By TRACEY O'NEILL
Special to the Standard
NORTH KINGSTOWN– Monday night’s regular meeting of the North Kingstown Town Council began in joint work session with the Planning Commission.
They tackled economic development issues, focusing on the town’s vision for the future and the revitalization of the Post Road corridor. At the heart of the discussion were the issues of multi-level, mixed-use development and the possible integration of big-box stores into development plans.
Planning director Jonathan J. Reiner presented an overview of the benefits to the town’s moving forward with a plan that includes assimilation of both.
He noted the evolution of the times and the present harsh economic climate that North Kingstown and surrounding communities are experiencing.
“If we allow box stores, Route 2 is the most likely area that will receive them.”
Mixed-use development allows for a combination of residential, business, professional and retail. Coupled with an addition of two-story or multi-level buildings, the area would be more likely to become a positive force in long-term viability for the town.
“The [vision] developed through the comprehensive plan is to create a sense of place,” said Reiner, who predicted such a zone would produce income for the town.
The addition of sewer lines along the Post Road corridor was heralded by members of both the council and planning commission. Town Manager Michael Embury was supportive of the multi-level, mixed-level revitalization. “One of the big issues is that we’ve never had sewers on Post Road. It has limited the types of development that would go in there.”
Town Council member Charles Brennan, a proponent of the addition of box stores in the Post Road area, said “Allowing the big-box stores is the way to go. If another town gets [it], we don’t. We don’t get the money and we don’t get the jobs.”
Meanwhile, in town manager reports, Embury addressed the continuing issue with the town’s firefighters. In clarifying information for the council, Embury noted that the ruling by Judge Brian J. Stern, in May, when deciding the fate of the recently-announced 56-hour schedule, only served to strike down the ordinance itself.
“The judge’s decision did not invalidate the 56-hour work week,” said Embury. “It invalidated the ordinance. The union has walked away from the table and has filed for arbitration for 2012-2013.” He said the 56-hour work week is “still in effect.”
Embury went on to explain that despite reports that the firefighters were being paid less, they had not lost the benefit of the 10-percent increase in their base salaries. “They are not hourly employees,” he said. “It does have an adverse effect on their overtime rate.”
In turn, council member Charles Stamm suggested that the town pursue the possibility of creating a committee to explore moving to a volunteer fire department or a mixed department. No members of the department or union were present to respond.
In other business, the school committee was meeting in work session while several items needing their attention were brought before the town council.
The fate of a potential lease agreement between the Greene School and the school committee regarding renting space in the vacant Davisville Elementary School building was tabled.
Discussion of a $250,000 carpet installation project at Quidnessett Elementary School and a $1.8 million improvement project slated for Wickford Elementary School was also delayed.
“Time is of the essence for these projects heading into July,” said Elizabeth Dolan, council president. “If we have to meet in special session, we will.”
The next town council meeting is set for July 16.