The Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) has completed the largest single residential property acquisition since starting its acquisition of homes within the airport’s high noise contours years ago.
Last month, RIAC paid Spring Green Realty, LLC of Warwick $2,570,000 to purchase about 1.6 acres and two buildings of the Four Seasons Apartment complex at 1449 Warwick Avenue.
Both buildings are within the 65-decibel contour to Runway 5-23, the longer of the airport’s two runways. And one building encroaches into the runway protection zone, said RIAC Planner Daniel Porter.
Porter said RIAC’s housing and relocation contractor is working to relocate 28 tenants within 90 days. He said the plan calls for demolition of the two buildings between January and May of next year. The land would be left vacant.
Porter said that RIAC has identified an additional 75 properties that are eligible under the voluntary program by the year 2025. Most of those properties are at the southern end of the runway, where construction of an extension is slated to start in 2016. The extension will lengthen the runway from 7,166 to 8,700 feet, giving carriers the capability to offer non-stop coast-to-coast and additional international destinations. The extension will require the partial relocation of Main Avenue to loop further to the south.
Property owners eligible for the program have been notified and RIAC president and CEO Kelly Fredericks is optimistic purchases can be completed “sooner than later.”
Fredericks said he met with Federal Aviation Administration officials a week ago Monday. He said that funding for acquisitions “is one area where there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of funds.”
He said that, normally, the program is an 80/20 percent match, with the local airport authority picking up 20 percent of the cost. In this case, he thought it might be as high as a 90/10 percent match.
He couldn’t say what the projected cost of the program is. However, acquisitions, including the cost of relocating owners, put the program at $228.7 million, assuming all 75 properties were bought. Administrative costs average $305,000.
Removal of the apartment buildings and property, with a city assessment of $1.7 million, takes a $50,770 bite out of city tax revenues.
While this particular property will probably remain vacant because it is within a residential neighborhood, Fredericks said RIAC is making a “concerted effort” to get RIAC properties back on the tax rolls.
Warwick City Planner William DePasquale said his office meets monthly with RIAC and discusses restoring of land acquired by the airport to the tax rolls. This is done by changing property use, as the noise limitations for residences don’t apply to commercial and business uses.
DePasquale said, for instance, residential properties on and near Main Avenue may find other uses, thereby putting them back on the tax rolls.
“It could mitigate the losses from the others,” he said.
DePasquale has other concerns as well.
He is talking about the loss of lower cost houses and rental properties. RIAC acquisition reduces taxes and affordable housing stock.
“We have to do a better job of providing mixed housing,” he said.
In an email Mayor Scott Avedisian called the acquisition “unfortunate since we have a lack of affordable housing units to begin with. The loss of more rental units only exacerbates that problem. I am hopeful that we can find other locations for replacement units.”