News & Event
By NICOLE DOTZENROD, Valley Breeze Staff Writer
LINCOLN – The “Lincoln Lofts,” proposed to transform the former Sayles Mill building off Walker Street into apartments, moved forward in the planning process Tuesday night after the Lincoln Zoning Board agreed to grant parking relief to the project.
The developer, Dakota Partners of Waltham, Mass., came before the Zoning Board to apply for dimensional variance for parking relief to renovate the former factory building at 90 Industrial Circle into 45 units of affordable housing. Lincoln’s Technical Review Committee members recently called the mill complex “the Wild West for parking,” but recommended the approval of the application on the basis that the proposed ratio of 1.67 parking spaces per unit, or 75 spaces total, would be enough to accommodate the needs of future residents.
Under the town’s current regulations, 45 units of housing would require 90 parking spaces. The Zoning Board approved the developer’s application for a parking variance, bringing the required number of parking spaces down to 75 total, or 1.67 spaces per unit, due to lack of space for additional parking on the property.
Rio Sacchetti, a project manager for Dakota Partners, said market-rate rent is usually one parking space per unit, and affordable housing is usually .8, according to data by Rhode Island Housing. Board member John Barr noted that Lincoln has a very limited bus service, and that the RIH numbers may be based on the state’s urban areas and may not be applicable to this project.
“We originally proposed 64 spaces, and after meeting with the town planner, zoning official and Technical Review Committee, we came up with a parking formula based on the 100 percent affordable housing, which uses the number of bedrooms,” said Mary Shekarchi, attorney for the applicant.
Shekarchi said she worked with town officials on the formula, which essentially grants two cars for each of the project’s 30 two-bedroom units, and one car for the 15 one-bedroom units.
The developer was also granted relief from the town’s requirement that parking spaces be 9 by 20 feet.
The town’s definition of a parking space was originally 9 feet by 18 feet at the inception of this application back in 2006, Zoning Board Chairman David DeAngelis said.
“Since time has progressed, your application outgrew the ordinance, which is now nine by 20,” said DeAngelis.
Shekarchi and Sacchetti said parts of the property are environmentally contaminated, and that the 75 parking spaces were the best they can do while maintaining green space for residents.
“There were not great areas to add parking and have the green space around the building for quality of life of future residents,” Sacchetti said. “We don’t want people to be parking on the street … we don’t want a headache.”
Contamination on the site will be addressed as part of construction and paid for by Dakota Partners. The company will have to remove between one and two feet of existing soil and replace it with fill.
The cost of the environmental mitigation, according to Shekarchi, “is a moving target, but it’s going to be quite expensive … hundreds of thousands if not more.”
Parking relief aside, the project did not require any zoning relief concerning the conversion of the actual building into affordable housing. The property is owned by AF Homes LLC and under agreement with Dakota Partners, with Dakota planning to close on the property by early next year. This is Dakota’s first project in Rhode Island.
As an affordable housing project, units will be restricted to people making at or below a certain income, and/or rent-restricted. Rent is expected to be in the $800-$900 range for a one-bedroom, and $900-$1,000 for a two-bedroom unit, with heat and hot water included. The project will be required to meet HUD’s Section 8 Housing requirements.
A second-story bridge connecting 90 Industrial Circle to the building behind it will be taken down, while a shared loading dock will be removed and replaced with green space. The building is currently completely vacant, last used as commercial/light industrial space, and has fallen into disrepair.
Two individuals spoke out with concerns about the property’s current state at Tuesday’s meeting, including Bill McManus of Rockridge Road, who said, “the renderings of this plan look very nice, but the physical condition of the property has been a serious issue for many years. It’s a dumping ground for people to dispose unwanted trash, box springs and mattresses, TVs … it’s a health hazard.”
McManus asked that the board recommend that prior to any consideration of approval, the area be cleared of trash, mattresses and furniture.
“As a zoning board we can’t do that,” DeAngelis said, adding that he would ask someone from the town to look into the situation.
Jean Birchell of Smithfield Avenue, where properties back up to the mill, echoed the concerns of McManus.
“If you stop at the light at Walker Street you can see the mattresses – there’s 18 of them in all,” she said.
