WPRI: Senate president wants to strip Providence of zoning oversight on 195 land

Aerial view of the former Route 195 corridor from the Providence Department of Planning & Development

Speaking at the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council’s annual gathering Monday evening, [Senate President Dominick] Ruggerio vowed to introduce legislation next year “that removes some of the impediments to redeveloping the rest of our former highway land by granting more authority to the I-195 Commission, so the city doesn’t stand in the way of progress.”

“We need to move past nimbyism if we are going to grow and thrive as a state,” Ruggerio said, referring to a commonly-used acronym for “not in my backyard.”

The explosive promise marks the second time since 2015 that the powerful Democrat has sought to strip Providence of its powers on the former highway land. During Mayor Jorge Elorza’s first year in office, Ruggerio forced Providence leaders to create a standardized program for property tax breaks on the I-195 land after introducing legislation that would have allowed the state to oversee the special deals.

City Council President David Salvatore released the following statement in regards to the Senator’s proposal:

I respectfully disagree with Senate President Ruggerio that the City is standing in the way of any developer trying to build on the former I-195 land, which runs along the downtown corridor of Providence.

The City Council is pro-economic development and pro-growth, and I think the development happening downtown speaks to that very notion. It’s important to grow our local tax base without having to raise taxes, and that’s what we are doing here in Providence.

We spent a great deal of effort and taxpayer dollars in working with the City Plan Commission to create a master plan for our City that moves Providence forward while respecting our storied history. Since my first term in office, I have been a strong advocate for a more transparent and predictable climate for developers. This City Plan Commissions’ master plan achieves those goals of transparent and predictable development.

This process around Hope Point Tower has been both public and transparent. For every city of our size that is growing, these are the same qualities that have led to success and improved quality of life for residents.

To be clear, this would mean the un-elected 195 District Commission could allow anything they want in the district. A Walmart surrounded by surface parking, just surface parking, a prison, buildings of any height on any lot… And since our design review is a function of our zoning code, there would be no oversight at the City level over even what such buildings or parking lots would look like.

This proposal is not about economic development or the speed with which the 195 land is getting redeveloped, this is all about Senator Ruggerio sending a message to the labor unions. Zoning by labor union seems like a pretty crummy way to run a city.

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I-195 Redevelopment District Commission Meeting – October 4, 2018

[alert type=”muted” heading=”I-195 Redevelopment District Commission Public Notice of Meeting”]A regular meeting of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission will be held at Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, 315 Iron Horse Way, Suite 101, Providence, Rhode Island, on THURSDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2018, beginning at 5:00 P.M., for the following purposes:

Agenda [/alert]

195-roundI. Public Session
  1. Welcoming remarks by Chairperson Davis.
  2. Approval of the minutes of the Commission meeting held on August 28, 2018.
  3. Executive Director’s report on Commission activities.
  4. Presentation of the District’s Financial Audit by Lisa Lasky, Chief Financial Officer of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, and Commission Treasurer Elizabeth Huidekoper and Vote to accept Financial Audit.
  5. Discussion regarding extension to November 30, 2018 of both Level 2 Approval and the due diligence period for the proposed development by The Fane Organization on Parcel 42 and Vote regarding the extensions of time.
  6. Presentation by Kevin Wiant of Venture Café Foundation regarding Venture Café.
  7. Discussion regarding the application of Venture Café Foundation for the allocation of funds from I-195 Redevelopment Project Fund for the purpose of an early launch of programming and Vote regarding the proposal.
  8. Chairperson’s Report/Agenda for next meeting on Wednesday, November 14, 2018 at 5:00 P.M.
  9. Vote to Adjourn.
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I-195 Redevelopment District Commission Meeting – August 28, 2018

[alert type=”muted” heading=”I-195 Redevelopment District Commission Public Notice of Meeting”]A regular meeting of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission will be held at Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, 315 Iron Horse Way, Suite 101, Providence, Rhode Island, on TUESDAY, AUGUST 28, 2018, beginning at 5:00 P.M., for the following purposes.
Agenda [/alert]

