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Wickford Art Assoc. Looks To Expand, Wants To Buy Town Land

The nonprofit wants to replace its Beach Street building with a much larger one, but it may only be possible if the town allows it to buy the land it already occupies.

A drawing of the proposed Wickford Art Association expansion. Credit: Wickford Art Association
A drawing of the proposed Wickford Art Association expansion. Credit: Wickford Art Association

Representatives from the Wickford Art Association laid out a plan for a significant change to its 36 Beach Street home at a Town Council meeting last week, suggesting that council members consider allowing the association to take title of the land on which its building sits. 

The association is 24 years into a 50-year lease with the town on the property.

"It's run out of space to adequately address the community's needs," said Don Gregory, lawyer for the association. 

"We also need more space for our shows," said board president Judith Anderson. "We had 16 shows last year and at several of them, people were standing elbow to elbow and flowing out the doors for the opening reception."

"There's so much energy and so much drive, we need to take it to the next level," said association director Sarah Tallarico. "We're saying help us resolve this so we can move forward."

Under the proposal, the building would grow to 6,300 square feet from its current 1,300 square feet. The renovation would include multi-purpose room additions on both the first and second floors, and a rooftop terrace.

Gregory said the proposed expansion could only take place with a variety of funding sources, including the possibility of commercial financing. 

However, commercial financing, Gregory said, is "virtually impossible to obtain if you don't own the property. We want to see if it's possible for the art association to take title of that land." 

Town Council President Liz Dolan suggested a loan could be obtained with an extension of the town's lease, but Gregory argued otherwise. 

"Commercial financing on leased land is almost nonexistent," he said.

Any move to change ownership of the land would require approval by voters in a referendum, according to town lawyer James Reilly. While it's possible there will be a referendum on sewer expansion this spring, at the latest, there would be a referendum next November.


