Status of townowned properties
It should be noted that a minor correction is needed in last week's paper regarding the properties the town has taken ownership of in the last year and a half. The properties under discussion for possible sale were those that the town has taken fi- nal possession of through a process called "foreclosure on the right of redemption." What that means is that the town has finalized the paperwork on those properties that the town has taken because the taxes on them have not been paid.
In Rhode Island, when a municipality takes a piece of property in lieu of taxes it has to wait a year before it can take final ownership of that property. In order to do that there has to be a legal notice in the papers and if an individual has a legal interest in that property, they can come forward and pay the back taxes and thereby redeem it and return it to the tax rolls.
If no one comes forward in that time period then the town has to go to court and get a judge to rule that the town can then take rightful ownership of that property.
Prior to this recent legal activity, the town has not foreclosed on tax lien properties since 1932.
There have been approximately 80 some odd parcels that the town has moved on to take final possession of the property. In some cases the owners, for one reason or another, were unaware of the tax problem and they have stepped forward and paid the back taxes and these properties have now returned to the tax roles. In one particular case, an individual was unaware of the property that he owned and came in and paid $80,000 in back taxes on the parcel in question.
On the properties the town owns outright, the suggestion has been made that each parcel be looked at individually and if the individual departments within the town, such as recreation or planning, do not project a future use for this property then the town would sell it to the abutting neighbors with restrictive covenants and return it to the tax roles.
This would generate two additional sources of funding. One from the sale of the land and the other from the taxes generated by this land in the future. With what I am sure is going to be challenging financial times ahead, this can be of some help to the future financial situation of the town. William A. Kelly Jamestown
Editor's note: The writer is a member of the Town Council.