While he didn’t join the city’s eight other council members in seconding a resolution abating about $2 million in unpaid taxes on Rocky Point, Ward 4 Councilman Joseph Solomon said yesterday the former park property “is very dear to my heart” and that he is simply doing his due diligence.
“You know this is something I have been chasing,” Solomon said citing his proposal of some years ago to have the park preserved as a national park.
“Rocky Point to me is an historic site. I advocated that it be a national park and they would have covered all maintenance costs,” he said.
The council finance committee will consider the resolution to abate unpaid taxes tomorrow evening starting at 5. That meeting is to be followed by a special council meeting at 5:30.
The action is seen as being critical to a purchase and sales agreement reached between the Department of Environmental Management and the Small Business Administration to acquire 82 acres of former park property for $9.65 million. Acting as receiver for the property, the SBA has sought to sell the land to recover losses when Moneta Capital declared bankruptcy after the amusement park closed for good in 1995.
In a Sept. 17 letter to City Council President Bruce Place, Mayor Scott Avedisian outlined why he believes securing the entire park property for public access is good and that the abatement of taxes is a comparatively small price to pay to see that that happens.
Further, he notes, that should state efforts to buy the land fail, “the city would still be owed the back taxes.”
Nonetheless, Solomon said, “I need to do my due diligence on the part of the taxpayers. I can’t just sign on to a blank agreement. I’m for getting all the facts before pulling the trigger, but you know where my heart is.”
Avedisian said yesterday he, as well as his staff director Mark Carruolo and city Tax Assessor-Collector Ken Mallette, will attend the meeting and be prepared to answer questions. DEM director Janet Coit is also expected.
“I look forward with anticipation to a positive vote from the Council so I can then go with Director Coit to the next step in the process - a meeting before the State Properties Committee," the mayor said.
The resolution calls for the council to abate the taxes as well as, “assessments, interest, penalties, tax liens and other assessments that constitute a lien due to the City of Warwick,” excepting any costs or fees associated with any and all police security details up to and including the date of closing against the premises known as Rocky Point Park.”
Assuming properties committee approval of the agreement, the District Court will then consider the sale. That will initiate a period during which a qualified bidder could intervene, provided they offer a 10 percent premium and follow the terms of the state’s agreement that would preserve at least 50 percent of the land as open space.
Solomon feels that city acquisition of 41 acres of shoreline with the assistance of federal and state funds for $4.4 million acted as a disincentive for private development of the park.
“That took the wind out of their [developers] sails,” he said.
As for future use of the park, Solomon said he would like to see some commercial activity, such as the re-opening of the shore diner hall, ferry service to other state water parks, a fishing pier and playing fields that could attract national sports as a means of sustaining the park and generating economic benefits to the city.
Solomon said he has “no reservations” about saving the park and that he is “doing my homework before voting.”
He questioned whether the city could abate taxes for the state and not offer a similar deal to a private developer looking at the property.
“Whatever is offered, the state has to be offered to another bidder,” he said.