By William Rupp
Tiverton wants to create a partnership with Rhode Island to develop its mostly vacant industrial park next to Route 24.
As a first step, the Town Council approved on Monday night a letter to be sent to Gov. Lincoln Chafee requesting “formal state involvement” that is viewed as “an alternative approach” to past local efforts. The letter was drafted by Town Administrator Matthew Wojcik.
“The town would like to meet with you and members of your Cabinet and staff as appropriate to exchange specific ideas on how we might partner,” according to Mr. Wojcik’s letter.
“We hope to have a meeting happen quickly,” Mr. Wojcik told the Town Council. “We want to take the burden off the town.”
“The community simply does not have the expertise and fiscal wherewithal to develop the property into a fully ‘pad-ready’ industrial park on its own,” Mr. Wojcik writes. “The town believes that the state, through the Commerce Corporation and the Quonset Development Corporation, has the experience and talent required to design a business plan and transaction structure that will develop the park, cover the added investment and establish employment and tax revenues for the town.”
Tiverton Industrial Park consists of 172 acres of land with approximately 100 acres open to development. Tiverton purchased the land almost 20 years ago with a bond that cost taxpayers about $5.358 million, Mr. Wojcik said.
Numerous attempts to develop the park have been made over the years, with each round of work leading to additional investment for water and sewer connections, engineering and soil testing, approval of an expedited permitting process, forward thinking design standards, competitive site plans, and marketing efforts, according to Mr. Wojcik’s letter. Tiverton has now invested more than $8 million in the park, he said.
The industrial park has only one tenant – Emera Energy. The firm finished last fall the purchase of the gas-fired co-generation plant known as Tiverton Power, according to Mr. Wojcik.
Emera Energy also invested in the park infrastructure by building a road that can be used by other tenants, he said. The tax treaty between Emera and Tiverton brings about $750,000 into the town each year, but it also postpones pay-back on the investment until well beyond 2020 without considering the town’s investment 20 years ago.
“It was with these financial considerations in mind that Tiverton issued a request for proposal (RFP) in 2013 seeking a master developer to manage the completion of site readiness and the marketing of the park to suitable tenants,” according to Mr. Wojcik’s letter. “Despite extensive advertising placement, there was unfortunately little interest from the development community in an industrial park of this size and infrastructure development status.”
The only concern with this “alternative approach” was raised by Town Councilor Jay Lambert. He questioned the timing of the letter with business activity throughout the region picking up and Fall River mentioned as the location for a casino.
“The faster we move, the faster we get an answer,” said Mr. Wojcik.
The Town Council voted unanimously to send the letter to the governor.