Town Council Appoints Nine to Review 1990 Farm Tax Ordinance
Council also accepts state help in resolving property dispute on Fairview Lane.
The Town Council appointed nine residents to the newly-formed Farm Tax Exemption Task Force, but voted against allowing a late applicant entry to the board.
Barbara van Beuren of Portsmouth applied to join this new task force after Jan. 1, according to town council members. The other nine residents submitted their applications before the last day of December.
"I think this person has something to add," said Councilor James Seveney. "This person’s a farmer ... People who have come forward should be acknowledged and put on the committee."
"We said nine and made a motion for nine," said Councilor Paul Kesson. "I won’t support this."
A motion was made to appoint all 10 applicants. The motion failed in a 4-3 vote with Councilors Kesson, Elizabeth Pedro, Judi Staven and Joe Robicheau against.
A motion was then made to appoint the nine applicants, excluding van Beuren. The motion passed with Councilors Michael Buddemeyer, Keith Hamilton and Seveney in opposition.
The nine appointed to the task force are Diane Brown, Judith Carvalho, Edward Clement Jr., Debra Faber, Ann M. Fiore, Nancy Howard, Mary Donahue Magee, John C. Martin Jr. and Edward Stoltenberg.
This task force was created to examine a 1990 ordinance which provides tax relief to agricultural properties in town.
The issue of this tax exemption arose this past September, when Town Solicitor Donato D'Andrea addressed the council about what he called a "housekeeping error."
According to D'Andrea, there is a paragraph erroneously listed in the ordinance, 90-10-23 Exemption on Farm Land. For the complete story on this ordinance, click here.
Additional Town Council actions taken Monday, Jan. 10:
- Unanimously accepted an offer by the state Attorney's General Office to investigate a right-of-way issue on Fairview Lane. Robert Molleur has brought the issue before the council several times. The abutters of the property state the disputed 27-foot right-of-way is listed in their deed. There is also a gate and a dispute about who owns the gate, the town or a private residence. Gregory Schultz of the Rhode Island Attorney General's Office has offered to look into this matter at no cost to the town. “…There are probably a dozen or more right-of-ways in Portsmouth that the town is unclear of," Schultz said. "The AG would be willing to do further research and provide that information to the town for review and analysis. There is some ambiguity here ... The town has acted historically like they own this property. The gate is the primary example here."
- The council unanimously appointed John Endrusick and Lawrence A. Rainey to the Tax Assessment Board of Review.
- The council approved a single restroom plan for the future Subway to be built on Russo Road. Derek Salvas, manager for the property at 8 Russo Road, spoke before the board and sought relief from Section 403.2, requiring separate facilities for male and female restrooms. According to the ordinance, separate facilities are required except for: dwellings units and sleeping units; in structures or tenant spaces with a total occupant load, including both employees and customers, of 15 or less; and they are not required in merchant occupancies in which the maximum occupant load is 50 or less. The council unanimously approved Salvas' request to construct one unisex bathroom.
- Encouraged residents to visit the new town Web site, which is currently being created. The new Web site may be viewed by visiting portsmouthri.com/development. This site is still under development.
- Postponed taking action on a proposal to implement a Code Red program for the town. In the event of an emergency, the Code Red (similiar to a reverse 9-1-1 program) would contact every resident in town via a chosen mode of communication, such as phone, e-mail or text, with a message depending on the emergency. "This is a very exciting proposal that gives our town a lot of capacity for public safety that we don’t have right now," said Town Administrator Robert Driscoll. Police Chief Lance Hebert also urged the council to accept this plan. Council members said they want more information on the cost-savings before voting. "I really have a hard time voting for this without the backup," said Paul Kesson. The item was tabled until a future meeting.
- The council also postponed taking action on a request to rescind Personnel Ordinance 93-4-20 B, which requires police officers and firefighters to reside within "10 miles of the Aquidneck Island perimeter of the town, but in no instance at a distance greater than that requiring commuting time of 20 minutes or less of off-peak travel time to the headquarters of the department of which they are members." Both the police chief and the fire chief said they supported rescinding this ordinance. "It’s a relatively ineffective ordinance," said Portsmouth Fire Chief Jeffrey Lynch. The town council postponed taking action on this.
- The Elmhurst Planning Reuse Committee will hold its first organizational meeting on Jan. 21 at Town Hall. There will be a second walk-through of the school at 6 p.m., followed by the meeting.
- The Charter Review Committee will meet on Jan. 19 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
- The next town council meeting will be held on Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.