195-roundI. Public Session
  1. Welcoming remarks by Chairperson Davis.
  2. Approval of the minutes of the Commission meetings held on June 21, 2018.
  3. Executive Director’s report on Commission activities.
  4. Vote to approve the development schedule of CC WCM-MP PO, LLC for the project to be developed on Parcel 30.
  5. Discussion regarding the adoption of certain fees and other charges for the issuance of building permits for projects to be built in the I-195 Redevelopment District.
  6. Public Hearing regarding the adoption of certain fees and other charges for the issuance of building permits for projects to be built in the I-195 Redevelopment District.
  7. Vote regarding the adoption of certain fees and other charges for the issuance of building permits for projects to be built in the I-195 Redevelopment District.
  8. Presentation by Ben Donsky of Biederman Redevelopment Ventures regarding the park management and operations strategy.
  9. Vote regarding the amended application of the District for the allocation of funds from I-195 Redevelopment Project Fund for the purpose of continuing the next phase of work with a park management consultant.
  10. II. Executive Session (Newport Room)

    To consider and act upon such matters as may be considered at a meeting closed to the public pursuant to Rhode Island General Laws, Section 42-46-5 (the Open Meetings Law), specifically a matter relating to the question of investment of public funds where the premature disclosure would adversely affect the public interest.

  11. Discussion of funding issues associated with generation of park revenue, staffing, and related matters.
  12. III. Public Session
  13. Chairperson’s Report/Agenda for next meeting on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 at 5:00 P.M.
  14. Vote to Adjourn.
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I-195 Redevelopment District Commission Meeting – June 21, 2018

[alert type=”muted” heading=”I-195 Redevelopment District Commission Public Notice of Meeting”]A regular meeting of the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission will be held at Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, 315 Iron Horse Way, Suite 101, Providence, Rhode Island, on THURSDAY, JUNE 21, 2018, beginning at 5:00 P.M., for the following purposes:

Agenda [/alert]

195-roundI. Public Session
  1. Welcoming Remarks by Chairperson Davis.
  2. Approval of the Minutes of the Commission Meeting Held on May 9, 2018.
  3. Executive Director’s Report.
  4. Discussion and Vote to amend the by-laws of the Commission to create the position of Assistant Treasurer and to appoint Amber Ilcisko as Assistant Treasurer.
  5. Presentation of the Rhode Island School of Design Master Plan by Annie Newman.
  6. Presentation by Tim Love of Utile, Inc. regarding the three development proposals on Parcels 2, 5, and 6 presented at the Commission meeting on May 9, 2018.
  7. II. Executive Session (Newport Room)

    To consider and act upon such matters as may be considered at a meeting closed to the public pursuant to Rhode Island General Laws, Section 42-46-5 (the Open Meetings Law) and 42- 64.14-6(i) (the I-195 Act), specifically matters relating to the sale of District real estate where the discussion in an open meeting would have a detrimental effect on the negotiating position of the Commission with the other parties to the negotiation.

  8. Presentation by Real Estate Solutions Group of its financial analysis of the three development proposals on Parcels 2, 5, and 6.
  9. III. Public Session
  10. Chairperson’s Report/Agenda for next meeting on Wednesday, August 8, 2018 at 5:00 P.M.
  11. Vote to Adjourn.

ProJo: Providence planning board rejects 46-story Fane tower

Rendering of proposed Hope Point Tower

The proposal now goes before the City Council. The City Plan Commission’s role was to advise the council, which has the discretion to change the zoning of the parcel from its present 100-foot height limit to allow building heights of up to 600 feet on the former Route 195 land known as parcel 42.

The city’s planning staff, in a report to the commission, had suggested that commission members “advise the City Council that the proposed zoning change is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and the Zoning Ordinance,” but added that approval should be subject to several conditions, including one that would require that 15 percent of the units at the tower be affordable.

Other conditions included that no public park land be taken for the tower site, and that only the northern half of the parcel, where the tower would be built, and not the southern half, be subject to the zone change. Another staff-proposed condition was that the zoning would revert to the 100-foot limit if no development occurred on the parcel within two years after the change.