Zoning official Russell Hervieux said AF Homes LLC has been cited several times for the state of the property, “sometimes successful, sometimes not. The town is addressing this as we speak.”
The board voted to move the project forward, granting parking relief at 1.67 spaces per unit.
Courtesy of The Valley Breeze
By Louis Sousa, Esq.
Regardless of one’s position regarding the Belvedere development proposal, there is irrefutable fact. The administrative treatment of zoning and planning board applications, and especially of complex ones, is a colossal mess. There is a way to make it better for applicants and objectors. It is called Unified Development Review.
Unified Development Review arose from a new law passed in the Rhode Island legislature in 2016. Recognizing the mercury retrograde effect of a multi-board process, the Legislature empowered cities and towns to consolidate applications formerly requiring zoning and planning oard review into one application, with the planning board, in addition to its usual charge, having the power to grant variances and special use permits.
The legislature enacted this law for a reason. The current dual-board process is overly time consuming and imposes excessive costs on applicants and taxpayers and creates multiple opportunities for filing appeals.
One appeal is time consuming for every participant and involves significant expense incurred by the applicant and the objector and the taxpayers. My personal observation is the applicant in a dual-board process becomes a ping pong ball, swatted back and forth between two boards with different administrators who may or may not have different personal biases.
Here is a real-world example. You are the applicant. You propose to sub-divide the land comprising your homestead to build a new home on the subdivided lot for your daughter. Unfortunately, the lot will be undersized and from the size of the home your daughter needs for a rowing family, dimensional variances are needed. You don’t get along with your neighbor. He thinks your dog barks too much.
Here is a common result under the current process for a simple minor subdivision to build a house for a family member on your homestead lot:
Here is the process under the Unified Development Review allowed by state law:
What take-aways result from these hypotheticals?
Bristol’s website says it is “open for business.” Turning to the Belvedere process and regardless of your position, the process endured by that applicant shows that Bristol is not business friendly when applied to complex and costly projects.
Should the Unified Development Review process be applied to a future project along the lines of this one? Having been in the trenches in Bristol on applications of this nature, it is my opinion the answer is yes. Doing so would give an applicant a truer and more efficient and less costly path to receiving or not receiving an approval. At the same time, it will fully preserve legal recourse for objectors.
In my opinion, the fragmented process exposed from the Belvedere proposal is itself a deterrent to others making significant investment in our Town, and that needs to change.
Mr. Sousa, of 232 Hope St., represented Belvedere at Thames developer Jim Roiter in the early stages of that application being heard before Bristol boards.
Courtesy of the Bristol Phoenix
By JACKIE ROMAN, Valley Breeze & Observer Staff Writer
SCITUATE – Dennis Charland, Scituate Zoning Board of Review vice chairman, opened last Tuesday’s public hearing on the Paramount Development Group’s requested variances and special use permit with the statement that the company’s plan for the Hope Mill “will have a dramatic impact on the future of Hope.”
The mill on Main Street was originally built in the 1800s and at one time fueled the local economy, but in the years following mass production and globalization, it was slowly boarded up and then vacated in 2006.
The mill sits in the heart of Scituate, both geographically and culturally.
Paramount is requesting a special use permit to have a 193-unit multi-family residential development on the 32-acre property.
That request comes along with consideration of several building components that do not align with Scituate’s zoning ordinance, including:
• Building heights exceeding the maximum 36 feet.
• Less than the required two parking spaces per dwelling unit.
• A sewage disposal system less than the required 150 feet from the edge of any water body.
At the Aug. 1 public hearing, residents expressed concerns about the variances – specifically if the height of the building would make it difficult for residents to get out in case of fire, if the lack of parking would crowd neighboring streets, and if the septic system would stand in case of flooding.
Addressing the issue of fire safety, Hope Jackson Fire Company Chief John Robinson said that development’s proposed sprinkler system and fire protection features “would exceed some of those code standards” and give “people plenty of time to get out of a building.”
Representatives from DiPrete Engineering, assisting with the project, said that the septic system was already approved by the Department of Environmental Management and will be inspected regularly.
The project’s architect also announced possibilities for additional parking, bringing the total to 273 spaces.
Also addressed was the public’s concern about what “affordable housing” actually means, in definition and implementation.
