By ALEX MALM
A proposed $5 million bond to acquire open space properties across the city won’t make it to the ballot this year after the Council voted 6-2 against it during Monday’s …
By ALEX MALM
A proposed $5 million bond to acquire open space properties across the city won’t make it to the ballot this year after the Council voted 6-2 against it during Monday’s meeting. Ward 8 Councilman Anthony Sinapi and Ward 9 Councilman Vincent Gebhart voted in favor.
The idea for the open space bond began during the fall when the Land Trust put out the thought of putting a $15 million bond on the ballot in hopes of acquiring 459 acres of open space.
Since then the list of properties the Land Trust is interested in acquiring has dwindled.
The new list includes the YMCA, Beagle Club, Duchess Field, Dawley Farm (Met Life), Fisher Property, Conimicut Marsh, Hardig Rd. Parcel, Spring Pond (East) and the Allen Property. For some of the properties Leslie Derrig, chair of the Warwick Land Trust said the Land Trust would even consider purchasing the part of the property that is open space.
Derrig views it as a positive for the entities that are concerned about their finances and are considering leasing or selling their property for development.
“That would give them the money to continue to operate,” said Derrig.
In an interview on April 26 Derrig said that out of those properties the Land Trust hopes to be able to purchase as many as possible down the road.
“Those are the properties that we would like to go after simply because they are tree lots, they have old growth trees and they are forested property,” said Derrig.
Derrig said that all those properties are currently open space and the Land Trust doesn’t want to see anything developed there. She said the entire 12-member Land Trust board would have to agree before a property can be purchased.
By having money in the Land Trust coffers, Derrig reasoned when a property becomes available and the full board agrees they would be able to go to the city to get permission to make the acquisition.
Derrig said that there are different grants that the Land Trust could pursue but aren’t able to if they don’t have any funds available to put towards the properties.
“There's a lot of good applications that I would like to go after but I can’t go after,” said Derrig.
One of the biggest concerns that Mayor Frank Picozzi pointed to is not having enough personnel to maintain the additional open space.
“We can barely maintain what we have and you remove things from the tax roll so you have to be careful and then you also have to think of the common good,” said Picozzi.
Picozzi also said that when purchasing properties for open space he said that it needs to be clear how the space will be used for the common good.
Jane Austin, a former School Committee Chair, who was active in the passage of the solar ordinance in Warwick said she thinks it's important to pass the bond because it gives the Land Trust funds for different opportunities that may come up.
Barbara Walsh, said she disagreed with the decision by the Council.
“I can’t tell you how furious I am right now,” said Walsh.
Walsh said that the city has spent money on things like the soon to be outdoor ice skating rink and other things that she feels aren’t necessary.
“We are destroying the environment, we are destroying the city,” she said.
Based on the comments made during the meeting and because Council President Steve McAllister wasn’t able to attend the meeting, Ward 2 Councilman Jeremy Rix who sponsored the resolution proposed holding the vote until June 20.
Not everyone was in agreement.
“I would like to vote on this, this evening,” said Ward 3 Councilman Tim Howe.
The vote was 4-4 to hold with Rix, Sinapi, Gebhart, and Ward 4 Councilman Jim McElroy voting to hold it. Because it was a tie, the motion failed.
Based on the outcome of the vote to hold, Rix thought the vote would end in a tie, meaning that the bond measure wouldn’t have a chance to get on the ballot this year.
Rix said that he would vote against the measure during the meeting as a “procedural vote” and would potentially make a motion for a reconsideration vote at a future meeting.
Asked Wednesday how he would’ve voted if he was at the meeting McAllister said “I would have voted no.”
“There is already a bond that was approved for open space of around $2.1 million. The City should look to utilize those funds before doing another open space bond,” said McAllister.
The sentiment was shared by others on the Council as well.
In a phone call Tuesday, Derrig said the trust would ask the Council to release the $2.1 million in bonds for open space that was previously approved by voters. If approved Derrig said that she would request that Planning Director Tom Kravitz has an appraisal done on one of the properties that the Land Trust is interested in order to pursue purchasing it.
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