Grebien testifies in support of 'micro zones'

Grebien testifies in support of 'micro zones'

PROVIDENCE - Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien testified last Thursday before a House panel in support of proposed legislation that would create "micro zones" to promote economic development in so-called "distressed" communities, including Pawtucket.

The stated aim of the Micro Zone Economic Revitalization Act is to promote economic revitalization, job creation and business development through rehabilitation of "obsolete, dilapidated and abandoned industrial and commercial structures."

Grebien told members of the House Finance Committee, chaired by Rep. Raymond E. Gallison Jr., that the proposed legislation is an "innovative approach" for communities like Pawtucket that are "at a significant competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting business" due to a lack of available pad sites or undeveloped raw land.

"The bill before you seeks to level the economic development playing field for constrained communities like Pawtucket," he told lawmakers and announced in a news release.

Grebien said Pawtucket had two areas that could receive an economic boost by qualifying under the micro zone bill:

* The Conant/Clark mill complex straddling the border with Central Falls, with more than one million square feet of vacant mill space among eight scattered properties.

* And the "downtown core." Pawtucket's downtown has more than 10 qualifying buildings, with more than 200,000 square feet of "vacant and underutilized space in buildings whose retrofit costs don't pencil out in terms of market payback," said Grebien. "Without this set of incentives offered through this bill, these buildings and the other potential job generator opportunities within them will likely never see the light of day."

Grebien said that the bill was "carefully crafted to avoid attracting businesses already operating elsewhere in the state. It is designed exclusively to bring in new business to our state."

The bill contemplates a partnership with local communities, he said.

The legislation was put forward by Governor Lincoln Chafee, who chairs the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, with Commerce Executive Director Marcel Valois. Primary sponsors in the House are Reps. Kenneth Marshall, William O'Brien, Joseph Almeida, Cale Keable and Robert Craven Sr.

The city of Pawtucket would, as provided in the legislation, expedite permitting, waive all permit fees and provide a 10-year tax stabilization agreement for businesses participating in a micro zone, said Grebien. He called on lawmakers to "partner with us on this important piece of economic development legislation, which will have a potentially transformative impact in the city of Pawtucket."

As detailed in the legislation, the proposed micro zones would enable expedited permitting processes, waivers of some fees, sales and other tax incentives, promotion of manufacturing or other commercial purposes, and development incentives for business and property owners, among others.


What next: itsy, bitsy, teeny, weeny, yellow polkadot zoning?

Our Supreme Court has defined spot zoning as the “special and limited treatment of a small area inconsistent with the treatment accorded to the surrounding property.”

The practice of spot zoning has been described as follows: "Action by a zoning authority which gives to a single lot or a small area privileges which are not extended to other land in the vicinity is in general against sound public policy and obnoxious to the law. It can be justified only when it is done in furtherance of a general plan properly adopted for and designed to serve the best interests of the community as a whole."