Relating to Pawtucket, S 0990 allows the city to designate its most valuable real estate as “redevelopment area” and finances (with taxpayer money) the speculative acquisition of the Apex for new construction. But the immediate purpose of S 0990 is to deregulate all taxpayer-backed redevelopment. First, it strikes existing language which limits redevelopment to “blighted and substandard” areas. Second, it strikes existing language that explicitly prohibits redevelopment funds from financing new construction. Lastly, it grants "redevelopment agencies" the power to hand over their resources to private parties, including gifting large sums of money to private individuals to buy land.
The rewrite opens the door for private, well connected interests to seize private property (at taxpayer expense) through eminent domain wherever they like, and not merely in blighted and substandard areas. The bill discourages privately financed development and dumps the investment risk on the taxpayer, yet safeguards private profits.
What would stop communities like Newport and Bristol from designating their entire municipalities a “redevelopment area,” in which all construction and even land purchases are financed (but not voted on) by the taxpayers?
It is true that Rhode Island largely benefits from redevelopment with respect to rehabilitation and revitalization of existing buildings. Redevelopment funds are supposed to be used for redeveloping blighted neighborhoods, not subsidizing new construction on valuable real estate. It is hard to imagine how the PawSox owners and sponsoring legislators have the audacity to propose these bills at a time when public schools across the state are literally crumbling. We call on all our state senators to oppose both bills. As a state, we cannot allow our needed redevelopment resources to be reduced to yet another slush fund.