On Thursday, May 20th, the City Council voted to give final passage of the Tax Stabilization Investment Act. The ordinance now goes to the Mayor to be signed into law.
The Tax Stabilization Investment Act reforms the City’s Tax Stabilization Agreement (TSA) process by standardizing the tax stabilization benefit for all businesses who wish to take advantage of the development incentive. Key points of the legislation include:
Establishing standard tax stabilization periods based on the size and scope of the project, ranging from five-year stabilizations for $3million and under projects to twenty-year stabilizations for projects over $50million.
Streamlining and clarifying the citywide review and vetting process through applicable City departments including Inspections and Standards, Public Works, Planning and Development, the Tax Collector, Licensing, and the City Solicitor prior to review by the City Council.
Specifying area standard wages for construction workers on projects over $10 million.
Creating a commitment to ensure that post-construction jobs earn a wage twice the United States Department of Health and Human Services Federal Poverty Guideline for a family of three divided into an hourly wage at forty hours/week, fifty-two weeks/year on projects over $10 million.
Ensuring that the full taxes on the property become due should the property be transferred to a tax-exempt entity.
Specifying a “clawback” procedure that allows for the Council and the City to reconsider an existing agreement in cases of non-compliance.
Additionally, the ordinance maintains current TSA standards on minority- and women-owned business enterprises, First Source hiring, obligations to the Affordable Housing Trust, payments to the City of Providence Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, and apprenticeship utilization.
“With the passage of this Act, the City is making an investment in neighborhood residents when we support development via tax stabilizations. For too long, high-level publicly subsidized development, while increasing the tax base, has not resulted in opportunities for city residents to gain meaningful employment that has the capacity to break cycles of intergenerational poverty. This Act ensures everyone can share in the opportunities in our city,” said Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), a co-sponsor of the legislation who led the reforms effort.
“The TSA program has resulted in millions of dollars of investment in downtown Providence. A recent report to the Finance Committee projected that the city’s current tax stabilized properties will generate an additional $454 million in revenue over the next two decades. The TSA Investment Act is an evolution of this economic development tool that continues to incentivize major projects downtown and throughout the city, creating jobs, and ultimately increasing our tax base. I’m grateful to my colleagues on the City Council who have the foresight to adapt our approach to supporting growth in Providence,” stated Council President John J. Igliozzi.
“The Act levels the playing field for businesses who follow the law, treat their employees fairly, and want to invest in the future in partnership with the City. Additionally, the ordinance creates crystal clear procedures for developers of any size to know exactly what to expect when they seek support from the City for their projects. This level of clarity around expectations and timeline will support further development, while also standardizing the community benefits provided through the tax stabilization process,” said Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11).
“The ordinance is a critical first step in updating the laws related to contracting with the City of Providence. TSAs are just one piece of the puzzle in how the City supports and promotes small businesses. I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues to review and update as necessary other key related ordinances, including the First Source Hiring Ordinance and the MBE/WBE ordinances,” said Finance Committee Chairwoman Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5).
The final passage of this ordinance is the culmination of several years of effort by the Council working in collaboration with stakeholders to revamp the tax stabilization process. The resulting Tax Stabilization Investment Act supports and incentivizes development, while also providing consistent and tangible benefits for local residents every time a stabilization agreement is approved by the City Council.
At last Thursday’s City Council meeting, the Council passed a resolution endorsing and urging the passage by the General Assembly of House Resolution 2021 H-5250, creating a special legislative commission to study ensuring racial equity and optimizing health and safety laws affecting marginalized individuals. This commission would specifically work to examine sex workers in the State of Rhode Island and their access to vital health, safety and legal resources.
The Council’s resolution was introduced by Councilwoman Kat Kerwin (Ward 12) and co-sponsored by Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13) and Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1).
“I am proud to support COYOTE RI and all the advocates who are working tirelessly to pass good policy that would provide our State with information on the impacts of the sex industry. The reality is, legalized or not, sex work continues to exist in Rhode Island and without regulation and research, people who engage in sex work, particularly women, are left without a safe network to report assaults or other issues that may arise from the job. I hope the State will consider passing this bill with the full support of the Providence City Council,” stated Councilwoman Kat Kerwin (Ward 12).
In a Rhode Island sex work study conducted by COYOTE RI and Brown University, 77 percent of respondents reported they had never tried reporting a crime while working in the sex industry and, of this group, 27 percent did not report because they did not think the police would do anything, while 32 percent did not report because they did not want to draw attention to themselves. For workers that did file a report, 4 percent were arrested while trying to report a crime, and 26 percent reported being threatened by the police when trying to file a report.
“We need to re-examine how laws around commercial sex are harming the people they are supposed to protect. Criminalization creates the perfect playground for bad actors and police to prey on sex workers with impunity,” added Bella Robinson of COYOTE RI.
An analysis of 134 studies spanning 30 years found that sex workers in decriminalized contexts were less likely to experience physical or sexual violence from clients and were less likely to contract HIV or sexually transmitted infections. The analysis additionally found that repressive policing of sex workers, their clients, and/or sex work venues disrupted sex workers’ work environments, support networks, safety and risk reduction strategies, and access to health services and justice.
