2017-02-02 / Front Page

Navy Surplus Land Ready for Transfer

Middletown Officials Foresee Mixed Use for West Main Road Property
By Olga Enger

After 12 years of environmental cleanups and careful planning, the U.S. Navy is ready to transfer a valuable piece of land to the Town of Middletown.

A three-acre parcel at the former Navy Lodge site, located at Coddington Highway and West Main Road, would be the first of several Aquidneck Island parcels set to be transferred as part of the 2005 Defense Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) process.

The Navy has opened up a 30- day public review period concerning the Finding of Suitability to Transfer (FOST), ending on March 1.

Soon after the Navy realignment process was announced, Middletown produced the West Main Road Development Center Master Plan, outlining redevelopment plans for four parcels covering 14 acres, including the former Navy Lodge, the town-owned recreational complex, the Middletown Public Library and the former John Kennedy Elementary School.

“This venture could very well be the catalyst that Middletown has needed,” said Council President Robert Sylvia. “This area, which has been utilized for non taxable uses, will hopefully be developed into a source of long-term tax revenue and tax relief for many years for our residents.”

The Navy land will change hands through a sale, which requires a payment of at least half of fair market value. That price has not yet been negotiated, according to officials.

“The town and the Navy have to agree upon a price, and the Navy has to complete the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and FOST process,” said Middletown Administrator Shawn Brown. “Once a price is agreed upon and NEPA and FOST are completed, a congressional committee in Washington must approve the deal.”

The land is now vacant, except for a small telephone utility shed. Once purchased, the town will determine how it is developed.

“There is a preliminary plan which is based on a mixed-use development concept,” said Brown. “The work will have to be revisited and vetted again before the town proceeds any further.”

The Aquidneck Island Reuse Planning Authority (AIRPA) submitted a potential retail use for the land, including both high and low density options. The recommendation includes developing 60 percent of the three-acre space into two one-story buildings totaling 30,500 square feet of retail space. Approximately 1.2 acres of the parcel would be maintained as open space.

Developing the newly acquired parcel would cost the town around $8.5 million, according to preliminary estimates. New infrastructure would be required for water, wastewater, gas and electric systems.

The proposed new businesses would pump an estimated $334,000 of additional tax revenues into the town’s coffers. However, AIRPA warns that a “significant and unavoidable increase in traffic” would be generated.

Several easements also factor into the equation. The Landings Real Estate Group owns an easement across the northeastern portion of the property for a water line to the apartment housing development adjacent to the site. Also, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) acquired a perpetual easement along the eastern edge of the property in 2004 for the construction of a turning lane onto West Main Road. After the sale, the Navy would retain an easement to allow for continued use of a water line that provides service to the base.

Collectively, the Navy’s surplus property comprises four noncontiguous parcels across Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth:

  • Former Navy Lodge – Approximately three acres at the corner of Coddington Highway and West Main Road in Middletown.
  • Former Naval Hospital – Approximately 15.2 acres, consisting of 8.3 acres of land and 6.9 acres of offshore riparian rights (access to water only), located on the western shore of Aquidneck Island on Narragansett Bay in Newport.
  • Tank Farms 1 and 2 – Tank Farm 1 consists of approximately 62 acres of land, and Tank Farm 2 consists of approximately 74 acres of land in Portsmouth.
  • Midway Pier/Greene Lane – This approximately 10.7-acre parcel is located along the western portion of Aquidneck Island in Middletown.

In addition to the former Navy Lodge parcel, the Midway Pier/ Greene Lane and Navy Hospital properties are expected to become available this year.

The Newport proposal for the hospital property includes a waterfront park and three-story hotel, with additional space on the first floor for retail and a restaurant. The park would include a pier, pedestrian path, water taxi dockage, and a boat storage facility.

The preliminary plan for the Midway Pier/Greene Lane site is to keep the area as recreational open space, including a shoreline park along with a fishing pier, kayak launch, restrooms, playgrounds, picnic areas, pathways and a parking lot.

The Portsmouth parcel will require more environmental remediation before it will be available for transfer, according to the Navy.

The former Navy Lodge site FOST is available for public review and comment during the 30-day review period. To provide comments, contact David Barney at david.a.barney@navy.mil or 617- 753-4656. The FOST is available at www.bracpmo.navy.mil/brac_ bases/ northeast/ns_ newport/documents. html.

Public Encouraged to Participate in Navy Remediation Process

Aquidneck Island residents are invited to participate in a process of identifying and cleaning up contaminated Navy facilities.

In 1986, Congress passed the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, which brought all federal facilities under the umbrella of Superfund. It created the Environmental Restoration Program (ERP) to address past hazardous waste contamination cleanup. The passage of this law required the Navy to follow EPA rules and regulations and to have a program equivalent to the EPA’s Superfund program.

To encourage public participation in the ERP process, NAVSTA Newport created a Restoration Advisory Board (RAB), made up of residents, members of local environmental groups, and state and federal officials.

The RAB meets at the Courtyard by Marriott in Middletown at 6:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of selected months and is open to the public. The next meeting is scheduled for March 15. For more information, visit rabnewportri.org.

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