Approximately 40 percent of the total units would be reserved for affordable housing, a number that would bring Scituate closer to compliance with The Rhode Island Comprehensive Housing Production and Rehabilitation Act of 2004 and Rhode Island Low and Moderate Income Housing Act. Those laws require that 10 percent of a municipality’s housing be “affordable.”
A total of 29 communities are covered by the act, with 10 exempt due to their current percentage of affordable housing inventory or rental housing.
Several communities have made adequate progress in reaching the 10 percent requirement, but Scituate is one of five communities that has made zero progress, according to the last available statistics from 2010.
Because of the misconceptions associated with the term “affordable housing,” Rhode Island Housing Executive Director Barbara Fields said she prefers to say “housing at all price points.”
According to Rhode Island General Law and Rhode Island Housing’s 2016 report, rental housing is considered affordable if rent, heat, and utilities constitute no more than 30 percent of the annual household income for a household making 80 percent or less of the area median income.
The U.S Census estimates that the median household income in Scituate is upwards of $90,000. So who makes 80 percent or less of $90,000?
Fields said it could be the local paralegal, firefighter, nurse, or teacher. Neighbors, friends, and family – not necessarily strangers.
“We all know someone who would qualify,” Fields said.
Scituate’s growing senior population could also take advantage of the Hope Mill housing, according to officials.
The Rhode Island Housing 2016 report states that low-income elderly households rose from 46 percent to 66 percent between 2000 and 2012. At the same time, the number of available affordable housing units in Rhode Island is shrinking.
Co-founder of the Paramount Development Group, Richard DeRosas, said his proposed residential development will not only increase Scituate’s affordability, but also save the historic Hope Mill.
“No one has stepped up to save this mill except myself,” DeRosas said.
Working in conjunction with the National Park Service and Hope Historical Society, DeRosas said he hopes to have the property placed on the National Register of Historic Places. While the Hope Village Historic District is listed on the national register, the Hope Mill itself is not.
“We’ll be very proud of that,” DeRosas said.
The zoning board will reconvene at the Scituate High School Auditorium on Aug. 29 at 7 p.m. to issue their decision on Paramount’s applications.
By ETHAN SHOREY, Valley Breeze Managing Editor
PAWTUCKET – Creation of a new zoning district around the city’s coming train station is too important to approve it in a “half-baked” form, say City Council members.
The council, at its meeting last Wednesday, April 10, heard lengthy testimony from advocates who want to see a 10 percent minimum requirement for affordable housing in the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) zone in the Conant Thread District around a coming commuter rail station off Main Street and Pine Street.
A majority of council members has been against including such a requirement. In the face of testimony, they voted to postpone a vote.
After those in the audience had testified, the council learned that the proposal to add such an affordable housing requirement within the proposed new Conant Thread Zoning District needed more work to even align with state law, as City Solicitor Frank Milos confirmed that it wouldn’t hold up without some corresponding incentive for developers. Council members sent the measure back to the subcommittee level to try to come up with something workable.
Council members, particularly Terry Mercer, expressed frustration that years of planning and collaboration could lead to a zoning proposal that doesn’t pass the legal sniff test due to issues with a few sentences.
Director of Planning Sue Mara said the added language came about due to talks with affordable housing advocates in the city. She conceded that she and others should have caught the issue.
Council President David Moran, answering questions about what this delay might mean to developers of potential projects around the station, said he and other city leaders expect this situation to be resolved fairly quickly.
“I am confident moving forward that in collaboration with the administration and the joint committees of both ordinance and ad hoc economic development and neighborhood improvement will work together in a speedy and efficient manner to bring something back to the full council to deliberate and vote on,” he said. “I have faith in the political process and we need to ensure we are all on the same page and get this right.”
The plan by the joint committees is to have something officially back to the full council within 90 days, he said, but it could potentially be sooner than that.
The council heard from one advocate after another last week who want to see the 10 percent minimum on affordable housing put in place, several suggesting that they believe the council is getting pressure from developers not to include such a requirement. Many also said they see 10 percent as the very minimum that should be required, saying it should be 15, 20, even 25 percent in the TOD district.
