The citizens of North Kingstown, not to mention their Town Council, may have missed a very important detail last week when the vote was taken to extend sewer construction to cover Brown Street in Wickford. Everyone should agree that the offer of municipal sewage is long overdue everywhere in town. Our rush to install the piping for this service in just a small fraction of our town, however, has uncovered some glaring problems with the plan, which must be addressed sooner rather than later.
The fact is that trying to repay the voter approved general obligation bonds that financed this construction through a one-time added tax assessment front-loads the costs on businesses and residents alike. Worse yet, by keying this new tax to square footage of possible future use rather than roadway frontage or even existing use, the town has placed excessive burdens on any businesses sitting on sizable lots. Last October both weekly papers highlighted the plight of Gordon Kilday Jr., at Quonset Auto Body, and Danny Chan, at The Pagoda Restaurant. Because their two businesses sit on narrow Post Road frontage that runs back very deep into un-buildable terrain, they each have huge square footage that results in gigantic assessments. Kilday has been assessed $462,221 just to have the sewer line run in front of his property. For Chan the number is over $500,000, according to last October’s reporting.
These kinds of tax bills, even spread over 20 years of installment payments, may make either or both of these businesses untenable in their present locations. Such bills will also make those properties virtually unsaleable should their present tenants leave. How’s that for promoting the business climate in town, members of the council? For the record, Councilwoman Doreen Costa must understand this need. She was, after all, the lone “no” vote.
The Town Council is a legislative body. It can resolve this issue by re-writing the method used for capital assessments to base them on square footage in use, or even on roadway frontage as virtually every other municipal system does. Alternatively, the council can resolve the issue by revising the zoning map to count only actual commercial build-out as assessable infrastructure. In fact, the council could resolve this situation by adding a capital payback component to the per gallon charge that will be assessed for all our actual usage. The point is the North Kingstown Town Council has many options other than simply hounding businesses out of town.
As a member of the North Kingstown Republican Town Committee, my NKGOP colleagues and I are vitally interested in fostering a vibrant business community in North Kingstown. Everyone else reading this should agree with that goal, and call upon their elected town councilors to quickly fix this embarrassing problem.