Town Council Meeting 2/27/23
This is a summary of key meeting highlights. For a full accounting of the meeting’s events, you can view the agenda. Note that all consent agenda items ultimately passed unanimously.
The evening began with public comment. Community member Mike Donohue voiced his support for a Wickford parking study, noting he felt that a careful look at parking in the village could proactively, intentionally balance the need for commerce with residential life. The council later passed the agenda item accordingly. We look forward to seeing the parking study results. Other comments pertained to possible worker housing expansion in Quonset.
A member from the Wickford Art Association voiced his support for the festival’s Wilson Park location. He pointed to the improved safety, accessibility, traffic flow, and revenue since moving to this location. The council passed the exhibition license for Wilson Park accordingly. The Art Festival stands alone in its size, scope, and quality and – while its location is certainly the subject of fierce debate – I am certainly proud our town hosts this wonderful event, whether in the village or at the park.
Finance Director Jim Lathrop gave his year-to-date budget report, which shows that we are on track for a budget surplus of just over $1 million. His department made changes to its utility billing processes having noticed - and subsequently corrected - an error in that regard.
Director of Planning and Development Nicole LaFontaine shared that North Kingstown is updating its Hazard Mitigation Plan. She hopes that continued progress in our hazard mitigation strategies will result in improved ratings which, in turn, will positively impact flood owners’ insurance rates. North Kingstown’s participation in the Municipal Resilience Program - approved 3-2 by last council’s Democratic majority - helped us improve our hazard mitigation strategies, with Nicole pointing specifically to discussion around hurricane response during our time in the program.
Eve Clulow addressed the Council regarding her plans for the “Annex/Old Library” project at 55 Brown Street. This project includes a bar and restaurant, theater performance space (the proposed home to West Bay Community Theater), and general space for function rental – all while preserving the building’s historical elements. A number of Covid-related setbacks slowed this project: while initially budgeted for $2 million, by 2021 the budget ballooned to over $5.2 million with rising supply costs and other related challenges. Eve continues to solicit new bids, work with investors, and seek additional funding – with the ultimate goal of securing financing, assuming she can arrive at a “common-sense business model.” With reasonable assurances that Eve continues in her efforts, the Council voted unanimously to grant a one-year extension contingent upon secured financing by 7/31/23 and adequate proof of construction by 10/31/23. The Council further voted to eliminate section 14 of the original agreement, thereby ensuring Eve cannot sell the building to anyone but the town through the end of the extension we granted.
Looking ahead: March means budget time! Expect to see your council hard at work in the coming weeks as we look to approve a fair and balanced budget.