Mayor Donald Grebien issued a statement this week in response to last week’s move to hold off on a vote.
“Pawtucket has always had a diverse mix of housing options and it is the city’s goal, as stated in its comprehensive plan, to continue to foster a strong mix of housing opportunities,” he said.
For affordable housing, residents have to be at 80 percent of the area median income to qualify for it.
City officials last year declined to require a percentage of required affordable housing for the TOD district, but did pass a resolution encouraging such development.
Anne Grant, executive director of the Women’s Center of Rhode Island, emphasized the difficulty of finding affordable housing in the state. She shared how diverse neighborhoods with quality affordable units improve a community’s fabric and decrease crime.
Phil West, formerly of Common Cause, said he knows officials are facing pressure to take out the 10 percent requirement, but urged them to do the right thing and perhaps even increase the percentage to 15 percent.
“They will do it because this is such an opportunity,” he said of developers, warning against the gentrification that happens without safeguards put in. Once an exclusive community is created, he said, you “never get it back. Now is the time to insist on it.” He described the TOD district as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the city of Pawtucket.”
Some who testified said 10 percent is far too low, pointing to neighboring Central Falls, where the number will be 20 percent for that city’s portion of the TOD.
Mara corrected assertions that the district will be 50 percent in each community, saying it’s actually about 75 percent in Pawtucket and 25 percent in Central Falls.
Mara clarified that the TOD district is designed to promote residential, commercial and leisure uses that are within easy walking distance.
Resident Andi Wheeler said it’s imperative to support affordable housing options. Even if it wasn’t the right thing to do on its own, quality affordable housing means fewer people in shelters, jails and hospitals, said Wheeler.
Laura Burkett, of the Broad Street Initiative and a Bayley Street Lofts resident, said she loves the diversity of Pawtucket, and a 10 percent mandate on affordable housing would help promote that for the area around the train station.
Resident Lori Barden noted the importance of affordable housing to younger generations who crave metro living and want to come back to the state.
Kristina Contreras Fox, of the R.I. Coalition for the Homeless, was among those who emphasized the state’s serious problem with homelessness, saying development of affordable housing is a key solution.
City resident and former council candidate Andrew Maguire noted that developers, with only a 10 percent affordable housing component, will only lose about 2 percent on their price.
“We can’t bend over backwards for 2 percent,” he said.
Other young professionals emphasized the importance of bringing in other people who are looking to add value to a community.
Jessica Vega, a councilwoman in Central Falls, urged city officials to go beyond the 10 percent, calling it a “bare minimum.” Minimums of 20 to 25 percent would be better, she said.
Andrew Pearson, of Pawtucket Central Falls Development (PCF Development), urged leaders to pass inclusionary zoning, saying it would be a mistake to make the Conant Thread District “100 percent exclusive.” Such developments near other commuter rail stops are seeing rents start at $2,000 per month, he said, meaning someone would have to be earning $84,000 per year to afford them.
A 10 percent limit is a fair compromise to create a “more equitable and inclusive TOD,” he said.
Pearson emphasized that these are not low-income units, but moderate-income ones housing people earning up to $60,000.
Alison Bologna, an Oak Hill resident and owner of Shri Yoga, spoke in favor of the 10 percent mandate, noting that she’s trying to bring a 37 percent affordable housing component to her her new Pine Street location.
“Other larger developers could do the same,” she said.
Bologna said she loves Pawtucket for its diversity and said she sees a tremendous opportunity create an example of inclusion and affordability here. Ten percent is the minimum officials should go with, she said.
Wilma Smith, of the PCF Development Board of Directors, said developers should not be using housing as a bargaining chip. Pawtucket already has a shortfall of about 362 affordable units, she said, 2 percent lower than the 10 percent state standard for affordable housing.
Board member Kevin Kazarian agreed, saying displacing existing residents should be avoided. If developers walk away, so be it, he said, as others would take their place.
Jeremiah O’Grady, former council president in Lincoln and state representative now working for the Local Initiatives Support Corp., or LISC, noted the 25 percent affordable mandate Lincoln previously used for its mill overlay district.
Comprehensive community development should promote neighborhoods where people can work, worship, play and shop, all with easy transit options, he said.
