Richmond Town Council Meeting Update for October 18th 2022
Council accepts land donation
By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA
October 18th 2022
RICHMOND – With the term of the current Town Council drawing to a close, the agenda was light for Tuesday’s meeting.
Members voted to accept a donation of a parcel of land in the Valley Lodge neighborhood.
In addition, with the general election taking place on Nov. 8, councilors amended the Town Council meeting schedule for November and December so it would not conflict with the vote or the ensuing transition.
The donated land is located at 58 Wood River Drive. The land is currently owned by Everett and Teresa Hughes of Florida, and has been assessed at $4,300. The annual property tax is $88.
Town Planner Shaun Lacey explained that the vacant parcel, abutting the Wood River, is in the Valley Lodge Estates community, which is known to be vulnerable to flooding.
Lacey noted that the decision of whether or not to acquire the property should be considered in the context how it would meet the objectives of both the town’s hazard mitigation plan and the comprehensive plan.
“That neighborhood, generally, is one of the most flood prone areas of our town,” he said. “The property right now, it’s about a third of an acre, it’s located within Flood Zone A, which means, in layman terms, that pretty much means that it has a higher risk than other properties, generally.”
Lacey told the council that if the town accepted the donation, it would meet one of the objectives of the hazard mitigation plan.
“By acquiring a property like this one along the Wood River, knowing that there’s no improvements on it, knowing that it is flood-prone, it sits in a higher risk flood zone, knowing the assessment and taxes associated with it today, I do see some risk versus reward benefit here from the hazard mitigation point of view,” he said. “By acquiring this property, it does help move the needle. Although slightly, it still moves the needle in helping the town reduce its long - term flood liability.”
Accepting the donation, Lacey added, would also help the town meet an objective of its comprehensive plan.
“Our open space and recreation element talks about increasing public access opportunities for natural areas, including our rivers and waterfront properties,” he said. “An acquisition such as this one does allow the town to consider in the future a publicly accessible area to the waterfront.”
Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth suggested that in the future, the town might consider acquiring other similar lots considered unbuildable and create a park.
“All of them are completely, or almost completely, within the flood hazard overlay, so they will probably never be built on,” she said. “All of them are assessed at roughly $4,000 or less. There’s one of them that’s assessed at $1,000. In other words, they have no practical value. They’re places that the town should actively discourage people from building on. They would probably make a really great park, a riverfront park.”
Council member Richard Nassaney said he did not believe that Valley Lodge homeowners would appreciate the creation of a new park.
“That neighborhood is extremely quiet, and the people who live there love it quiet, and I highly doubt they would want to have the general public coming, dropping off their cars and parking, putting their canoes in,” he said.
Council President Nell Carpenter said that she was generally opposed to removing properties from the tax role, but in this case, with a tax payment of only $88 per year, the loss of revenue would be negligible.
Council members voted to accept the donation.
During the public forum at the end of the meeting, council candidate and Town Moderator Mark Reynolds admonished council members for accepting the donation of the land without first determining whether pollutants might be present. (Reynolds had attempted to raise the issue earlier during the meeting, but was required to wait until the public forum.)
“Had I been permitted to speak earlier, I would have suggested that prior to acquiring the property at 58 Wood River Drive, that staff walk the property to make sure we’re not also acquiring a dump or pollution concern that might subject us to a liability,” he said.
Ellsworth said the town would do a title search to determine the previous uses of the property.
In other business, councilor Lauren Cacciola requested an update on programs and events organized by the town’s recreation department.
Recreation Commission Chair Robin Woodmansee provided an overview of the commission’s recent activities, which occur in addition to programs organized by Recreation Director Morgan Cusumano Gomes, who is responsible for the Dec. 3 tree-lighting event, the Easter egg hunt and activities during the February school holiday. Cusumano Gomes was not present at the council meeting.
Carpenter raised the issue of a possible overlap of the work of the commission, which is run by volunteers, and the duties of Cusumano Gomes, who is a paid member of the town staff and reports to Town Administrator Karen Pinch.
Cusumano Gomes received an annual stipend of $12,735 in 2022 and will be paid $13,052 in 2023.
“I just wanted to confirm that there wasn’t going to be an overlap, because, like I said, the residents of the Town of Richmond, all of what – 50 some of them – at the Financial Town Meeting, voted to pass that budget,” Carpenter said. “The expectation was that the rec director is earning that.”
Council Vice President James Palmisciano said he had attended a Recreation Commission meeting, during which the roles of the director and the commission had been clearly defined.
“One of the first things that you all did was to identify those lines of demarcation between your duties and Morgan’s just to make sure, and it wasn’t from a perspective of making sure alleviate it, but it was from the perspective of making sure that you knew where you had jurisdiction,” he told Woodmansee.
The council also discussed the scheduling of meetings in November and December, considering several factors: the upcoming election, the time it is expected to take to certify the election results, and the swearing-in of new council members.
The council agreed to hold a single meeting in November, on Nov. 1, and to schedule the next meeting on Dec. 6. The date of the second December meeting remains to be determined.