NORTH SMITHFIELD – Town officials are considering the sale of a small lot on St. Paul Street, a property that technically serves as a town-owned park, but that proponents say is only used by residents who own the adjacent lots.
The effort to sell the land at 0 Saint Paul St., a .359 acre residential parcel deeded to the town in 1874, was brought forward this month by Council President John Beauregard, who said that funds could be used toward a long-hoped-for effort to widen the entrance to Pacheco Park.
“There’s nothing on it. It’s a vacant piece of property,” Beauregard told councilors at a meeting on Monday, April 5. “That’s only really being used by people on either side of it.”
One council member raised objections to the idea.
“I’m not in favor of selling any property. That could come down the road and bite us,” said Councilor Paul Vadenais. “It could become a police department. Sewers could go into that section of the town that aren’t there now and you’re going to need to put a pump station.”
“It’s a piece of open space,” Vadenais added. “I’m not in favor of selling town land, no matter how small or insignificant it may appear. We own it, we keep it.”
Councilor Claire O’Hara said she would agree with Vadenais if the lot were larger.
“That property is so small, and it’s being used by the people on either side,” O’Hara said.
Vadenais noted that there could be restrictions on the land, tough to discern on the hand-written deed.
Town Solicitor David Igliozzi said that while he didn’t find any restrictions, a title search should be done out of abundance of caution. The property will also need to be appraised before councilors can officially make a determination, “that it’s not useful,” Igliozzi explained.
But resident Cynthia Roberts said she believes losing the property would not be worth whatever small amount of money the town might receive.
“That little piece of land, in my opinion, working in place-based health, is worth more than any money we would get,” Roberts said, also noting that with climate change, “Having buffers with trees and grass and open space is of great value.”
“I would be in very strong favor of not selling that property and I don’t believe I’m the only person who feels that way,” she said, noting that several years ago, a group brought forward the idea of using the land for a small pop up park or community garden.
Currently, the property is assessed at $85,900.
The effort to widen the entrance to Pacheco Park, meanwhile, a Slatersville facility that features multiple baseball fields, a volleyball court, a playground and a basketball court, began more than four years ago with the purchase of a property adjacent to its narrow access on Main Street. In March, councilors transferred $39,460 to an account for the project with the intent to begin design of the long-awaited park improvement.
Public Works Director Raymond Pendergast has said that his staff will be able to complete the majority of the entryway work in-house.
“He believes that’s enough money to at least get the bulk of the work done,” Beauregard said. “The most important thing is that we get started.”
Of the St. Paul Street lot Beauregard added, “It serves no purpose to the town we could use it for the greater good.”
Councilors unanimously voted to order a title search for the property at a cost not to exceed $300.
The issue is expected to come back before the board at a future meeting to determine if the town will seek an appraisal and move forward with the sale.