I'm Tired of the Games December 03, 2013 at 12:26 PM
Building a larger building in a flood zone is just plain crazy! With global warming resulting in sea levels rising plus storm surge, why would you want a long term investment there? Previous posters have mentioned Post Road and may have a point. The WAA seems just to want a free ride on this one.
CompassCarrier December 03, 2013 at 01:21 PM
NK: I don't think anyone is saying the arts aren't a good cause...but giving away some of the more valuable land in town in crazy. Also: what you are calling "a beautiful renovation" is being built in a flood plain. On the other hand, you could help them buy another property with a hefty donation!
Barbara December 03, 2013 at 04:47 PM
Where are all the people who were huffing and puffing with self-righteous indignation regarding other structures in town that interfere(d) with the water views of others? And the indignation over proper preservation of the Beechwood House? How about those folks who go to the Historic Committee meetings and complain that their neighbors in the historic district aren't using the proper clapboards, shingles, etc. specific to the time their properties were constructed when they need to renovate? I am in favor of expansion of the WAA...just wish they would use an existing vacant, larger property already in town.
underwhelmed December 04, 2013 at 08:22 AM
@ J. Anderson board president. I have a few questions some of which have been asked by others. The best interests of all taxpayers in NK must be addressed. 1) How many people attended the 16 shows and as you have stated some were overcrowded, how many were overcrowded (head count) and when were they held (which months)? 2) I am also interested (as CC asked) to know the particulars of the current lease. It is not readily available on the town website, which makes me curious as a taxpayer. The transparency issue comes to mind, you are in favor of transparency, correct? 3) What would be the objection by the WAA to artistically improving one of the many Post Rd sites that are readily available as well as geographically large enough to accommodate the overcrowded conditions you state above. It would seem that parking would be one of the major issues in the constricted and small beach area or am I missing something regarding the texture of this request? 4) How many active members belong to the WAA? I thank you for your response to the above questions, should you choose to do so.
Elizabeth McNamara (Editor) December 04, 2013 at 08:30 AM
underwhelmed and Compass Carrier, I'm on the case with regard to the lease. Hope to have that info today.
CompassCarrier December 04, 2013 at 08:55 AM
Thanks Elizabeth! I think it would be interesting to interview Judith Anderson for a Patch article.
Many of these questions have come up and been addressed and are still being addressed. We have reasons to be moving in this direction and good things are really happening. There seems to be a lot of judgement in some of these comments that are not rooted in facts. There is no reason to fear... there is a check and balance system in place with the Town... Have a little faith, we have the best interest of the community in mind.
CompassCarrier December 05, 2013 at 07:42 AM
Sarah, thank you for posting a response. Can you tell us what Association currently pays the town annually to lease the property? When you say "there is a check and balance system in place with the Town" what does that mean--that is a pretty broad statement--and one which also seems to indicate that you have already made a deal with the Town.
CompassCarrier December 05, 2013 at 07:46 AM
Also: you state that "We have reasons to be moving in this direction". What are they specifically? And frankly, the "judgement" you see in these posts that are "not rooted in facts" are questions from the taxpayers of this town. We have the right to ask as many questions as we like... (also the point that you are building in a flood plain: FACT. The point that that is some of the more valuable waterfront property in town: FACT. The point that there is too little parking for the building you are proposing: FACT).
CompassCarrier December 05, 2013 at 08:35 AM
Sarah: One more point....it doesn't appear as though you live in this town. I think we could both agree that the taxpayers of this town have more "skin in the game" than you. So when you state that you "have the best interest of the community in mind"......I'd have to reply that that statement doesn't hold a lot of weight coming from someone who doesn't have to pay taxes in this town.
underwhelmed December 05, 2013 at 09:12 AM
@EM ty for digging. It seems that pounding on the desk at the town clerk's office maybe the only way to obtain this doc. @WAA Director "have a little faith..." sounds like the typical refrain of a politician who does not want you to ask questions or to find out the real intent of the action! My faith is this, the WAA and the Town come clean with all the docs and the FULL motivation and plan for this preposterous request. When you denigrate the questions of the taxpayers you are immediately suspect! WE pay the bills, WE have a right to get answers as to the WHY and WHEREFORES especially when the hard earned dollars of the taxpayers are being put at risk. Why don't you and the other members of the WAA put up your money and purchase and/or build another clubhouse in an area that would accommodate your purported needs. My questions to your board president still stand, would you care to take a crack at providing some answers?
CompassCarrier December 05, 2013 at 09:25 AM
In addition, Anderson states " "We also need more space for our shows," said board president Judith Anderson. "We had 16 shows last year and at several of them, people were standing elbow to elbow and flowing out the doors for the opening reception." Exactly how many occupants has the Fire Department certified this building to hold? If people are "elbow to elbow" sounds like you must be going over the limit......
MeanE December 05, 2013 at 09:32 AM
"Have a little faith, we have the best interest of the community in mind." - What is the percentage of people in the NK community that you have the best interest in? These shows that are overcrowded, are they in months where the open air could be used? How many unique visitors attend these shows, or are they the same limited number of members each time? How many people that attend your shows are NK residents? How many of your juried members live in NK? We are talking about NK land here, not private land. If WAA were on private land, more power to you, but you will have a hard time convincing me that the WAA is servicing a large part of the NK community.
CONCERNED AND OVER TAXED CITIZEN December 05, 2013 at 10:50 AM
