The next step in efforts to acquire the remaining 80 acres of the former Rocky Point Amusement Park will come Tuesday when the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) seeks State Properties Committee approval of a $9.65 million purchase and sales agreement with the Small Business Administration (SBA).
In a two-page letter to properties committee chairman Ronald Renaud, DEM director Janet Coit quotes a New York Times article written in 1872 extolling the park as one of the most delightful places on the New England coast and cites continued public affection for the land overlooking Narragansett Bay.
“Over the decades, attractions at Rocky Point have come and gone – nature trails, a ferry pier, an observation tower, hotels, clambakes, restaurants, swimming pool, rides, games, and concerts – but the attraction of 120 acres of land for public use within 10 miles of downtown Providence has been a consistent draw since 1850,” she writes.
Coit does not offer a blueprint to the Rocky Point Park of the future. Rather, she says, development will be “a collaborative process, involving many stakeholders and partners.”
She said the state would look for public-private partnerships to minimize the use of state resources while maximizing return. And, she said, the state will explore federal funding opportunities for park cleanup and development “and build on the success of our partnership with the city of Warwick and the support of groups such as the Rocky Point Foundation.”
Coit briefly outlines the history of the park since it ceased operation in 1995 and soon thereafter the Federal District Court named the SBA receiver for the bankrupt owners, Moneta Capital Corporation. She noted failed attempts to sell the land to developers; the city’s acquisition of 41 shoreline acres in 2007; and voter approval in 2010 of a $10 million state bond issue to acquire the remaining acres. This Sept. 17, she writes, the SBA agreed to present the state’s offer to the court and soon after that the Warwick City Council approved the abatement of $2.3 million in unpaid taxes and liens if the land is sold to the state.
The seven-page sales agreement says the state agrees to retain no less than 50 acres of the park, “which shall not be developed for any other use than for public recreation, open space and conservation uses and ancillary buildings and parking to serve such use.”
Further, the agreement identifies two lots and about half an acre, that includes a house on Palmer Avenue, that are not contiguous with the rest of the property, as the “Perry Lot.” The SBA is to offer this land to Kenneth J. Perry, who has acted as the park’s caretaker, at a price equal to the average of three appraisals by three appraisers agreeable to the state and Perry. This is to take place prior to court approval of the agreement, with the amount of the sale being deducted from the $9.65 million. Perry is obligated to pay the city any assessments due on the lot.
Assuming court approval of the agreement, and no competitive bid from a buyer prepared to pay 10 percent more than the state price and the unpaid city taxes, a closing is to take place by Jan. 31, 2013.
As for the $9.65 million price, Coit says the properties committee approved an appraisal of the land in February 2009 and that funding will come from the 2010 state bond, “which is less than the market value of the property.”