2018-08-23 / Front Page

Town Looks at 'Putting Back' to Improve

By Christopher Allen

The Middletown Planning Board and the Town Council held a special joint meeting on Aug. 20 to discuss implementing an addition to the property tax structure to help finance improvements to the Atlantic Beach district around lower Aquidneck Avenue.

“I think it’s important to note… that it’s a portion of the taxes. It’s not all of the taxes of certain developed property that continues to enhance and drive more additional tax revenue,” said Town Council President Robert Sylvia, referring to some confusion he has heard from the public about the measure.

Tax Incremental Financing, commonly referred to as TIF, involves a municipality dedicating a portion of property taxes within a predefined area to be invested back into that district. The proposal under review by Middletown officials, after receiving input and recommendations from MEDAC (Middletown Economic Development Advisory Committee), would define a base tax rate going back to 2016, and use a portion of the additional taxes collected due to the improvements to finance a bond that would help pay for planned roadway and streetscape improvements, including the plan for National Grid to place underground all above-ground utilities along Aquidneck Avenue.

The projected cost of $5 million will include residential and commercial reconnections.

MEDAC Chair Robert Silva explained the work that the committee has accomplished regarding financing of the projects in the neighborhood between Valley Road and Purgatory Road, which is a focal point of recent and future development in Middletown as part of the town comprehensive plan. The committee includes council members Dennis Turano and Barbara VonVillas as part of the volunteer board.

“We’ve felt that the area needed more than just a traffic uplift. It needed a facial uplift and a quality uplift,” Silva said.

An amended bill passed by the General Assembly in July, drafted specific to Middletown, will allow the Town Council to officially define the Atlantic Beach District and choose the baseline assessment date that the new TIF taxes will be based upon. According to Silva, MEDAC lobbied the assembly for changes in the bill that should streamline the process.

Karen Grande, bond advisor to Middletown, walked through the recent legislation and the next steps the council must take to qualify for the right to implement a TIF plan.

“In that particular district that you’ve designated, that sliver of new tax revenue is pledged to pay the financing,” she said.

Grande added that the council and town administration would need to act before the new year to take advantage of tax revenue that would be based on the property tax levy from 2016, including drafting a financial plan and identifying the properties being upgraded.

“I have seen some councils [back] themselves right into the end of the calendar year,” she said.

Town Planner Ron Wolanski gave an overview of projects that will be financed. For example, the reconfigurations happening at the intersections of Aquidneck Avenue and Valley Road, Crescent Road and Purgatory Road will be financed through the RIDOT state transportation improvement program. These reconfigurations should be completed by 2020.

“Those [projects] will not be part of the TIF,” said Wolanski.

For a TIF plan to go forward, according to state legislation recently enacted, the Town Council would have to approve of the change before Dec. 31. There is a public hearing on the TIF proposal scheduled for Oct. 15 and a vote for adoption by the Town Council is set for the Nov. 5 meeting.

The Town Council meets next on Sept. 4.

In Other Matters

The council approved or awarded the following:

.Three business licenses for 2018-19.

.Four special event permits.

.The application to the RI EMA Emergency Preparedness Grant program.

.A contract to Crossman Engineering for $108,500 for an assessment to study the environmental impacts of full build development in Middletown.

.A contract for Chases and Oliphant Lane safety improvements to East Coast Landscaping and Construction, LLC for $92,720.

The council voted down a request to change the street name O’Donnell Way to Walter Way.

Return to top