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Council Monday: RIAC City Payments, Barton Farm


[CREDIT: Rob Borklowski] Warwick City Hall
WARWICK, RI — Monday, the Warwick City Council continues work on a resolution preserving Barton Farm’s 65.88 acres at 1351 Centerville Road as a public trust and considers a support of Speaker Joseph Shekarchi’s bill formalizing a $500,000 municipal service payment from the RI Airport Corporation (RIAC) for T.F. Green Airport.

The Council’s committee meetings in Council Chambers, 3275 Post Rd, Warwick, RI, begin at 5 p.m., streamed live to the city’s YouTube page. The committee meetings end with a move into the regular meeting at 7 p.m. Documents and a copy of the Warwick City Council April 22 meeting’s full agenda are available on the City’s website.

Barton Farm Public Trust

The Barton Farm resolution introduced in March, would dedicate Barton Farm (Assessor’s Plat 251, Lot 179) to be held in the public trust, pursuant to R.I.G.L. § 45-36.1-1 et 18 seq., for the preservation, regeneration and restoration of the natural environment of the City of 19 Warwick.

According to the 2013 Warwick Comprehensive Plan, Barton Farm, a former dairy farm is being utilized as open space and is home to Westbay Farm, a community farm providing fresh produce to low-income families. The property was acquired by the City in 2001 for $1.56 million, according to a Cranston Herald report.

Westbay Community Action operates the 3-acre farm on the parcel, growing 20,000 pounds of organic vegetables each year. Its largest crops are lettuce, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, and squash, according to the organization’s website. The farm provides the fresh produce to the Westbay Marketplace food pantry, expanding nutritious choices for people in Warwick, West Warwick, and East Greenwich. Farm produce is also available to the public at Westbay Community Action’s Summer Farm Stands.

While the resolution is up for first passage, it may be continued for amendments, said Warwick City Councillor Jeremy Rix.

“It’s important to make sure that everything is in order before taking a permanent action, and, I think that there may be better alternatives to accomplish the objective of preserving Barton Farm that would avoid some of the potential side effects of the current proposal. I wouldn’t want well-intentioned haste to accidentally result in, for example, the possibility of an “Open Space” designation preventing the farm from being able to put up permanent farm-related structures, like a greenhouse,” Rix said.

“We’ve seen situations in Warwick where, decades later, well-intentioned land restrictions wind up having unintended consequences that undermine the original intended use. It may seem like the process takes a lot of extra time this way, but that’s nothing compared to what it’d look like to try to fix an issue that may pop up later. Better to measure twice and cut once”

RIAC City Payments: $500K for Municipal Services

According to Shekarchi, For many years, the Rhode Island Airport Corporation has paid $500,000 to the City of Warwick on an annual basis to offset the cost of services the city provides to the airport such as fire, police and other emergency services, but on the contingent approval of the Fedearal Aviation Administration (FAA). This year, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) disapproved the payment by the Airport Corporation.

The development followed a lengthy, and contentious series of disagreements and negotiations between Mayor Frank Picozzi and the RIAC, recounted in detail in this report.

“The City of Warwick relies on this annual funding to defray taxpayer expenses for these services, and I want to make certain the state continues this commitment,” said  Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick).  “It is disappointing that the FAA will no longer allow the Airport Corporation to make these payments, but I introduced this legislation to ensure that the state steps in and makes this vital payment.”

Speaker’s Shekarchi’s bill (2024 H-8181) is expected to be heard by the House Finance Committee at a hearing on Tuesday, April 23.

It is co-sponsored by the other members of the Warwick delegation: Representatives Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), Camille Vella-Wilkinson (D-Dist. 21, Warwick), David A. Bennett (D-Dist. 20, Warwick, Cranston), Evan P. Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick, East Greenwich) and Joseph M. McNamara (D-Dist. 19, Warwick, Cranston).

Rob Borkowski
Author: Rob Borkowski

Rob has worked as reporter and editor for several publications, including The Kent County Daily Times and Coventry Courier, before working for Gatehouse in MA then moving home with Patch Media. Now he's publisher and editor of Contact him at [email protected] with tips, press releases, advertising inquiries, and concerns.

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