Preserve Portsmouth Group Asks Residents to Attend Briggs' Property Hearing

A public hearing will be held Monday at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The group Preserve Portsmouth, which fought several years ago against the development of a Target in town, is asking residents to attend a hearing this Monday night at Town Hall. 

According to the group's Facebook page, Rhode Island developer and former state Rep. Vincent Mesolella is seeking to change the "Briggs' property" from light industrial to commercial.

"He would like to put in a 150,000 sq. ft. anchor store and add other retail," according to the group's Facebook page. 

The agenda for the hearing can be viewed at right. 

Derrick Mesolella, representing Mesolella, previously confirmed that on West Main Road. 

However, Derrick Mesolella would not confirm the future intent of the property. 

Richard H. and Frederick D. Briggs own the land at 905 West Main Road, according to Vision Appraisal. The property is located directly across from the entrance to Hedly Street and on the corner of West Main Road and Cory's Lane. 

The public hearing will begin at 7 p.m. at Town Hall. 

Priscilla Smyth Thayer January 31, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Yes, I know this isn't Jamestown. I lived and worked on the island until I was married. I moved to Portsmouth to get away from the traffic and chain stores while living in Newport and working in Middletown (I worked for Chili's for a few years and now work for a non profit as an employment specialist). Yes, things can be expensive when they are imported to an island but when you fix into the price of gas and tolls it all equals out to be the same. We as a community need to stop looking at these large big box companies to save us. Preserving the quality of life with a quick fix of a chain store is not the answer. Jamestown relies on it's small businesses, the camp ground and residential taxes and incomes to stay afloat. We need to do the same here. There are several empty retail spaces that need to be filled with merchants who need our support. Small manufacturing is slowly coming back to communities like Bristol and Warren but it will out grow itself. Portsmouth has the zoning for it so why not advertise it? Our town does not do enough to promote itself as a small bossiness community and that is what we are. Wickford, Bristol, Jamestown and Newport continually promote themselves in the press as a welcoming small business community so why aren't we doing the same? Oh and by the way as of last night our town council voted 6-0 against the zoning change. They actually listen to their constituents for a change.
J. Lane McMahon January 31, 2012 at 07:20 PM
Priscilla, There are a couple of realities everyone needs to face. We all want the best schools...well, that costs money. The cost of educating a child in Portsmouth is never going to go down. As it stands right now, a house must be valued somewhere around 660K before it becomes revenue positive if there is only one school attending child living there. That means that almost every house in Portsmouth with school children is costing us more than it pays in taxes. (Based on 2009 median value of 376K and a cost per pupil of approx 12k.) How do you want to pay for it? At some point there has to be a give and take. We need balance in our taxbase. In your example (Jamestown), pays approx 10K, and while their tax rate is lower, there median house value is 100K higher. I would also argue the difference in town services. So...since you are against commercial development. How do you propose we pay for these things? Btw: Even an empty store front pays property taxes to the town....
Priscilla Smyth Thayer February 01, 2012 at 12:58 AM
I am not against commercial growth. I am against commercial growth on an inappropriate parcel of land. There are two empty commercial parcels on East Main Road. One is on the corner of Sprague Street and the other one is on the corner of Park Avenue. Also the building where Cox Communication was housed is empty too. These lots are already zoned for commercial usage. You state an empty store front also has to pay taxes. Well if your space isn't rented and your behind on the mortgage and the taxes then you will eventually foreclose on the building thus creating lower property values. I will make this statement again: We as a community and as a town need to actively promote and attract appropriate commerce. A large big box store does not adhere to the culture or fiber of Portsmouth. We can agree to disagree on this subject as a decision has been made on the Brigg's Farm Zoning.
John Vit February 01, 2012 at 01:22 AM
Just curious where PS Thayer recieves this vast knowledge of vacant commercial property in Portsmouth, & what criteria is used to assess it's developement. What is the cost to join the Portsmouth Fiber & Culture Club? Can you say crumbling roads? Can you say irreplaceable barns at Glen Farm? I invite PS Thayer to speak with the the Portsmouth Public Works Director, and really learn what we have not done & continue to ignore. Be advised for every action, there is an equal & opposite reaction. Please get off the BIG BOX mentality.