On January 29, 2021, Rhode Island State Representatives Anastasia Williams, Edith Ajello, Camille Vella-Wilkinson, Karen Alzate, Brianna Henries, and David Morales introduced HB 5250 to create a special legislative commission to study ensuring racial equity and optimizing health and safety laws affecting marginalized individuals.
Copies of the Council’s resolution in support of HB 5250 will be sent to the Providence delegation in the Rhode Island House and Senate and the Honorable Speaker of the House.
At last night’s City Council meeting, Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) proposed a change to the Providence Code of Ordinances which would require a building official to provide written notice to their City Council representative upon the issuance of a demolition permit. This ordinance was co-sponsored by Council President John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7), Council President Pro Tempore Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8), Councilwoman Kat Kerwin (Ward 12), Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), and Councilor David Salvatore (Ward 14).
“Recently, a beloved building in the Fox Point neighborhood was demolished, to the surprise of myself and the local community. Not only was this demolition project an inconvenience to residents of the area, it also was at the location of the former Duck & Bunny; a landmark of the Fox Point neighborhood,” stated Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1).
Under current City law, building officials are not required to notify the City Council or the local neighborhood when a demolition permit has been issued. The proposal would require that written notice be given to the Council representative. This will allow for proper communication to be made between various City Departments, and ensure that residents and businesses surrounding the demolition site are made aware of the upcoming operations in their neighborhood.
“As a City, we work best when communication is open and reliable. As a City Councilman, I know I can better serve my constituents when I am aware of all developments in our Ward. Residents of any neighborhood deserve to know about major plans for construction or demolition which could affect their property, quality of life, safety or the integrity of our neighborhood. Moving forward, I hope this ordinance will encourage an open line of communication between building officials, City operations and residents,” added Councilman Goncalves.
The ordinance has been referred to the Committee on Ordinances for further review.
The facility will be a new state-of-the-art school for the City of Providence,
and will be a significant investment in the Broad Street corridor.
Tonight, the Council’s Committee on Ordinances chaired by Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) approved a zoning change to the former St. Joseph’s Hospital. The property is currently owned by Paolino Properties, and it will be donated to the City of Providence. The building will be transformed into a state-of-the-art school as part of the City’s $300 million rehabilitation and reconstruction of the City’s school infrastructure. The new school will span across seven acres at 21 Peace Street, and the development is expected to become an economic catalyst for the South Providence neighborhood.
“First and foremost, I want to express my thanks to former Mayor Paolino for his generous donation to the City of Providence. This project will be a significant economic stimulus for the Broad Street corridor, and this is a great collaboration between the community and the petitioner. I want to also commend my colleague, Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris, for her dedication and advocacy in making sure that this project was done right and has the best interest of the neighborhood and our students in mind. As we work to turn our 20th-century schools into 21st-century places of learning, we must ensure that our students are top of mind. We can use this property as a template for what a 21st-century school can become. With this kind of neighborhood activation – the possibilities are endless for new development,” stated Chairwoman of the Committee on Ordinances and Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan.
After a public meeting in January of this year, and after several committee meetings where neighbors raised concerns regarding how the building will be used, the City and the petitioner worked to create changes to the original plan. The changes address those concerns and codify uses for the property. The property will be zoned to accommodate housing, educational facilities, office spaces, or recreational facilities. Former Mayor Paolino is donating the East Building, the chapel, and parking lot to the City of Providence, and the value of his generous donation is estimated to be approximately $7 million.
Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11) and a member of the Committee on Ordinances shared, “I am thankful to former Mayor Paolino and Paolino Properties for listening to the concerns of my community. For too long, South Providence residents have not had a seat at the table when it came to redevelopment and other important building initiatives in our neighborhood. With the support of Majority Leader Ryan and my colleagues on the Committee on Ordinances, we made sure that we addressed the residents’ concerns, and I thank all those who participated in this process. There is no doubt that we need this space to provide an amazing new school for South Providence residents. I am pleased that the commitment to the building’s uses alleviates much of my neighbors’ concerns expressed over the past several months. I look forward to seeing the building in use and to what the future holds for our neighborhood.”
The 8-story building is located in South Providence and will become a state-of-the-art dual-language school for students in pre-K through 8th grade. The property reconstruction is scheduled for completion in time for the start of the 2024-2025 school year. The zoning change will be sent to the full City Council for vote and passage.
“Every Providence student deserves a high-quality education in a modern, safe school building, and today’s vote brings us one step closer to making that goal a reality,” said Harrison Peters, superintendent of Providence Public Schools. “I appreciate the City Council’s commitment to working in partnership with the community as we move forward with this exciting project and want to again thank former Mayor Joseph Paolino for his generous donation.”
The estimated cost for the transformation of St. Joseph’s Hospital is estimated at around $75 million and will be funded through bonding initiatives previously approved by the Providence City Council. The first being a $160 million bond approved in 2018 and the second approved in 2020. Both bonds were voted and approved by the residents of Providence.