Linda Weisinger, executive director of PCF Development, emphasized that units around the train station would be filled with residents of moderate income levels. She said there are plenty of federal resources available to develop such housing, as her organization has proven.
Mara said the planning for the district around the future train station, with construction due to get started this summer, first started nearly 15 years ago. The effort to fill vacant old mills and tie in local neighborhoods is important to the city, as it will maximize residential, commercial and leisure space, she said.
About 100 parcels of the development, or 140 acres, are located in Pawtucket, while another 30 properties covering 40 acres are in Central Falls. These are largely vacant and underutilized properties that are ripe for development, she said, and the city is seeing a lot of interest from developers.
Councilor Meghan Kallman took offense to suggestions of stepping back to consider options on the proposal, saying she opposed separating out the affordable housing component and approving the rest of the zoning ordinance amendments and saying she would want a guarantee that the council will consider the affordable housing mandate at a later date. She questioned why the document seemed “hastily and poorly put together.”
Councilor Tim Rudd said he also didn’t want to see the sections separated, as developers could easily move forward as officials consider the affordable housing component, starting the gentrification process.
Mercer took issue with suggestions that the council is against affordable housing. He said he hasn’t heard from a single developer who has pressured the council to vote their way, saying he’s simply trying to do what’s best for his constituents and the city.
“The council’s not anti affordable housing, we’re anti half-ass statutes,” he said, adding that he, too, found the proposed ordinance to be irresponsible.
The council heard from a couple of landowners within the district, William Coyle III and George Hovarth, who weren’t happy about being included within its confines and questioned why they would be included with little advance notice.
Director of Commerce Jeanne Boyle assured them that their properties would be grandfathered into the district, even if they were sold in the future. Hovarth said he would like to see an opt-out clause added to the final ordinance.
PAWTUCKET – Officials are asking the City Council to adopt the majority of the proposed Conant Thread District Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) zoning ordinance for the area around a coming train station so redevelopment efforts there don't grind to a halt.
In a letter last week to the council suggesting the move to approve the majority of the ordinance, Director of Commerce Jeanne Boyle referenced public testimony at an April 10 meeting centered on a proposal to institute a 10 percent mandate for affordable housing in the TOD district.
During that meeting, it became clear that there were a number of areas requiring further research and refinement, said Boyle, and the council requested that the Planning Department review the ordinance and provide additional information on best practices for inclusionary zoning ordinances incorporating the affordable housing component.
“As this is a complex issue and there (are) a variety of approaches that the City Council may take, I would respectfully request that the (council) consider proceeding with the adoption of the remainder of the TOD ordinance as it reviews inclusionary zoning models,” she wrote.
City Council President David Moran said he anticipates that Boyle's letter will be referred to the council's ordinance and ad hoc economic development and neighborhood improvement subcommittees for review and discussion during the council's meeting tonight, April 24.
“After that it may come back to the floor to discuss and possibly vote on that portion of the ordinance but continue to study the affordable housing issue as well within the time frame previously laid out (90 days),” he said.
Councilor Meghan Kallman previously said that she would want to see any breaking up of the ordinance to come with a guarantee that the affordable housing component will be considered at a future date.
Council action on the ordinance is critical for a number of reasons, Boyle said, including that:
“We had anticipated that certain projects in the TOD were poised to proceed based upon the passage of the TOD zoning,” she wrote. “We are concerned that a delay of several weeks and the uncertainty associated with the zoning approval may result in financing delays or loss of financing,” wrote Boyle.
“In a difficult budget year for the state, we have urged the General Assembly to proceed with this legislation because we were aware of development projects poised to move forward in the TOD,” Boyle wrote. “We are concerned that the delay in the adoption of the TOD zoning will result in the delay of these projects and will diminish our ability to convince the state legislature to adopt the tax credit legislation.”
Boyle assured the council that the Planning Department will provide comprehensive information on inclusionary zoning within the TOD as well as guidance on what may be the best approach to creating more affordable housing and limiting gentrification, or forcing people out of the area due to higher rents.
The council learned prior to its April 10 meeting that the proposed requirement for 10 percent affordable housing within the TOD district, without a corresponding incentive for developers, was illegal.