East side February 01, 2012 at 01:28 AM
The Briggs Farm decision is not over as stated above. This is prime real estate - up the road from established schools where $ pours in from in and out of this town and state, it's at a location with a traffic light, it's just off route 24 and quick access to Bristol Ferry, the town's offices, and industrial park. Here is the issue...as the town folk suggest getting more business in other locations, this real estate becomes more prime. For example, should a manufacturer go into the industrial park and create jobs and tax revenue for Portsmouth, a support business such as a Deli, etc would be prime in this Briggs location since it would support the manufacturing folks and the town. I believe either way, the Briggs location is going to be commercial one day. It's just to valuable of a location.
J. Lane McMahon February 01, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Sprague St. and Park Ave locations are much smaller. This is apples and oranges. Please explain why this is an inappropriate location? Honestly, what is the difference between the Briggs property and the two you mentioned? For future reference, very rarely will a retail company move in to a building that was built for someone else. The costs associated with the changeover, (renovation) are usually cost-prohibitive. This becomes even more of an issue when you are talking about national chains. Now, I read the paper everyday. Not one empty commercial space in the entire town of Portsmouth is in foreclosure. I would also be willing to bet that none of them are on the tax delinquency list either. And that is after three plus years of a down economy. Finally, your going to tell me about the culture and fiber of Portsmouth? Well, maybe your right, after all, my family has only been in Portsmouth for the last 80 plus years...and I've only been here for 45....I guess I don't know what Portsmouth should look like.
Priscilla Smyth Thayer February 01, 2012 at 02:09 AM
I lived and worked in a rural community for several years before moving to Portsmouth. I now live in Island Park and have owned a home there since 1998. I do understand commercial growth is needed in our town but do we have to sell out to get it? My vast knowledge of open property is quite obvious-there are advertisements and signs posted on these properties for sale or lease as commercial real estate. I work, live and actively shop in Portsmouth to support our friends and neighbors who work and own these businesses. I am not against commercial growth, I am against building it on properties that are zoned for other uses. I would like to see our town attract appropriate industries and businesses and to be able to continue the quality of life my family has grown to love. Maybe it's time for everyone to take a really good look at what we have right now and how do we improve upon it? Why is a large retail outlet needed on a property zoned for residential and lite industry? Portsmouth is a beautiful, coastal and rural town. I and many others would like to keep it that way.
J. Lane McMahon February 01, 2012 at 02:31 AM
Priscilla, I don't think you understand what light industrial is. Would a 20,000 sq. ft. furniture manufacturing facility work on that lot? That is classified as Lt. Ind. What do you think LI means? As to your vast knowledge of open properties....where is there another 25+ acres like tis in town, with quick access to the highway? The DD plaza (3 acres) on East Main pays roughly 25K in property taxes. The two lots you point out are smaller than that. The Briggs lot is 26 acres...more than 8 times larger. And you still have not said why this is not an appropiate place for C-1.
J. Lane McMahon February 01, 2012 at 02:39 AM
Every one that is on here pulling the "I shop locally to support our neighbors", I've got a message for you. Don't let me catch you in the drive-thru at Dunkin Donuts, while Dave the owner is a really nice guy, he doesn't live here...so that's not local. And CVS or RiteAid? I don't even have to say it do I.....Your message is duplicitous at best. I would be willing to bet, most of your shopping is done over the bridge, (I know, I've seen the Preserve Ports stickers at S&S Fall River many times) or in Middletown. Buy anything at Home Depot in the last year? Yes? I bet the guy that owns Hadren's wishes you had practiced what you preached. Stop kidding yourselves.
