2018-02-01 / Around Town

Former Navy Land Transfers to Middletown

By James Merolla

Town Solicitor Peter Regan signing with members of Middletown Town Council and Town Administrator Shawn Brown (in the back) looking on. 
(Photo by James Merolla) Town Solicitor Peter Regan signing with members of Middletown Town Council and Town Administrator Shawn Brown (in the back) looking on. (Photo by James Merolla) A 10-year dream has become a land windfall reality for Middletown.

In a formal ceremony in council chambers on Jan. 30, the Middletown Town Council signed documents to acquire 3.25 acres of open Navy land that abuts 13.5 acres of town-owned property along West Main Road.

“This is great news for all Middletown residents,” Town Council President Robert Sylvia said. “Some of us have been working on this project for over a decade. I personally believe that this is one of the most important acquisitions the town has ever made. When we reached out to U.S. Senator Jack Reed, the senator and his staff immediately stepped up and supported us through the process. Without the senator’s intervention, this day would not have come.

“Going forward, we plan to seek public input in terms of how to best use the property to benefit the town and generate economic benefits and tax relief for our residents,” he said. “We have anxiously awaited [the official transfer]. Personally, I believe that this property, if developed properly, could afford our taxpayers today and for many years to come with a well-deserved tax relief, while maintaining the quality of life that we enjoy and that is envied by many towns.”

Under the terms of the agreement, the Navy is responsible for all environmental cleanup costs. No hazards or environmental concerns were discovered during a tour of the property last summer.

“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime exciting opportunity for Middletown,” Sylvia said. “I personally see this as an opportunity for us to deliver strong long-term economic results that will maintain tax stability and sustainability for many years, as well as creating potentially hundreds of new jobs.”

Sylvia promised that future terms and discussions over the development of the property would be openly vetted through public forums, and that every resident, “would have the opportunity to be heard.”

From the 1990s through 2002, the Navy used the land to house its off-base lodge. When the building was torn down in 2002, the Navy replaced it with new on-base lodging. The property was used as a temporary staging area in 2005 to provide relief for victims of Hurricane Katrina. It is currently vacant.

According to history provided by Sylvia, the process of acquiring the property began during the 2005 Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC), when the BRAC commission evaluated Naval Station Newport and determined that the Navy no longer needed the use of all naval property on Aquidneck Island.

The Navy declared more than 225 acres of naval property in Middletown, the City of Newport, and Portsmouth to be surplus in 2008, including the lodge site.

In 2014, Middletown submitted a letter requesting acquisition of the property via negotiated sale, and subsequently agreed to the purchase price of $1.3 million. Last February, the council voted unanimously to put down a $130,000 deposit for the property.

Sylvia thanked Town Administrator Shawn Brown and councilors past and present, several of whom were in attendance at the meeting, for their help throughout the process.

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