At tonight’s City Council meeting, Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1) proposed a resolution supporting Rhode Island House Bills 2021 H-5674, H-6074, H-5595, and Senate Bills 2021 S-0219, S-0468, and S-0540, known collectively as the Rescue Rhode Island Act. This resolution was co-sponsored by Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilman Pedro Espinal (Ward 10), Councilman Michael Correia (Ward 6), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3), Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Councilman John J. Igliozzi Esq., Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), and Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8).
“We urge our elected representatives in the Rhode Island General Assembly and Senate to support and pass the Rescue Rhode Island Act. This initiative takes bold action to address a myriad of issues facing our State, from housing insecurity to sustainable food systems and climate justice. ” stated Councilman John Goncalves.
The Rescue, Rhode Island Act focuses on three main areas of concern. The first concern is the expansion of green and affordable housing construction. The Rescue, Rhode Island Act would allocate funding towards the construction of high quality, energy-efficient, affordable housing through the Housing Jobs Construction Program, which would also provide job training programs in energy-efficient construction and solar panel installation.
The second focus is the support of locally sourced food production. The legislation would assist in developing a reliable food production system in the State of Rhode Island.
“The Rescue Rhode Island Act takes progressive steps to move Rhode Island into a new era of green jobs, sustainable, affordable living, and a return to embracing local food systems. We have the technology, and we have the ability to make our State’s practices more environmentally friendly, so it is time for us to take the necessary steps in government to allow these exciting changes to happen,” added Councilman Goncalves.
Finally, the Rescue Rhode Island Act’s third focus is the creation of Green Justice Zones in Washington Park and the South Side of Providence. These Green Justice Zones would receive funding for projects such as the replacement of lead pipes. Within Green Justice Zones, polluting facilities would be more strictly regulated, and new polluting facilities would not be allowed to move into the area. Washington Park and the South Side of Providence are regions of the City that have been significantly impacted by air, water, and soil pollution. The outcomes of this pollution include disproportionate rates of childhood asthma and increased risks of environmental hazards.
“Changes must be made to protect the residents and the Washington Park and South Side neighborhoods’ ecosystem. The ongoing pollution only deepens the inequities in health and economic outcomes in the City of Providence. It is time that we put Rhode Islanders first and make meaningful change to improve the future of our State, but also to improve the everyday lives of those residing in areas that are prone to excessive, harmful pollution,” added Councilman Pedro Espinal.
The resolution has been sent to the Special Committee on State and Legislative Affairs.
Tonight, Councilman Pedro Espinal (Ward 10) introduced a resolution, which was passed, calling for more environmental controls and compliance in the Port of Providence after last week’s fire. The resolution is co-sponsored by Council President Sabina Matos (Ward 15), Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5), Deputy Majority Leader Mary Kay Harris (Ward 11), Senior Deputy Majority Leader Nicholas J. Narducci Jr. (Ward 4), Councilman John Goncalves (Ward 1), Councilwoman Helen Anthony (Ward 2), Councilman Michael Correia (Ward 6), Councilor Rachel Miller (Ward 13), Councilman John J. Igliozzi Esq. (Ward 7), Councilwoman Carmen Castillo (Ward 9), Councilor David Salvatore (Ward 14), Councilwoman Nirva LaFortune (Ward 3) and Councilman James Taylor (Ward 8).
“After the fire at the scrap yard on Allen’s Avenue last week, it has become even more pressing that we need to have better environmental controls and compliance by the businesses who are working in the Port of Providence. Last year, I introduced and passed an Ordinance to protect the Port and other areas of the City from becoming a wasteland. Yet, these existing businesses continue to pollute our neighborhoods and potentially our waterways. I want these businesses to do better, be safer, and to transition as best they can to cleaner and safer practices,” stated Councilman Pedro Espinal.
The Port of Providence and Allens Avenue neighborhoods have the highest asthma rates in the state and are ranked ninth in the Country. According to the Rhode Island Department of Health, these neighborhoods have some of the highest emergency department visits among children on Medicaid with asthma in the City of Providence.
“One of the greatest crises that we are facing as a society is climate change, and the damage that is being done to the environment by businesses like scrap yards and other ‘dirty’ businesses. As a city and state, we want businesses to operate and flourish here, but we can’t have that at the expense of our residents and our natural environment. I share my colleague’s concerns and hope that we can move to more environmentally friendly business practices in the Port,” shared Councilman John Goncalves.
Through this resolution, the Council is calling on the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, who is tasked with ensuring compliance with State and Federal environmental regulations at the Port, to provide them a copy of all Notices of Violation issued to businesses and property owners located in the Port of Providence for the past ten years.
“Thankfully, last week’s incident did not result in any injuries or damages, and it should serve as a wake-up call to the entire City. The scrap yards and other businesses located around the Port can cause significant negative environmental and health impacts on the community, which is why my colleagues and I call for better oversight of the businesses around the Port. It is only a matter of time before the surrounding communities are put in jeopardy due to a lack of environmental compliance,” continued Councilman Espinal.
Copies of the resolution will be sent to Mayor Jorge O. Elorza, Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha, Director Janet Coit of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, and the members of the Providence Delegation at the Rhode Island General Assembly.