Asset Management Commission fails to place high priority on Town Hall problems

Dianne L. Izzo, Asset Management Commissioner, in a letter to the Town Council, explains “I voted not to approve the Asset Management Commission (hereafter”AMC”) Capital lmprovement Plan (‘CP”) Cover letter in the form presented on February 25,2076 because of errors, omissions, and a tone I found inappropriate. The AMC cover letter also lacks the appropriate emphasis on the Town Hall and Town Hall Annex.

Read the full letter.

Town Council voted to amend the Comprehensive Plan with language that allows the TC to establish a Redevelopment Agency

Grow & Preserve North Kingstown Post – March 15G&PNK LOGO

“Regretfully, last night, the Town Council voted to amend the Comprehensive Plan with language that allows the TC to establish a Redevelopment Agency, a decision driven by the requirement for the $10 million TIF in the option to purchase agreement for Wickford El. The amendment language also identifies the Wickford Elementary School property for consideration for redevelopment under RI Redevelopment Agency law.

Voting “YES”: Jason Albuquerque, Carol Hueston, Kerry McKay,
Voting “NO”: Kevin Maloney, Ellen Waxman

On a positive note, some new voices weighed in with their concerns over the proposed redevelopment plan for Wickford El, and, Councilor Waxman presented a list of concerns she has over the scale and financing of the proposed project.

Stay tuned for information regarding the Town Council’s upcoming hearings to establish North Kingstown’s first Redevelopment Agency. Public input during this process is critical.”

Update on RDA & TIF: Meeting Monday March 14



North Kingstown Redevelopment Agency


North Kingstown, RI – March 6, 2016      Last fall, a group of concerned citizens formed Grow & Preserve North Kingstown (GPNK), with a desire to see the Town and its historic villages grow in a healthy manner that fosters economic vitality along with the cultural arts, recreation and history.

Currently, the Town of North Kingstown is in the process of rewriting its Comprehensive Plan, in order to establish the vision and goals of the community. Despite the ongoing rewrite of the Comprehensive Plan, to be finalized in the near future,  the North Kingstown Town Council is also proposing to amend the existing Comprehensive Plan in order to establish a Redevelopment Agency (RDA).  RDAs are governing organizations that are often dedicated to urban renewal.

California, the state that pioneered RDAs, recently dissolved all its RDAs due to budgeting problems and widespread misuse.  So why is the North Kingstown Town Council anxious to amend its existing Comprehensive Plan to allow for the creation of an RDA, instead of waiting to incorporate an RDA into the revised Comprehensive Plan? It appears the desire to quickly establish an RDA coincides with the needs of a developer, who anticipates $10 million in Tax Increment Financing (TIF) to redevelop the former Wickford Elementary School property.  Rhode Island law requires that TIF bonds cannot be issued without the creation of an RDA.

A backup proposal for the Wickford Elementary School property does not include TIF financing or an RDA.  Why then is the Town seriously considering issuing a $10-million bond for the same property? After all, the proposed developer has yet to present any significant plans regarding the construction details of the project, some of which is in a FEMA-designated flood zone.

The Wickford Plan Committee (WPC), whose members are appointed by the Town Council, sent a strongly worded letter to the Town Council expressing its concern about amending the current Comprehensive Plan.  Their letter detailed the issues surrounding RDAs, and cautioned,

 “…RDAs run the risk of becoming a breeding ground for waste, abuse, and impropriety. Amending the Comprehensive Plan now to facilitate the possible future establishment of an RDA is premature. There will be ample time to consider the need for an RDA after the site plan [for the proposed Wickford El development], components and financial feasibility are further developed.”

 RDAs have been successfully used to redevelop blighted areas and assist with creating needed infrastructure.  At the February 17 Town Council meeting, William Fazioli, Chairman of East Providence’s Waterfront Commission and consultant to North Kingstown, spoke at length about the use of TIF bonds and an RDA to rejuvenate an approximately 300-acre site previously owned by an oil company.  However, the project was largely financed through private monies, and the TIF funding was a significantly smaller percentage of the investment than is currently being proposed for the Wickford El development.

The Grow & Preserve group acknowledges the good intentions of the Town Council, and recognizes the possible benefits of RDAs to assist with urban renewal projects.

Although the former Wickford Elementary School building (vacant for nearly 11-years), requires significant repairs, Wickford is hardly a “blighted” area.  The installation of sewers for Wickford’s commercial area has been approved and will commence shortly, regardless of the status of the proposed Wickford El development.  Buildings are being acquired on Brown Street, housing sales are on the rise, and refurbishing of historic homes is present everywhere.   Major players are waiting in the wings and the economy is improving.

This is hardly the time to succumb to a plan that is primarily structured for one project.  In some circumstances RDAs make sense and perhaps should be considered in the future when Post Road is ready for a face-lift.

Residents concerned about the Town Council making amendments to the Town Comprehensive Plan for the purpose of enabling the establishment of a RDA and TIF funding by the Town, can speak to these issues at the Town Council meeting scheduled for Monday, March 14, or email the entire Town Council at

Residents are also invited to visit the Grow & Preserve North Kingstown group on Facebook for updates and additional information. 


About Grow & Preserve Rhode Island:
We are a growing group of North Kingstown residents who advocate for site-sensitive, community-minded development, and creative, suitably scaled original or adaptive use of historic North Kingstown properties. We defend efforts to preserve our treasured buildings and open spaces, and fight for an inclusive planning process that adheres to the Town’s Comprehensive Plan in a fiscally responsible manner. We are a voice for citizens, a repository of facts, and a coalition for government transparency in order to grow and preserve the character of North Kingstown for future generations. At this time, our recently established Facebook Group is approaching 350 members.
For more information, press contacts: Esther Jackson, (401) 667-0600 Tim Wasco, (401) 451-9918

Premiere of Tim Cranston’s film on Sea Captains’ Homes of Wickford

Noted local historian Tim Cranston’s film on Sea Captains’ Homes of Wickford will have it’s local premiere at 2 pm on Saturday, March 26 at the North Kingstown Free Library.

Congratulations to Tim on another fine project celebrating Wickford and our history.  For an introduction to the film, click here.

Join Tim Cranston for a special screening of his new one hour documentary film “Stories of the Sea Captains’ Homes of Wickford”. Working with RI film maker Edward Brassard and California-based film editor Gloria D’Allesandro, Tim has turned one of his popular walking tours into a film that uses these fine homes to tell the story of how Wickford began and how it flourished across the centuries. Tim will lead a lively question and answer session after the screening and will discuss his many future projects.

Please register with the library.


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.

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

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  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.




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

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

A good write up by Jim Bessette of The Independent is at



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