The TOD zoning is designed to create a cohesive district promoting uses easily accessible within walking distance from a planned train station off Pine Street and Barton Street, where construction is due to start this summer. It is intended to promote certain uses above others to maximize residential, commercial and leisure space.
Courtesy of The Valley Breeze
The Governor’s proposed FY2019 budget (“the budget”) totals $9.2 billion, an increase of $5.2 million over the enacted FY2018 budget. This includes $3.8 billion in general revenue (increased by $25.0 million from enacted FY2018) and $3.1 billion in federal funds (a decrease of $52.3 million from enacted FY2018) with the balance from restricted receipts and other sources. The following provides some budget highlights.
The proposed Medicaid budget for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) totals $2.3 billion, including $906 million in general revenue and $1.4 billion in federal funds to provide health care and long term services to around 280,000 Rhode Islanders. The federal government’s recent extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) saves the state $29 million to provide coverage for certain children and pregnant women. The cost to cover the 70,000 adults who became eligible under Medicaid “expansion” is $472 million of which the state pays $31 million (around 6.7 percent of the cost compared to the regular state share of around 49 percent).
The budget includes approximately $150 million in cuts to the Medicaid program, including $68 million in general revenue. This includes cuts to providers: managed care organizations ($70M total, $24M in general revenue); hospitals ($30M total, $11M general revenue); and nursing facilities ($5M total, $3M general revenue). The budget assumes around $11 million in savings ($5.3M in general revenue) from eliminating retroactive coverage for seniors and people with disabilities. Under current law, medical bills incurred in the three months before application can be paid by Medicaid for these populations.
Co-payments: The most significant impact for Medicaid recipients is the proposal to require co-payments for services including the following: $8.00 for non-emergency use of the emergency room; $4.00 for brand name prescription drugs and $2.50 for generics; $3.00 per inpatient hospital stay; $3.00 for non-preventive doctor visits. The co-payments are capped at 5 percent of household income and apply to all adults over the age of 19 except for adults who are enrolled in Medicaid based on disability. This includes adults, parents, seniors, and pregnant women.
Almost all of the Rhode Islanders who will be required to pay toward their medications, doctor’s visits and other co-pays have income that is no higher than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) and the majority have income that is below the poverty level. Over three-quarters (78 percent) of the adults without children (the expansion population) who receive Medicaid have income below the federal poverty level. Almost three-quarters (74 percent) of parents have income below poverty, including several thousand parents who receive RI Works cash assistance whose income is almost 70 percent below the poverty level.
Generally, seniors who have Medicaid coverage have income near the poverty level and seniors who receive federal SSI cash benefits and Medicaid have income that is 20 percent below poverty. The new co-payments are estimated to “save” the state $3.2 million in general revenue and would generate savings for the federal government of $11.9 million.
Health care and long term care services for seniors and people with disabilities: The budget proposes to redesign health services delivery for around 11,000 seniors and people with disabilities who have both Medicare and Medicaid coverage and are enrolled in Neighborhood Health Plan’s (NHP) Unity Plan. NHP receives a capitated payment from the state to coordinate and pay for these members’ health care services as well as long term services in the community and nursing facilities. The redesign would end the managed care enrollment and capitated payments. NHP would be paid to coordinate member services and care management and the state would pay providers through the fee-for-service system. EOHHS would also implement a Community First Choice Option to increase federal reimbursement for certain long term care services. These changes are anticipated to save $15 million, including $10 million in general revenue. The budget does not appropriate the $6 million (half general revenue and half federal funds) available through the “Perry-Sullivan” funds (funds freed up by reducing nursing home placements) to expand home and community based services. Instead, most of the funds are proposed to be used to pay for the previously enacted wage increase for home care providers.
Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT): The state contracts with a vendor to provide Medicaid members with transportation services to doctors, pharmacies and other medical services. Consumers have had many problems with the current vendor. The budget proposes to restructure and rebid the contract for NEMT and save $9.2 million, including $3.9 million in general revenue.
HealthSource RI (HSRI)
The budget includes $8.1 million in funds for the state’s health insurance exchange through which almost 30,000 Rhode Islanders purchase health insurance and access tax credits to help them pay the monthly premium. HSRI is also the eligibility portal for children, families and adults who are applying for Medicaid. Funding includes $2.4 million in general revenue and $5.7 million in restricted receipts from a 3.5 percent health insurance premium assessment.
