“It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to move favorable action,” Ward 5 Councilman John DelGiudice said during a specially scheduled meeting Wednesday night.
Moments later, he and the rest of the council unanimously approved a resolution that abates nearly $2.3 million in unpaid property taxes, enabling the state to acquire the remainder of land at Rocky Point Park.
On Sept. 17, Governor Lincoln Chafee announced that the small Business Administration (SBA) accepted the state’s $9.65 million offer for the property and the abatement is necessary in order for the state to buy the remaining 82 acres from the receiver, United States Small Business Administration.
The SBA is court appointed receiver after Moneta Capital filed for bankruptcy in the mid-1990s. Since then, Warwick, with help from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Department of Environmental Management (DEM), purchased and revitalized 41 acres of shoreline at Rocky Point for public use.
The state intends to purchase the land and preserve it for public access; however, the sale is contingent upon approval of the Rhode Island Federal District Court, as well as the State Properties Committee.
Mayor Scott Avedisian, who asked the council to abate the back taxes, said that while there will be a period of time in which other bidders may make submissions, the resolution and the purchase-and-sales agreement, is worded so that the abatement will not take place unless DEM acquires the land.
Also, Avedisian said 52 of the 82 acres are to remain as open space. The rest of the land will most likely be used for amenities that will attract visitors from within the state and beyond.
While DEM Director Janet Coit said she doesn’t envision another amusement park, DEM would like it to be a place “where people can go to have fun.”
The council agreed and acknowledged that the property is of great significance to the history and culture of both city and state residents, who have enjoyed access to the property for more than 150 years.
“This is going to be a tremendous asset to the park, the city, the state, and I just want to thank everybody for their efforts,” said DelGiudice. “It’s going to be a beautiful thing once it’s all done.”
He also noted that if it comes to fruition, the council should look into acquiring additional parking for easier access to the park, as he said some of his elderly constituents haven’t been able to visit due to the walk up the hill leading to the park, plus parking complaints Highland Beach residents had made of late.
After the vote, Coit expressed her gratitude for the council’s support, saying it’s “meaningful” and “extraordinary.”
By the end of the meeting, Avedisian noted his happiness of the deal and praised everyone who had a hand in moving the process along, from the efforts of the council to city employees, as well as Mark Hayward, district director of the SBA. He also said it has been a pleasure to work with Coit through the deal.
“I’m grateful to all,” he said.