attleboro (Massachusetts) Redevelopment Authority knew, or should have known it was heading into deep debt at least two years before its ‘house of cards,’ came coming crashing down in 2008.”  The ARA is insolvent and is in debt to the tune of $4.2 million.  Read more.

This information was shared with the Town Council:

Dear President McKay and Members of the Council,

As far as I can tell from my research, the chief reason for a failed RDA project has been a shortfall in the estimate of how much the project will cost by developers, leaving cities and towns with the obligation to find more cash when the developer cannot, or developers abandoning projects altogether when they are partly finished or not started at all.  Also leaving the towns with gaping, unsightly and dangerous construction sites and further deteriorated existing buildings. Absence of a proper needs analysis and marketing plan leaves even completed developments half empty, deteriorating and leaving towns and cities without the anticipated property taxes.

Simply saying: “This will benefit the whole town” over and over, or listening to people who stand to benefit by the construction does not and will never replace responsible research. Lack of proper vetting of developers and in oversight and transparency of projects is to blame for most project failures.

Our town is small: only 28,000 people. How many actual taxpayers are there? Given all the rentals and homes occupied by more than one person, I estimate 6 – 7000? Give or take a thousand? Who, exactly will foot the bill for mistakes made in chasing grandiose projects without adequate information? Living in our town is already unattractive to people working here in Quonset and even Town employees because of high property taxes.

Please do not present us with half-finished eyesores on top of it.

I implore you to do your homework.

Here is an article about a project close to home, although you can find examples all over the country. My son-in-law told me about this. They live in Attleboro. They are still trying to dig out from under.  http://economicdevelopmentconsultants.blogspot.com/2010/02/redevelopment-authority-woes.html

HistWick Concerns Re Town Hall, Annex, and Wickford El

HistWick Members,

Your Board is increasingly concerned about the issues arising from the use of the Town Hall, Annex, and Wickford Elementary School  buildings, buildings which have been central to the life of our village. We believe it is necessary for our members to take an increasingly active role in planning their future. Towards that end we will be working to keep you informed, posting relevant information on our website, and reaching out to other groups with similar interests. Your proactive assistance is needed and will be appreciated.

80BostonNeck_townhall TOWN HALL AND ANNEX

As previously reported, last week Council President Kerry McKay, and Councilors Carol Hueston and Jason Albuquerque voted to vacate the town hall and annex and move the staff to the former school administration building. Councilman Kevin Maloney voted against the move and Councilwoman Ellen Waxman was out of town. The vote took place in spite of an outpouring of emails in opposition and a meeting room packed with opponents to the move.

Both The Standard Times and The Independent have detailed stories about the meeting. The Independent version is on line at http://www.independentri.com/independents/ind/north_kingstown/article_a89a6836-f7db-5774-b25a-389375975a52.html

The Town Council also voted to charge the Asset Management Commission with exploring preservation options for the buildings.

The Board of HistWick deeply regrets the council’s decision to vacate the buildings without a plan in place for their restoration and/or reuse. (We must emphasize, we did not oppose making whatever repairs were necessary to ensure the safety of the people using the buildings.)

We hereby call upon the Town Council and the Asset Management Commission to move forward quickly to develop plans to refurbish the buildings and return them to their historic roles as public-serving town offices or an equivalent use that is both in keeping with the historic nature of the buildings and the village, and contributes as much or more to the vitality of the village.


Another hot topic of the evening revolved around plans for the Wickford Elementary School site and a proposal to create a redevelopment agency to permit the use of tax increment financing. The Town’s Wickford Plan Committee submitted reports to the council expressing its concerns about the size of the project and the risks of delegating authority to such an agency  http://historicwickford.org/upcoming-event/wickford-plan-committee-expresses-concerns-with-wickford-el-project-and-redevelopent-agency/  This segment was also thoroughly reported in our local papers. Due to the many questions raised, the council deferred any action until its March 14 meeting.

While your HistWick Board recognizes the need to find a productive use for the Wickford El property, it also shares the concerns raised by the WPC reports.





Wickford Plan Committee Expresses Concerns with Wickford El project and Redevelopent Agency

New and old Wickford ElThe Wickford Plan Committee has submitted two reports to the Town Council describing its concerns with the scale of the Wickford El project and the proposal for creation of a Redevelopment Agency.

Letter to Town Council Members

Comments on  99 Phillips St Development aka Wickford Elementary School project

Findings on Redevelopment Agencies

For your reference, the Wickford Plan document is available on the town website: The Wickford Plan .



Feb. 25: Asset Management Meeting to discuss the “Restoration/Disposition of Town Hall & Brown St. Library”

Meeting time: Thursday February 25 at 5:30 PM.

Location: David R Burnham Public Works Facility,

2050 Davisville Road

After voting to vacate the Town Hall and Annex and move the staff to the former School Administration Building, the Council also voted to charge the Asset Management Commission with exploring preservation options for the buildings. The Committee should report back to the Council within 6 months and has been authorized to spend up to $10,000. on its efforts.

The Committee will take up the issue under new business at the meeting described above.

It should be remembered this is the same committee that recommended vacating the buildings and has made it clear it favors building a new, combined administration building to accommodate both the town and school administration staffs.

Any HistWick members and others who continue to be interested in the future use of the North Kingstown Town Hall and Annex should consider attending the meetings of the Asset Management Commission.