One of the main reasons for not allowing this expansion is being overlooked. As I have said in my prior comments, this town site does have a parking problem at times now. Going back to the Beechwood House issue, the plan was for a private developer to remodel the Beechwood in place. There was a large public outcry at the time for justifiable reasons. Number one, it would revert into private hands. Number two, it would be public land that would never be able to be used again. The main object of removal of the building from the site was to allow additional open space and improve the area to its park like environment. A lot of effort went into arriving at the Beechwood removal plan. Now we would be moving backwards in opposition to our original goal. Our judgements are ROOTED in FACT. There WILL BE CONGESTION on the site. There WILL BE a PARKING PROBLEM. There WILL BE LESS OPEN SPACE. There WILL NOT BE the same VIEW from the Senior Center. These FACTS WILL OCCUR if this expansion takes place. Best interest of the Community, REALLY? WAA is a private entity. How you consider this plan to be in the BEST INTEREST of the Community is beyond me. Having this area remain open and fully accessible to the public is in the BEST INTEREST of the taxpaying citizens of this town. This area is in a flood plain. FIRM map #44009C0104J. It would seem that all of these negative issues would encourage the WAA to search for a more suitable site elsewhere in town. There are many available.
underwhelmed December 06, 2013 at 07:58 AM
Elizabeth--how is the search going for the lease? Seems to be a doc that is, um, shall we say undercover? @the WAA officials. Both of you are conspicuously incommunicado in regards to the questions I asked--is there a problem? Attorney Gregory would you care to chime in? Or has the veil of silence been thrown over this firestorm?
MeanE December 06, 2013 at 08:38 AM
@underwhlemed - You know how it goes here on the Patch. These officials come in for a "hit & run", they almost never respond to the difficult questions that are asked.
Elizabeth McNamara (Editor) December 06, 2013 at 08:40 AM
underwhelmed, I've seen the lease! WAA pays $1 a year for 50 years – until 2038. I'm working on a story for Monday. But thanks for continuing to hold my feet to the fire.
MeanE December 06, 2013 at 08:49 AM
@ Elizabeth - looking forward to your story on Monday. No wonder they feel they can just ask for this land. ONE DOLLAR!
Jeff Crawford December 06, 2013 at 08:57 AM
Now that we know they have had the deal of the century, let's find another local organization who would appreciate such a deal. Possibly a local boy scout troop.
MeanE December 06, 2013 at 09:04 AM
http://www.wickfordart.org/membership/meetings/2013/Oct2013SpecialMembersMeeting.pdf They seem to be very confident that they will make this happen. Special Members’ Meeting  Wednesday October 9th, 7pm                                                    WAA President  Judith Anderson, as well as the Executive Building  Committee, would like to share with you the schematic design plans for  a  building  expansion  of  our  gallery  that  would  have  classrooms, more  gallery  space  and much more.  The  meeting  will  take  place  tomorrow,  Wednesday, October 9th at 7pm.  We will go over the conceptual designs  with you and answer your questions.      The  gallery  has  long  needed  more  space  for  classes,  offices  and  to  be  able to house more exhibits.  We have committee members from among  the Association who are working with the architect to design the space  to maximize its potential.      We look forward to sharing these ideas with you as we move forward on  the project.   36 Beach Street. North Kingstown, RI 02852 
underwhelmed December 06, 2013 at 09:09 AM
@ Elizabeth--no ty from u is necessary I ty for your great work. I had been told that that was the figure. Now that the cat is out of the bag it certainly explains the silence/have faith aspect of the WAA comments. If our town officials even attempt to make any deal with the WAA it should be a new lease with rent that is in keeping with the going market rate. This is another example of the underhanded behind closed doors deals that are done between our elected officials and special "friends"/interests. Can't wait for the Monday follow-up, especially the TC comments. Thanks again E!! Kudos to you.
Jeff Crawford December 06, 2013 at 09:25 AM
I guess a good question to get answer on is how much money does the association take in annually and since they are now seeking a very discounted transaction from the people of the Town, maybe they should be compensating the Town at a fair market rate till the end of their lease, say $100/month for next 24 years.
CompassCarrier December 06, 2013 at 09:55 AM
ONE DOLLAR A YEAR????? Unbelievable. Truly unbelievable. And now they want the property.......greedy greedy greedy.
MeanE December 06, 2013 at 10:09 AM
WAA Tax Form from 2012: https://bulk.resource.org/irs.gov/eo/2013_06_EO/23-7061680_990EZ_201212.pdf
CompassCarrier December 06, 2013 at 11:20 AM
MeanE: Wow! Terrific find! I like this part of the tax return: "The Value of Services or Facilities furnished by a Governmental Unit to the Organization without Charge: 0 (zero)." I guess that's why we charge them ONE DOLLAR A YEAR...so they can get around this. They have a couple of hundred grand in their coffers and they are paying one dollar a year. Sweet deal. The best thing to do is to ask your friends to read this Patch article and the comments (especially the one from SARAH TALLARICO--one of their "Directors"). This is how your Town Council and Town Manager are spending your money. Call the Town Manager and your Town Council members and tell them you won't stand for this type of deal!
underwhelmed December 06, 2013 at 12:01 PM
@Sarah Tallarico--I guess having faith is exactly as I stated above. You and Anderson should resign for your duplicitous statements! You opened the can of worms and we the taxpayers will close it!
underwhelmed December 06, 2013 at 12:04 PM
@MeanE--Kudos To all taxpayers in NK stop sitting on your hands and letting this type of ripoff gone on. Its your tax money being thrown away by our elected officials to their friends and special interests. WAKE UP this has got to stop on all levels.
MeanE December 06, 2013 at 12:24 PM
@underwhelmed -- Kudos to Elizabeth and the Patch for making the taxpayers aware and allowing for discussions like this.
CompassCarrier December 06, 2013 at 03:55 PM
I can hear the crickets chirping.......What I don't "hear" is a response from Judith Anderson from the WAA Board of Directors. I also don't "hear" any response from our Town Council members. (Hey! Kevin Malonley! You wanted to be a representative of the people when you ran for your TC seat....where do you stand on this cozy arrangement with the WAA???).
CompassCarrier December 08, 2013 at 01:40 PM
And all is still quiet from the Wickford Art Association........Maybe they are having an emergency meeting about the ONE DOLLAR A YEAR LEASE. They are going to try and appease the annoying, non-art-loving, low-brow taxpayers by offering to up their annual lease payment to.....TWO DOLLARS A YEAR!!!!

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