2018-03-08 / Around Town

New Tax Model for Middletown, Road Redesigns

By Jocelyn O'Neil

At the March 6 Middletown Town Council meeting, council members rolled out a new tax model for town property owners to consider that the Tax Exploratory Committee hoped would make things “more fair, predictable and transparent.”

Councilor Dennis Turano explained that with the reformed tax model, property owners would not have to worry about losing their homes because of an impending reassessment, which has the potential to result in higher taxes.

The committee, composed of Councilors Turano and Antone Viveiros, and members Thomas Heaney and Larry Connell, proposed that base assessments (value amount the property is assessed at the time of purchase) be used for both residential and business properties.

This assessment value would remain the same and in place as long as the original owner or their children had the property in their possession. Every three years, a partial assessment is conducted on Middletown residents’ property which can potentially change the assessment amount of it. Last year was the first time in nine years that a complete assessment has been performed.

Some residents voiced concerns about the proposed tax remodel.

School Committee Chairwoman Kellie Simeone said that if this model had been in place when she was first buying her home, she would be paying far more for public services than would her neighbors who purchased decades before her.

"If a proposal like this had been in place then, I would be feeling the negative impacts from it now, as a relatively new homeowner of eight years," said Simeone. "I'd be paying three to four times as much in taxes as they are for similar homes."

Council Vice President Paul Rodrigues said that Middletown is becoming "more of a second-home community" as more people discover its potential. Although he said he wasn't sure if this was the solution to keeping housing affordable, he believed this proposal could keep residents in their homes.

"What draws me to it is the sustainability," said Rodrigues. "Our taxes would remain consistent for longer and residents and their children will be able to afford the taxes."

Turano and Viveiros cited major renovations and transfers of property amongst people who aren't spouses or children as examples that could potentially trigger a reassessment of a property, changing that base assessment number. However, a major repair like one that might occur after a natural disaster would be exempt from a reassessment.

The next step was unclear after the vote. However, before any changes can be made to reform the tax model, the final approval of the council and approval of the General Assembly must be granted.

The tax model isn't the only thing that might get a facelift.

Middletown has seen a transformation in the last few years, with new homes and businesses sprouting up. Now, the roads are becoming a focus, as is their getting the attention residents feel they need.

Town Planner Ron Wolanski unveiled his ideas for the Lower Aquidneck Avenue/Atlantic Beach section of Middletown. The town plans to redesign Aquidneck Avenue from Valley Road to Purgatory Road (Lower Aquidneck Avenue), and that includes roads and sidewalks.

The proposed redesign would reconfigure the roads to have 11-foot travel lanes with four-foot shoulders; replace the traffic signal at the intersection of Valley Road and Aquidneck Avenue with a roundabout; realign Crescent Road as it intersects with Aquidneck Avenue and make Crescent Road a one-way; and reconstruct the Aquidneck Avenue intersection and remove the slip lane that runs from Aquidneck Avenue to Purgatory Road, freeing up space for greenery.

Improving and creating sidewalks along this stretch of road would add to the increasing amount of foot traffic in that area, Wolanski said. According to the presentation, the sidewalk on the east side of Lower Aquidneck Avenue would have nine-foot sidewalks and on the west side, the sidewalks would vary, depending upon existing planters and walls.

Figures and details will be ironed-out in the coming months if the council decides to go forward with the project.

In Other Matters:

. Before the meeting, the Planning Board interviewed three candidates, Paul A. Croce, Betty Jane "BJ" Northup-Owen, and Howard Robert Hall for two open positions on the board. The council is expected to vote on who will fill those positions at the March 19 council meeting.

. A special event permit was granted to NAPA Auto Parts for the NAPA Auto Parts Car Show to be held on Saturday, June 16, 2018, with a rain date of August 25..

. A family camping event will be put on by Camp-O-Rama, at Sachuest Beach, to be held from September 13-16, 2018, with the approval of a special event permit to the Quahaug Chapter.

. Diego’s Barrio Cantina will now be allowed to have live bands or a DJ, with windows and doors closed so as to not disturb neighbors. An amusement license was granted for the 2018-2019 licensing year. The council approved a special event permit for the Aquidneck Island National Police Parade, to be held Sunday, May 6, 2018.

. An application submitted for a victualling house license by Zusheng Li, dba Ming Moon, was approved by the council.

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