Senior Centers and Meals-On-Wheels
The budget doubles state resources for Senior Centers from $400,000 to $800,000 and maintains funding ($530,000) for Meals-on-Wheels. Adequate nutrition for seniors and opportunities to engage in community
activities are important “social determinants” that can impact seniors’ health and well-being.
Child Care and Early Learning
The budget includes $1.5 million in general revenue to increase rates paid to providers who serve infants and
toddlers enrolled in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) if the program meets quality standards. The
budget adds $1.1 million in additional general revenue to expand pre-K programs and level funds ($1.2M) the Head Start Program.
The budget also includes $200,000 for a pilot program to allow parents who are enrolled in post-secondary education to access CCAP subsidies. Under current law, parents are eligible for CCAP only if they are working or enrolled in a short-term training program at least 20 hours/week.
Education and Workforce for Adults
Funding for the adult education system, administered by the Rhode Island Department of Education, remains the same as current year. The system, which provides adults with foundational workforce skills, including English language instruction, literacy and numeracy is funded by federal sources (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families block grant ($1M) and the Workforce Investment Opportunity Act ($2.3M) ), general revenue of $2.3 million and $3.5 million from the Job Development Fund.
The budget maintains $300,000 in general revenue for the “Pay for Success” transitional employment program for formerly incarcerated individuals and appropriates $400,000 for a new initiative to help people in recovery from opioid addiction access supportive employment services.
The budget codifies the “Real Jobs Rhode Island” program into law within the Governor’s Workforce Board, establishing it as the state’s primary workforce development program. Changes to the law governing the Job
Development Fund would provide long-term funding for Real Jobs Rhode Island.
The budget includes second year funding for the Rhode Island Promise Scholarship, adding $3.6 million in general revenue for total funding of $6.4 million. Tuition and fees are covered for young adults who attend the Community College of Rhode Island (CCRI) within six months of graduating from high school.
There are no new general revenue funds in the budget for affordable rental housing. Approximately $10 million for development and preservation of affordable housing will be awarded in FY2018 from the General Obligation Bond approved by voters in 2016. A similar amount may be available in FY2019. The budget also transfers $11 million from Rhode Island Housing to the General Fund – $6 million to close the FY2018 budget deficit, and $5 million to balance the FY2019 budget request.
The budget increases the cigarette tax by an additional $.25/pack, to $4.50/pack (after increasing from $3.75/pack to $4.25/pack in last year’s budget), and expands taxes on other tobacco products, changes anticipated to generate an additional $6.2 million in revenues.
While the budget doesn’t include any “broad based” tax increases, the expansion of the sales and use tax to cover two services – Software as a Service (SaaS) and security services – is expected to generate $14.5 million. This move is an important step towards better aligning Rhode Island’s sales tax system with our economy, which has substantially shifted from the purchase of goods to the use of services, and from bricks and mortar establishments to on-line purchases.
The budget anticipates that restructuring the Department of Revenue’s Division of Taxation (and adding 22 staff) will enable the state to increase revenues collected by $13.5 million, netting $10 million after staffing and technical support costs.
The budget anticipates substantial new lottery revenue ($27.6M), most of which ($23.5M) is contingent on a favorable decision by the US Supreme Court on the legalization of sports betting. A decision is expected by
The budget increases several fees including insurance claims adjusters’ fees, mutual fund retailers’ fees, and duplicate license fees, totaling $10.6 million, a gain that is partially offset by reducing several licensing fees by a total of $300,000.
Expansion of Rhode Island’s medical marijuana program is expected to generate an additional $5.1 million in revenue.
The budget allocates $18.7 million for FY2019 in additional state aid towards the phase-out of the motor vehicle tax with total of $44.7 million in foregone revenue as a result of the phase out.
Rhode Island continues to rely heavily on economic development tax incentives to encourage employers to make investments in Rhode Island. The budget includes $37.3 million for the Executive Office of Commerce “to support new and existing initiatives…to spur economic development.”