John Vit February 01, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Ms.Thayer, Please review the Portsmouth Zoning Table to be familair with what is allowed in Light Industrial. Then compare this to commercial C-1. I agree if the rear (Westerly) lot is leagally zoned residential, then that lot should not be changed. We still have an impact fee associated with residential developement of more than one bedroom. I don't see that lot being developed to soon. Island Park is a seaside paradise. Everyone that knows me , knows how I feel about Island Park. I'm not aware of one street that is not in dire need of repair. A quick quote, It cost approximately $200,000. to repave one mile of road properly. How long before developers decide not to consider Portsmouth, due to the difficulty to get it approved?
Priscilla Smyth Thayer February 01, 2012 at 03:00 AM
It has been zoned residential and light industry and it looks like our town council has agreed to this plan. There is a light at both properties sited on East Main Rd. and a plan to build a retail building on the property at Sprague St. I do know what light industries are and have worked in those types of jobs. They are good paying jobs that unfortunately are being outsourced overseas but are slowly coming back into this area. I would like to see Portsmouth remain a rural community and not be overtaken with commercialism. If I wanted to live in that environment I would have bought a home in Middletown. I love the town you were raised in and hope to continue to live here as I am raising a young family. I have stated several times how we need to work on what we have now, support those business and would like us to attract ones that are a match to the culture and values of Portsmouth. Again agree to disagree and see you all around our beautiful town.
J. Lane McMahon February 01, 2012 at 03:14 AM
Priscilla, It is now quite apparent to me that you think this town is in a bubble. Municipal costs are rising. That means taxes are also rising. You state that you are raising a young family, who is going to pay for their school system? You? I love this town. But, there are realities that must be faced. We are never going to stop the rising costs, therefore, we must find new revenue streams. No one ever said let commercial development take over. Quite the opposite. Now is the time for us to embrace smart development. This was a golden opportunity, we had a developer that was willing to work with us. Did you hear any of that? I have no idea why you point out that there are traffic lights at the two properties you mentioned. Are traffic lights somehow related to quick highway access? By the way, the two lots you mentioned are in much more densely populated areas. And you still have not answered any questions. Fine, I get what you don't want. No big commercial developments. Then please tell all of us what you do want, and tell us how to make up the lost revenues that the Town Council and people like you threw away last night? And in case you didn't read it before, 5 years ago that whole property was LI...the rezoning was a mistake (admitted my the town). Oh yeah, there is NO demand for LI property on this island.
Priscilla Smyth Thayer February 01, 2012 at 03:45 AM
What I want? Haven't you read my posts at all? 1. Support local business that we already have. 2. Support development on property that is zoned commercial or light industry. 3. Attract business that will enhance the quality of life in Portsmouth. And if I have to show you my weekly grocery receipts from Clements Market to prove to you that I do shop locally then I will. Now good night, good luck and see you all around town. Maybe I'll see you at the wing bar at Clement's on Friday night with my daughter in tow.
J. Lane McMahon February 01, 2012 at 05:32 AM
You still don't get it. How do we pay for everything? You want a school for you child? Tell me how we pay for it.... You want, you want...but you are not willing to give anything up to pay for it. We have had unchecked residential growth for 40 years...not the bill is coming due...are you willing to have your tax payments go up 40% over the next ten years? We need revenue...and the Briggs property is not supposed to be residential. Try reading the comprehensive plan. And take a look at the zoning laws.
Priscilla Smyth Thayer February 01, 2012 at 12:49 PM
Yes I do get it. Read my last statement again. Attract business that will enhance the quality of life in Portsmouth. Retail attracts job seekers who are paid 7.40 an hour. Manufacturing attracts job seekers who are paid 12.00 an hour (RI Labor Market Index). If you are an unemployed carpenter in Portsmouth and you have a choice of working at Home Depot or at a furniture manufacturer wouldn't you take the job at a higher wage rate? And with that 12.00 job he/she can pay the bills and remain living in Portsmouth, buy groceries at Clement's and boots at Irving's. Do you want our town to be know as the strip mall capital of the island or known as a town that produces and sells high quality products? We need quality businesses not more junk retail. Again why are we not attracting those types of businesses?
Average Joe February 01, 2012 at 01:54 PM
