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Narragansett Tribe Wants Navy Surplus Property

If the property goes to private hands, it will join the tax rolls with a $30 million or higher assessed value. If the tribe gets it, it will be tax exempt.

The Narragansett Indian Tribe has asked the Bureau of Indian Affairs to give them about 400 acres of surplus land owned by the Navy on the western shore of Aquidneck Island.

The request comes as the city of Newport and towns of Portsmouth and Middletown are in the midst of planning to potentially develop excess Navy properties on the island.

In a memo to the Mayor and City Council, City Manager Jane Howington said she met with Senator Jack Reed who "strongly urged both Middletown and Newport to be aggressive in their efforts to purchase these parcels" which include the old Naval hospital.

The Navy rejected a previous offer to redevelop the hospital property through a process known as "economic development conveyance."

The estimated price of the property is anywhere from $500,000 to $1.6 million, Howington said, and if the city does decide to buy it, the City Council will have to determine how it will be redeveloped.

Howington outlined a few options, such as securing a partner as a preferred developer, transferring the property to the redevelopment authority or flip it and sell it on the open market.

If the city decides to not buy the property, "there is a very strong likelihood that it will be transferred to the BIA," Howington wrote.

If the property goes to private hands, it will join the tax rolls with a $30 million or higher assessed value. If the tribe gets it, it will be tax exempt "but the City will get stuck with the bill for police, fire and other costs created by the Indians' activities on the property," Howington said.

In addition, the public waterfront walk will disappear if the tribe gets the property.

The City Council will address the matter in executive session sometime next week.
Blake Cushing June 06, 2014 at 11:46 AM
This article is extremely biased in that it touts only the reasons as to why the surrounding towns should get the land and does a very poor job explaining the Narragansetts claim to that land. I understand the need to tax revenue and development in this economy but we cannot continue to steal ancestral land from a people who have a claim to something that means more than dollar signs and development. We should do more to help this tribe and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Mark Schieldrop June 06, 2014 at 11:50 AM
Blake, I put in a call to the Chief Sachem of the tribe and didn't get a response. I'm having a heck of a time getting the BIA to provide me with any details. Trust me, I'd love to tell the Narragansett's story. My email is mark.schieldrop@patch.com — I will keep trying. Maybe there's an obvious place I haven't tried.
Brian Lightfoot Brown June 06, 2014 at 07:13 PM
I agree that I wish there would be more about the Narragansett Tribe's side of this scenario. I understand that the person who wrote the article can only do so much to get all the facts though. I am a Narragansett Tribal member, but not close enough to the plans of this potential venture to be able to give any opinion. I do realize that many of the local residents near this land, and certain RI politicians do not want the Narragansett to get this land. It is without question that they fear a tribal casino on these grounds primarily. Thats the core of why the state fights the tribe on everything and anything they try to do. Its to maintain control. To you, Mark, I loved the article and you let me know, at the very least, all that you currently know. Hopefully I will see an article written by you when more information is known or comes available.
Brian Lightfoot Brown June 06, 2014 at 07:22 PM
I also wanted to add, based on Howington's statement: If the tribe gets it, it will be tax exempt "but the City will get stuck with the bill for police, fire and other costs created by the Indians' activities on the property," . That sounds like she was saying that the cities in that area would get stuck paying for police, etc because the "Indians" would ruin things or cause problemts. Or at least, that seems to feel insinuated by her statement. The tribe has their own police department, which would cooperate with city and town and state officers, and expect the same respect and cooperation to be reciprocated as professionals.

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