NORTH SMITHFIELD – Saying the pandemic interfered with the business’s ability to complete processes in a timely manner, Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski is recommending changes to North Smithfield’s tax stabilization ordinance that would allow the ongoing work at the future home of Beef Barn restaurant to qualify.
“Much of this, like everything else in government, has been affected by Covid,” Zwolenski said of the construction process faced by restaurant owner Marc Branchaud.
The ordinance, created in 2017, allows councilors to exempt commercial improvement and expansion projects from taxes for a period of up to ten years.
“The purpose of it, of course, is to encourage expansion, rehabilitation, redevelopment, to increase tax base – and keep businesses in town and create jobs,” Zwolenski said of the ordinance.
The law – found in section 6-3.11 in the town’s code of ordinances – requires those seeking exemptions to apply for the tax break, with councilors to approve each request on a case-by-case basis. It notes that the property owner, “must file the application for eligibility prior to the filing of any building, zoning and/or planning applications.”
The Beef Barn owner began the process of relocating the North Smithfield restaurant from Greenville Road to Industrial Drive last June. The new location will be situated on an 18-acre lot that once held Homestead Gardens, and for the past year, a team has been renovating an existing barn and cleaning up the property, with an opening expected by the end of the summer.
Town Solicitor David Igliozzi said the project appears to qualify for the exemption, meeting all requirements except timing and Tax Assessor Jennifer St. George verified that timing is the only issue with Branchaud’s application.
The solicitor noted that during the pandemic, emergency orders grant the administrator the executive power under state law to delay timing of statutory requirements, subject to council approval.
“We weren’t talking about (doing) that,” said Igliozzi, noting that the council could instead change the ordinance, a process that requires two readings with the first expected on Monday, July 19.
Approval of the tax exemption itself, meanwhile, requires a public hearing, which must be advertised for at least 10 days prior.
“If the council is looking to move this forward, I will present an amendment to the ordinance on July 19, but simultaneously if the council wants to just direct the clerk and the administrator to set up a public hearing on Mr. Branchaud’s request… you could keep both things moving on parallel tracks.”
“He has good reasons why he’s leaving the corner where he is and moving over to the new location,” said Council President John Beauregard of the request. “He decided to reinvest in town. Any help that we can give anybody that’s willing to stay invested in town is a great thing.”
Councilors voted unanimously to schedule a hearing on the proposed tax stabilization on Monday August 2. The meeting is also expected to include a second reading and vote on a change to the ordinance.