A Hummel Report Investigation
Several business owners in North Kingstown say a recent sewer project - hailed as a catalyst to grow commercial activity along Post Road - is crushing them with massive assessment costs. The owner of a well-known auto body shop is facing a half-million dollar tab because North Kingstown - unlike its surrounding neighbors - is calculating the bill based on square footage of property he says is inaccessible and unusable.
The proposal was aimed at helping businesses in North Kingstown.
And in 2009, voters there approved it, giving the green light to a $10 million bond issue for sewer installation along Post Road - part of a larger project that will eventually include another section of Post Road to the north and The Wickford Business District.
Kilday: ``I thought it would be a good thing for Post Road. Post Road’s been dying, for years and years and years.’’
Gordon Kilday’s family has owned Quonset Auto Body for decades. His father moved to their current location in 2001 when the state took their property by eminent domain in the late 1990s to expand Route 403 into Quonset Point.
The Kildays had to scramble to find land and wound up here on a lot that is only a couple of hundred feet wide, but 2000 feet in from Post Road. The property in the back, which we couldn’t get to, drops off 30-40 feet into a swamp, making it virtually unusable.
Kilday: ``They call them pencil lots. My lot is a half mile long. No, we did not want all the property but it was owned by the famer that owned this land, so we had to buy the whole piece of property, then have it rezoned.’’
And that would come back to haunt Kilday when the town assessed his lot for sewers. In 2014 he received a bill for more than half a million dollars - before even hooking up to the system. That’s because North Kingstown - unlike any of the surrounding communities in Rhode Island - calculated the assessment of commercial property based on total square footage, instead of frontage along Post Road.
Kilday: ``I’m thinking how can they assess me for all of it if I can’t use it all? I can’t even get to it. I figured it was a mistake, and they were going to take the back part off and hopefully they were going to recalculate their square footage for the front and make it more reasonable because they’re running everybody off of Post Road. I mean I don’t think this was designed to help the small business in North Kingstown.’’
And Kilday is not alone.
John Becker moved to North Kingstown three years ago and was looking for property that would generate some income. So he bought these multi-family units just north of Quonset Auto Body. Same kind of lot: 200 feet wide and half a mile deep, for a total of nearly 11 acres of land.
Becker: ``Like many others I thought, well land can’t be a bad thing, but I’m learning it might be, sometimes - land is tricky.’’