Town Council Votes to Vacate Town Halls

I am very sorry to report that Council President Kerry McKay, and councilors Carol Hueston and Jason Albuquerque voted Wednesday evening to vacate the town hall and annex.

A preliminary write up of the evening can be found at The Independent


and the Providence Journal


I want to thank the 230 people who signed our petition and the large crowd that attended the council meeting. You filled the room with your presence  and the air with eloquent speeches that, unfortunately, fell on deaf ears.


Larry Ehrhardt

President, HistWick


LAST CHANCE TO SAVE TOWN HALL – Wednesday, February 17 at 7 pm


 UPDATED Saturday, February 13


  • The RI Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission wrote the Town’s analysis “is not an equal cost comparison”, includes work that may not actually be needed, double counts some work, and omits costs required to preserve Town Hall even if the town offices move out.  RI Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission letter
  • PRESERVE RHODE ISLAND – North Kingstown Town Hall’s Future Uncertain During the past month, PRI has been monitoring with great concern a situation in North Kingstown. After receiving building code violations from the fire department, the town appears on a path to vacate their historic Town Hall located in the heart of Wickford. This is a tremendous overreaction to a situation that can likely be remedied without incurring greater costs than would be created by retrofitting alternative locations.After being alerted by a concerned citizen, PRI has been in communication with community members, colleagues at the RI Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission and town council members. Earlier this week, PRI wrote a letter to the town council objecting to a plan to relocate town offices without further investigation of alternatives.
  • If the town leaves vacant (or sells) the Annex, it will not be protected against significant changes — or worse, demolition — even though it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
  • The Northeast Independent article ‘Town Hall repairs to cost $1.5 million” provides details on the proposal prepared by Director of Public Works Phil Bergeron.  It references the letters above, but not until the end.

WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO EMAIL YOUR COMMENTS TO towncouncil@northkingstown.org 



Wickford Village has served as the center of activity in North Kingstown for three centuries. Unfortunately, it has suffered in recent years as changes in retail buying habits and urban sprawl have resulted in too many empty storefronts. While there has been much discussion about how to revitalize the business district, those efforts, and the village itself are seriously threatened by a pending decision by the North Kingstown Town Council to vacate our historical Town Hall and Town Hall Annex. Unfortunately, three council members have made clear from the outset they favor the move, which could be an irreversible step toward building a new administrative edifice at a place and cost that are completely unknown.

Not that long ago voters dramatically rejected, by a margin of 3 to 1, a $3.85 million bond to finance converting Wickford Elementary School into joint offices for the town and School Department. Can you imagine what the reaction would be to a new facility costing many times that amount? In December, more than 200 citizens petitioned the Council to reconsider its headlong rush to vacate the buildings and many showed up at a Council meeting to deliver the message. Unfortunately, a majority of the Council appears unmoved by the voices of the community they serve.

On Feb. 8, the Council is slated to take up the question again at 6:30 the Senior Center. Please plan to attend what may be your last opportunity to show your support for preserving our Town Hall. You also should email your comments to towncouncil@northkingstown.org.

The restored sign at the corner of Brown and Main Streets proudly points out Wickford was platted in 1709. Let’s make sure we don’t have to add a new line “Abandoned in 2016.”

Laurence Ehrhardt

The author is president of Historic Wickford.

The petition can be seen at http://historicwickford.org/past-event/petition-to-preserve-town-hall/

A good write up by Jim Bessette of The Independent is at  http://www.independentri.com/independents/ind/north_kingstown/article_ce619ddf-8035-5fc1-8838-23c8673d87a3.html



Wickford is featured in Yankee Magazine this month as one of the 15 prettiest towns and villages in New England

Wickford is featured in Yankee Magazine this month as one of the 15 prettiest towns and villages in New England. And they give a link to the HistWick walking tour!



Town Hall Update (December 18, 2015)

HistWick’s petition calling on the Town Council to preserve the use of town hall received tremendous support from our members. At Monday’s Council meeting we presented the petition, signed by more than 200 North Kingstown residents, and urged a proper study of the building before hastily vacating it. In addition, more than 50 friends and supporters turned out to show their concern about the rush to judgement.

Unfortunately a majority of the Council and the Asset Management Commission seem bound and determined to proceed in the face of a mounting array of evidence their analysis has been incomplete and may suffer a number of serious flaws.

The meeting was well covered in both the The Standard-Times and The Independent newspapers of December 17 – I urge you to find and read a copy.

HistWick members Toby and Amy Sonder have an excellent letter in the papers about what they, and we, value in Wickford. http://www.independentri.com/independents/ind/opinion/letters/article_5e0493c9-0a62-5d3b-8f44-bf8c0b0f7992.html

As a reminder, earlier we shared this information:


In a letter to Kerry McKay, Town Council President, Edward Sanderson, Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission explains that there is no requirement by the State Fire Safety Code Board that Town Hall must be vacated.   Click to read the letter.

State says “No Requirement to Vacate Town Hall”

80BostonNeck_townhallIn a letter to Kerry McKay, Town Council President, Edward Sanderson, Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission explains that there is no requirement by the State Fire Safety Code Board that Town Hall must be vacated.   Click to read the letter.

2015 Holiday Kitchen Tour!

We hope you had a chance  to view the ten beautiful homes in Wickford!

Here are copies of the Tour Guide and the House Histories.

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