Economic Development Tax Incentives
Refundable Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit
The budget proposes expanding the manufacturing investment tax credit with a $300,000 refundable tax credit to encourage investment in equipment, training, and business capital.
Rebuild Rhode Island Tax Credit
The budget adds $15 million ($3M more than FY2018) to the Rebuild Rhode Island Tax Credit Fund (providing gap financing for the development, construction, or rehabilitation of eligible commercial, industrial, residential, and mixed use properties). The budget also recommends expanding program eligibility and repealing the program’s December 31, 2018 sunset provision.
Historic Tax Credit Trust Fund
The budget includes $12.9 million (on top of revised request for $31.1M in FY2018) for debt servicing costs.
New Economic Development Initiatives
The Governor proposes creation of a new program, SupplyRI, allocating $475,000 to connect small suppliers with some of the state’s largest purchasers of supplies (i.e. universities, hospitals and other large employers) to shift spending from out-of-state to in-state suppliers.
Manufacturing Site Readiness Program
The manufacturing site readiness program would allocate $200,000 for the development of an inventory of “pad ready” industrial sites for potential use by large manufacturers or distribution centers.
Municipal Technical Assistance Grants
This initiative would allocate $200,000 to provide technical assistance to municipalities to expedite the processes involved in municipal zoning, planning, and permitting for local economic initiatives.
Courtesy of Economic Progress Institute
PAWTUCKET – WinnCompanies, a multi-family property developer and manager, and Omni Development Corporation, the largest minority not-for-profit housing developer in Rhode Island, last Tuesday formally kicked off $42 million in renovations to modernize Prospect Heights Apartments, a historic New Deal-era public housing community on Prospect Street.
Gov. Gina Raimondo, Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien, Pawtucket Housing Authority Executive Director Stephen Vadnais and Executive Director of Rhode Island Housing Barbara Fields were among the dignitaries who attended the groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the work, which will rehabilitate 292 apartments spread across 35 two-story buildings and also create 20 new units of housing at the 21-acre site.
“This redevelopment is creating a new future for the residents of this New Deal-era property,” said WinnDevelopment President and Managing Partner Larry Curtis.
“All Rhode Islanders deserve to live somewhere that’s safe and warm,” said Raimondo. “This redevelopment is a perfect example of what government and the private sector can achieve when we work together.”
Constructed in 1942, Prospect Heights qualified for federal historic tax credits after being placed on the National Register of Historic Places in December 2016.
Vadnais, updating The Breeze on a previous story regarding the concerns of 92-year-old Dorothy Remiesiewicz, noted that Remiesiewicz appeared to have all of her issues answered during the groundbreaking event. She will live in a two-bedroom end unit and get to keep her ceiling fans, among other concessions.
“I hope we can keep her happy for a while,” said Vadnais.
A joint venture between WinnDevelopment and Omni Development acquired a ground lease for the Prospect Heights property from the Pawtucket Housing Authority in June 2017. The transaction was coordinated under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) Program, which allows public housing agencies to leverage their assets to raise necessary funds to do rehabilitation and capital improvements.
Rhode Island Housing and Mortgage Finance Corp. provided tax-exempt bond financing for the construction and permanent loans, the Low Income Housing Tax Credits and separate bridge financing for the project. WNC served as the equity investor. Commerce Corp. provided tax credits from the state’s new Rebuild Rhode Island program. Additional funds were provided by the federal Home Loan Bank of Boston from the Affordable Housing Program, the Rhode Island Housing Trust Fund, and the R.I. Housing Resource Commission’s Building Homes Rhode Island Housing Bond Program. Housing Ministries of New England and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) provided predevelopment funds.
The city of Pawtucket supported the project through zoning and entitlement changes, as well as a tax stabilization agreement and Community Development Block Grant and HOME funds.
“This is a great day in our city that has been a long time in the making,” said Grebien.
“This is truly a significant event for residents of Prospect Heights,” said Vadnais. “Through this private-public partnership, we are preserving 292 units of affordable housing and producing an additional 20 affordable units within the City of Pawtucket. I applaud the efforts of our partners in working toward providing a quality product for the residents of historic Prospect Heights, and I applaud the residents for their patience during the transition in management and enduring the relocation process.”
Courtesy of The Valley Breeze
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