211230ind YIR-Narr

Laura Sastic, an assistant page at the Maury Loontjens Memorial Library in Narragansett, returns DVDs to the shelves in the children's section on Aug. 31. As has been the case for the last few years, the progress of a new library hung over the town of Narragansett throughout 2021.

NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The year 2021 saw Narragansett return to much of how life was before COVID-19, with school and sporting events to attend and many businesses reopening their doors and offering outside dining, thanks to a new state law. In-person gatherings such as meetings also took place, and there was plenty to discuss and decide.

Law on rental limits passes — again

The town’s controversial ordinance from last year that limits rental homes to three college students won approval — again — from the Town Council following a marathon seven-hour hearing Aug. 18.

The 3-2 vote was essentially a “do-over” of a council vote that took place in the fall of 2020. Council members Patrick Murray and Susan Cicilline Buonanno voted against the change.

Renters and landlords took the town to court over the measure, saying it wrongly blocked them from speaking against the ordinance last year. Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter subsequently ruled the ordinance was invalid, so the new council started again.

The hearing took place almost a year to the day – Aug. 17, 2020 – that members of the group Narragansett 2100 attended another lengthy hearing leading to the passage of the ordinance. They said they were denied the right to speak.

With the recent meeting held in person at council chambers, proponents and foes of the ordinance change showed up in large numbers.

Proponents of the change complained that single-family home ownership has been degraded over the past several decades. The ordinance will help improve quality of life and attract more families to town, they said.

Opposing the ordinance are landlords, property managers and others who said that so-called quality-of-life issues such as arrests, nuisance reports and orange sticker violations had significantly decreased in the past several years.

Some also argued that the town’s existing ordinance preventing more than four unrelated people from renting a house should be the standard in Narragansett. The ordinance affects new leases and not existing agreements, meaning the true test of its effectiveness will come in 2022.

Town fighting to transform Galilee

Much of the efforts of town officials and a corps of volunteers in 2021 has gone toward plans to redevelop the former Lighthouse Inn property. It was called the Dutch Inn for many years before closing in 2015. Now, it sits vacant and dilapidated along the main thoroughfare to the Block Island Ferry and the Salty Brine State Beach.

The town is one of three entities competing to redevelop the five-acre lot, which is owned by the state. The others are iCell Aqua Inc. and current lessee PRI X. The Department of Environmental Management is considering the bids and was poised to make a decision Dec. 15, but needed more information. A subsequent extension means the parties will have until Jan. 10.

The state and PRI X issued a request for proposals on Sept. 30 and bids came in on Nov. 15. The schedule outlined in the request for proposals calls for a final approval and execution by Jan. 15, 2022. The DEM and PRI X will have the final say on what proposal to accept.

Narragansett’s proposal would turn the parcel into a 75 to 100-room boutique hotel with a restaurant, event hall, gallery and parking. Complementing the new hotel would be a public ferry landing plaza and open-air market directly across the street from the ferry terminal on Great Island Road.

PRI X proposes to demolish most of the existing hotel and maintain the single-level front section which faces Great Island Road. It would be extensively redeveloped with new roof lines, front façade and signage, all in the style of a typical New England fishing village. For phase 2, PRI X would develop the Galilee Inn, a 20 to 40-room boutique hotel.

Quonset Area Aqua Development Inc., in conjunction with iCell Aqua Inc., proposes building a $30 million seafood processing facility and apparatus to purify and recycle water. The land would still offer parking, and a three-story office building is part of the plan.

New library work, fundraising continues

Work on the planned library at the former Belmont Market building took place mostly out of the intense spotlight that followed the project in 2019 and 2020. Last week, Town Council members said Narragansett will not pay more than the $5.8 million voters approved for the project in 2016 after the architect’s fee went up.

Costs associated with building have risen in the four years since voters approved the bond, due to COVID and the rising price of materials across all sectors. That affected the total fee charged by HBM Architects, which is a percentage of the total project amount.

HBM’s fee was initially fixed at $354,280, based on a budget of $3.4 million. The agreement also included a 9% fee in the event of cost increases for the project.

The project budget increased to $5.7 million, meaning HBM’s 9% fee would be $155,520.

However the council unanimously approved an agreement with HBM wherein the firm will shave about $20,000 from its bill, making it $135,520.

The fee structure for increased costs applies if the project’s budget stays below $6 million. If it goes over that, the fee would need to be negotiated.

Council members were adamant that any cost increases to the project over the approved $5.8 million bond would be borne by the library board. Laurie Kelly, head of the Library Board of Trustees, said the board is set on keeping the project cost at $6 million.

In September, the Friends of the Narragansett Library said it had set a $3 million fundraising goal and had raised more than $1.6 million during the pandemic.

Town opens new outdoor skating rink

If the beaches in Narragansett get too packed in the summer, why not try some outdoor ice skating?

It’s now possible, thanks to a new artificial rink the town built over several months at the Parks and Recreation department property on Clarke Road. Officials, residents and business leaders who provided funding for the work celebrated the rink’s opening on May 23.

The rink is built of dozens of pieces of flat, grayish interconnecting “puzzle pieces” that can be added to in the future if funds allow. Each “puzzle piece” costs about $4,000. It’s built atop the former site of the Camp JORI swimming pool.

The rink idea came together pretty quick, and the coronavirus contributed in an indirect way.

Early this year, the Narragansett Chamber of Commerce took unused state “Take it Outside” grant money, about $22,000, to help fund the purchase and donate the rink to the town.

Community members and more than two dozen businesses also raised $50,000 in a fundraising drive over several months.

Discussion of the ice rink had taken place for years. The town used to have a small skating rink.  

(3) comments

John D.

Oh no! Are you mad because you have to pay a bill? Who would have ever thought you would have to pay bills after college? Not a generation that thinks the world should be handed to them! They should be different! The world is gonna eat you alive buddy!

thinkProgress

These gosh dern college students think this is a free country or something. Ever since they built that new URI school recently there has been nonstop students around. It is ridiculous let me tell you. Hopefully the multimillion dollar library will distract some of them kids. Hopefully we can find a way to pay off their student loans though because nobody should be made to pay all that money on their own. We also need to focus on changing Galilee from an industrial area to a more better area. Who thinks Galilee needs more parking, there are too many spots as it is and barely any are filled. Gross.

John D.

It makes me so mad when I see that they say the nuisance and orange stickers have decreased. They've decreased because the orange stickers don't stop anything. Sure, they stop the students from throwing a party at that one house, but they don't stop them from throwing a party at the house next door or the house down the street. I just recently sold my home that's been in my family for 50 yrs because of these students. I inherited the house from my father who passed away 3 yrs ago. I wish I could raise my family in it, but who would want their kids seeing what these students do? The students think that their college experience that lasts a whole 4 yrs of their lives is more important than the people around them just trying to live in their home. The people arguing against the ordinance are people that are rich trying to be richer. The majority of them are from out of state so automatically they don't care what happens in Rhode Island until it effects their wallet. The residents, who most them have lived here since before Narragansett was one big rental property want their town back. Even though I'm moving, I'll support them every step of the way.

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