Ms. Thayer, you ask "why are we not attracting those types of businesses." Really? Do you not read/watch the news? Manufacturers are leaving this State, not coming. RI ranks 49th in business friendliness and the cost of doing business. What manufacturer would ever want to set up shop in RI? If Target or another national chain wants to locate in Portsmouth, I would welcome that. Manufacturers in Portsmouth, RI, you are living in a dream world.
Robert E February 01, 2012 at 05:12 PM
If your making $12.00an hour you are not living and shopping in Portsmouth your living in a third floor tenement in Corky row in Fall River driving a 30 year old car back and forth to work.
Priscilla Smyth Thayer February 02, 2012 at 03:15 AM
I have reviewed the Comprehension Plan for the West Side and this is what I discovered: VI. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT A. OBJECTIVES The central economic strategy of the West Side Master Plan is to increase high income jobs and a solid return on investments for the long-term, by capitalizing on existing uses, industries and unique development opportunities. 2. To acknowledge as an economic strategy the consistent support of all actions that improve the quality of life for residents of Portsmouth, recognizing that the desirability of living and working here is a key to the retention and expansion of quality employment opportunities. B. IMPLEMENTATION 8. Actively engage business retention and assistance programs in response to the understanding that Portsmouth’s economy is highly dependent upon a few concentrated economic sectors and that stability is linked to the health of those sectors and the businesses that are engaged within them. It's what I have been advocating for all along....
John Vit February 02, 2012 at 03:38 AM
The Comp Plan is a plan that was a direction for the Town to follow. Only problem in Feb 2012,, that plan is at least 10 years + old, & the Town Council is considereing volunteers to review & update the Comp Plan to reflect current economic conditions. To use/refer to the Comp Plan, written way before the financial meltdown of 2008 is not a logical plan. Most of the Town Councilors have reffered to the plan, but have admitted it needs review & updating to reflect current market development conditions.
Priscilla Smyth Thayer February 02, 2012 at 04:08 AM
I noticed the age of the plan and reviewed it as requested. These key points do hold value in my opinion that we as a community need to look at how to develop commerce on land zoned for that specific usage. I was aware of the zone change in 2005 and the reasons why it was changed. There are too many open retail and commercial spaces in Portsmouth. We need to look at resolving the problem with the lack of support to the retail stores we have now. Building new retail space on property zoned for residential is not going to save us. Building relationships with our current business owners and attracting industries suitable for our community is what we should be doing. Having a developer come into a town council meeting without a clear plan for usage or not even a possible vendor to fill the space was poor planning. At least when the Target issue came up they were willing to work with the community and build on land zoned for commercial. I want what is best for our town financially without having to compromise our quality of life. Is that being unreasonable or unrealistic? I think not.
J. Lane McMahon February 02, 2012 at 04:34 AM
IF and I do say if...we keep level funding, and keep to this 4% a year budget growth, Our property taxes will increase by 67% over the next ten years. Now, factor into that neighborhoods like IP, Ports Park and CFP, which will probably be adding sewer usage fees and installation costs.... That means $1000 in prop taxes this year, will be $1667 in ten years...
John Vit February 02, 2012 at 04:56 AM
The commercial development on Russo Rd, off West Main is a 7 lot commercial subdivison. The developer had no idea who was going to buy lots, but did get Planning Board approval. The Board of Review was responsible for issuing the Special Use Permits for what is currently there. Any developer that is seeking a zoning change may not have a plan due to the expense of creating a plan prior to getting the zoning change. Manufacturing has always been a difficult sell due we are on an Island. Manufacturers need to know they can get their goods to market,off island. Our bridges have also hampered commercial development due to the 18Ton weight limit, a truck getting material in Tiverton, needs to drive through Fall River, Swansea, Warren & Bristol to get materials & equipment on or off our Island. It's very expensive for developers to do business here, then we add the "process" for permits & approvals. 19,000 people in Town,, 100 show up,, clap like they are at an entertainment venue when they hear a point they like, and they believe they are the majority. Preserve Portsmouth has value ,Promote Portsmouth must have an equal value. Portsmouth is difficult to get developments started due to the rules regulations & time, somebody has to do it! New business developers will not consider Portsmouth due to the hoops they must jump through, New RIDEM requirements of OSWTS, it use to be an ISDS or septic system, because we don't have a sewer system. These newer systems start at $30,000.
