Town moving forward on Halliwell, Branch Village projects

Town moving forward on Halliwell, Branch Village projects

Town officials are engaging a consultant to evaluate the future uses of the former Halliwell School property. (Breeze photo by Lauren Clem)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Town officials took steps forward this week on two major projects that could potentially shape the town’s building and planning priorities for years to come.

On Monday, town councilors voted to move forward with an architectural assessment of the former Halliwell Memorial School site. The town will pay $83,569 to the firm Weston & Sampson to evaluate the property and determine its potential uses as a municipal resource.

“Frankly, I’m excited to move forward and begin this process under the direction of the planner to engage Weston & Sampson and start the process to evaluate this site and give us options,” said Town Administrator Gary Ezovski, who recommended the firm.

In August, the town sent out a request for quotations for consultants to evaluate the property. Ezovski noted that two other firms also responded, but their applications focused more on other uses for the site rather than the municipal uses favored by most residents and town officials.

“To start this process, the most important step is to get a consultant engaged,” he said.

The evaluation will build on more than a year of discussion of what to do with the Halliwell property after the former elementary school closed in 2019. Many town officials, including incoming Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski, have expressed public support for turning the site into a community center that includes resources for seniors.

Councilors did not respond to a memo from the North Smithfield Planning Board requesting oversight of the public hearing portion of the project as described in the RFQ for the consultant. As member Jeffrey Porter explained during the meeting, the Planning Board recently discussed having some role in the project until such a time as the council forms a separate committee to oversee it.

“We want to make sure that we step off on the right foot for the project,” he said.

During the same meeting, councilors also voted to move forward with design services for the Branch Village Redevelopment District, a project funded by a $100,000 grant from the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation in February. The town plans to engage BETA Group for $40,000 to begin work on a pre-application to create access to a parcel of land behind Branch Village from Pound Hill Road.

“What we’re looking at here is trying to fill out the marketing profile of what this land is,” said Ezovski.

Though the land is privately owned, Ezovski and other town officials have supported an effort to market it as a potential development property to increase the town’s commercial tax base. Once complete, the engineering services would offer a head start to any company looking to develop the parcel as an office or manufacturing use.

Council approves historic 
preservation ordinance

In an unrelated matter, councilors also voted unanimously on Monday to approve a new program that offers tax incentives for preservation of historic properties. The program, proposed by the North Smithfield Heritage Association and the North Smithfield Historic District Commission earlier this year, is designed to incentivize homeowners to improve their historic properties rather than tear them down. Town officials made several changes to the program since it was first proposed in the spring, ultimately approving a modified version on Monday.

Comments

Do we really need to spend 80+K to know what we all know ? Drop the bulldozer and MOW it DOWN !!!! It is BEYOND SAVING ! STOP SPENDING my tax $$$$$$$$ on things we ALREADY KNOW ! The T/C wants a NEW Police station and the people want a senior center . There is MORE than ENOUGH room for BOTH over there ! WAKE UP people all these people in the town government want to do is MAKE YOU POOR ! It is ONLY going to get worse with the new Town Adm. and Town council ! SPEND SPEND SPEND TAX TAX TAX ! WE are all DOOMED !

I don’t see the value $86k in spending. What could someone tell us about the property we don’t already know. Another example of a waste of taxpayers money. This is why tax increases are out of control.

This is just a precursor of things to come. The people who have been elected to the town council and the new TA will do nothing to curb spending. We will be looking at a new police station and new senior center, mark my words. And if we do it, combine the two at Halliwell, so that our PD is more centralized. Why people voted this crowd in is just mind boggling, with the underhanded way they have operated in the past. Watch the shenanigans going forward. In addition, I cannot imagine what the school budget will look like going forward.

AMEN !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is kind of spending is completely unacceptable. This town needs to focus on streamlining spending and using our tax money wisely. We have too many municipal buildings not being used that could be further consolidated or sold off and now they need to spend this much money to get ideas on this property?! Reign it in north smithfield and think Of the tax payers.

$83,569 to evaluate the property & suggestions for its use? Seriously? This is a waste of a lot of money, I could have done it for free. Bring in the bulldozers, demolish the buildings since they're all termite infested & have been for at least 40 years. The thing that should be built there is a senior center large enough to also rent the space out to groups for events.
There's no reason to build a brand new, multimillion dollar police station, just renovate the present one. Instead of wanting to build new buildings, how about we utilize the buildings that are available & simply renovate them?
My biggest fear is that the new TA & TC will approve anything that means increasing taxes, which the people of this town can't afford much more of. Wake up & please stop frivolous spending!!!