Barrington FTM: Monastery property, $5M bond, budgets and more

FTM is Wednesday night, May 22, at 7 p.m.

By Josh Bickford
Posted 5/21/24

At the FTM on Wednesday night, May 22, Barrington taxpayers will vote on the future of the Monastery property, a $5 million bond to improve athletic fields, and nearly $100 million in school …

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Barrington FTM: Monastery property, $5M bond, budgets and more

FTM is Wednesday night, May 22, at 7 p.m.


At the FTM on Wednesday night, May 22, Barrington taxpayers will vote on the future of the Monastery property, a $5 million bond to improve athletic fields, and nearly $100 million in school department and municipal government operating budgets.  

The annual Financial Town Meeting will be held inside the Barrington High School gymnasium at 7 p.m. 

A key item on this year’s FTM agenda is the former Carmelite monastery property on Watson Avenue. The town purchased the property at the 2021 FTM, and recently local officials drafted a development plan — it calls for some of the land to be used for a 12-unit age-restricted (55-and-older) pocket neighborhood, six single-family house lots, and two acres of open space. Five of the cottages in the pocket neighborhood will be deed-restricted affordable.

Barrington Town Council President Carl Kustell has endorsed the plan and hopes fellow residents do as well. In a letter to the editor, Kustell writes “The compromise on the table would be a win for those who support senior housing, affordable housing, the climate, public open space, reasonable housing density, and fiscal responsibility.”

The town signed an agreement with FJS Associates Ltd. — the town sold a portion of the land to the Middletown-based development company for $1. The town has placed specific restrictions on the project; officials said Barrington was not aiming to make its money back from the sale of the land for the pocket neighborhood.

Kustell said FJS Associates Ltd. has worked on market rate and affordable housing developments throughout the region for years. 

“To ensure the project is financially viable, the developer’s proposal required that the price of the land not be included for the pocket neighborhood,” Kustell wrote in an email to the Barrington Times. “When pursuing quality developments that have an affordable option, like this one, the affordability requirement makes the revenues for the developer much lower, considering construction of the affordable units must match the quality of the market-rate units within the pocket neighborhood. The six single family lots in the approved plan are expected to sell at market rate, offsetting the cost of the land for the pocket neighborhood.

“Additionally, approval of this plan ensures there will be public benefits to the Town in the form of affordable housing and a public park (maintained by the Town) as part of the development. Also, the town set a high bar for the developer, including all-electric construction and solar-ready rooftops.”

Barrington spent $3.5 million to purchase the property three years ago. Officials said the town pays about $313,000 each year in carrying costs — debt service payments on the bond and utilities for the former monastery building. 

“The property does not currently generate any property tax revenue to the Town and requires town staff time as an additional expense to monitor the building and maintain the grounds,” Kustell wrote. 

As part of the agreement with FJS Associates, Barrington has agreed to pay for a portion of the design fees and infrastructure work for the development. The town will also pay for the demolition of the former monastery building, should the resolution at Wednesday’s FTM be approved. The estimated cost to demolish the building is $1.2 to $1.6 million.

“The estimate was informed by input from contractors and includes assumptions that will be further refined through additional exploratory work,” Kustell wrote. “These estimates are also based on the Town’s requirement to pay prevailing wage rates. When it comes to public safety, we are willing to pay a higher premium because it would allow us to choose the best company for the job, rather than the least expensive. “Comparable to the asbestos abatement at the former Barrington Middle School, asbestos-containing materials will be handled and removed under strict state regulations with the approval and oversight of the Rhode Island Department of Health. The programs, approvals, notice periods and requirements for licensed asbestos professionals will be strictly observed to protect the overall health and safety on the site and on adjacent properties.”

Fields bond

Taxpayers will be asked to vote on a $5 million bond that, if approved, would support improvements to athletic fields in Barrington. Currently, members of the Town Council and School Committee have agreed on a plan to construct two synthetic turf fields at the middle school. Officials are still negotiating some parts of the agreement, such as the shared use of the fields. Should taxpayers approve the $5 million, the construction of the synthetic turf fields would be put on the ballot for the November referendum. If the $5 million bond is approved, but the turf field referendum is not, officials would still use the money to make other improvements to the fields. 

A portion of the bond — $500,000 — would be earmarked for a Bay Spring Avenue culvert improvement project. 

Two motions filed

Barrington resident Tom Rimoshytus has filed two motions that will be voted upon at the FTM. The first calls for the creation of a new line item in the town’s budget for field/turf maintenance and reconstruction. Rimoshytus is proposing the line-item be seeded with $750,000.

“This fund will fall in line with the Fields Study Report of 2023 to get some of our fields back in shape,” Rimoshytus wrote. 

His second motion calls for the elimination of an affordable housing fund, and the reallocation of money from that account into a new line item called “Athletic Field Improvements.” 

There is approximately $501,000 in the affordable housing account.

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