J. Lane McMahon February 02, 2012 at 05:48 AM
John, Your 100% right. This is Target all over again. A small, loud minority claps their hands and screams and think they are preserving Portsmouth...While you and I watch this town slowly be taxed to death. for this town to even have a shot at keeping it's character, there is going to have to be some serious compromise. For years, I was against the Town Center plan...my only reason? Because it is literally in my backyard. Now, as I've watched services get cut, taxes go up and can do a little math in regards to the future, I know it is needed. Everyone is going to have to bend a little, or, pay through the nose.
Priscilla Smyth Thayer February 02, 2012 at 05:48 AM
My idea of manufacturing (which does happen here-Hodge's Badge, Hood Sails, Vanguard) was being used as an example as an expanding business other than large retail. Everyone is shouting retail is the answer to our problems and it is not the golden egg. We will be getting a new bridge soon and tractor trailer trucks will once again be using the bridge. I do not see anyone coming up with new ideas on how to attract, develop, and maintain businesses in our town without compromising our quality of life. Yes developers and builders have to jump through hoops to get things done-that is not unique- that is to protect the town's reputation of attracting quality commerce. Do you truly believe this particular developer had the best interest of the town or only his wallet?Do you want a cheap labor force or a skilled employee that can afford to work and live here? Quality of Business+Quality of Workers=Quality Life.
J. Lane McMahon February 02, 2012 at 06:04 AM
Talk to Doug Smith at the PEDC...he is doing it every day. Ask him why we don't have any manufacturing jobs. You talk about quality of life, rural character, etc....then believe me, you don't want LI here.
J. Lane McMahon February 02, 2012 at 06:04 AM
And to follow up..No one. Not one person on here has said "retail is the answer to our problems"....I will say, it is part of the solution. Sooner or later there will be a developer that won't work with us. We need a balanced approach...and everyone's fear of Big Box's needs to go away. NIMBY is moronic. and a little elitist too.
Priscilla Smyth Thayer February 02, 2012 at 06:39 AM
Considering I live in Island Park accusing me of being an elitist is an oxymoron. I have used manufacturing as an example and part of the solution too. Everyone has been hell bent on the Briggs property as retail and no one has come up with another idea that will be positive and condusive to the area.
John Vit February 02, 2012 at 01:45 PM
All Views Are Valid. The Briggs property potential developer was attempting to change the zoning of LI to C-1,, I didn't agree with the R going to C1,, it's moot anyway. The developer in very plain words wanted this Council to consider the change. The developer must be a smart business person & must protect his wallet to be profitable or leave the development un-finished. That doesn't mean they would run rough shod over the Town or the three different Boards that review & approve what is to be built. Please be advised I am well versed & experienced in all details of the above. We need commercial developement, which can include retail, or manufacturing. We need more income/revenve for this Town. Our new Town Administrator is not starting for 2 weeks. The Town Budget this year will be a challenge, due to State cuts and Town services costing more. Preserve Portsmouth must realize that to continue to "clap" for what they don't want, will keep most real developers out of Portsmouth.
Ray Berberick February 02, 2012 at 07:23 PM
I am collecting ideas and information for the PEDC on ways to generate revenue for the town that is mutually beneficial to the taxpayers, the Preserve Portsmouth folks, the open space folks, the developers and existing business owners. We are exploring ways to promote existing businesses and attract new businesses that will complement the ones that are here. Some entities that could be useful to the town would be a hotel, bowling alley, banquet facility, and a multi-purpose function facility. One example to consider would be South County Commons. We are also looking at ways to attract businesses to complement King's Grant. Please visit the PEDC webiste at http://www.portsmouthriedc.com/Revenue.html to send us your suggestions and ideas.
Priscilla Smyth Thayer February 02, 2012 at 11:12 PM
Thank you Ray. I will check it out and pass on some of my ideas for business development.


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