While nearly 11,000 people work at Quonset Business Park at more than 200 companies, our relationships with our neighbors and the town of North Kingstown outside the park’s boundaries are important to us, too. That’s why I was so glad to recently receive this note from one of our neighbors:
“Thank you for your kindness in listening to my concerns regarding the sight line from Pine River Drive and the recently completed professional building. The plump evergreens you had planted along the bike path will grow to be an outstanding buffer. I thank you again for your understanding and quick resolution.”
Certainly North Kingstown and Rhode Island benefit from Quonset’s success. But we’ve also worked hard - and wisely – to invest in creative ways to allow businesses at the park to succeed without disrupting the surrounding community. For example, we have identified passive uses (no trucks, no lights, no noise, no emissions) in strategic spots to provide a buffer between the Park and the neighborhoods. Further, the Quonset Gateway District helps to buffer our neighbors via “light” uses like retail, a hotel, day care facility, office space and the Seabee Military Museum and Park.
Adjacent to the Gateway is the Quonset bike path, which runs alongside a 7 foot high berm planted with wildflowers and greenery that screens the Park from nearby homes, covering more than six acres on our Newcomb Road property line. Financed by QDC and the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, the trail runs along the perimeter of the Business Park from Post Road to the pristine Calf Pasture Point Nature Preserve and the Bay.
Meanwhile, North Kingstown realizes significant benefits from Quonset. A recent study from Bryant University found that the Park produced $2.85 billion in economic output, $1.26 billion in labor income, and $113.1 million in tax revenues in Rhode Island, much of this in North Kingstown. It also showed the average private sector jobs at Quonset paid wages 8.3% higher ($56,524) than the state annual average wage ($52,196). The study also projected that by 2030 the park will annually produce $4.5 billion in output, $2 billion in labor income, and $180.8 million in tax revenues for Rhode Island and municipalities.
The benefits to North Kingstown go even deeper. The Municipal Services Agreement (MSA) and Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILOT) agreement, initially signed by the QDC and Town in 2010, are key examples. The MSA tasks the QDC with costs usually handled by municipalities. These include roadway maintenance, roadway improvement projects, common area maintenance, site plans and technical review, and utility maintenance. The MSA also outlines the Town’s responsibility for law enforcement and fire protection within the Park, while the work associated with building and fire permitting is handled by the state.
A PILOT agreement, renewed last December by the town council, determines the compensation to the town that tenants on tax-exempt QDC property pay. Since 2010, North Kingstown has seen an increase in PILOT payments of 20%. Today, the town receives approximately $7.2 million per year in taxes and PILOT payments from companies at Quonset. This is an increase of approximately 69% or $3 million dollars since 2010. Conservative estimates project that figure will grow to over $12 million per year by 2026.
The creation of the “Quonset Zone” is another example of how both the town and QDC have worked together to benefit each other. The “Quonset Zone” is a single zoning district designation assigned to the Quonset Business Park by the town. It allows new or existing companies to make “one stop” before building or expanding here.
Meanwhile, we continue to work to minimize the impact on our immediate neighbors. Two new solar energy projects provide a quiet, minimal-use buffer to our neighbors while the QDC has planted hundreds of tree and shrubs throughout the park. Later this fall, new recreational fields for the town’s use will open on 22 acres on Quonset’s perimeter.
We recognize that the business park and its more than 200 companies are crucial to economic development and job growth in North Kingstown and Rhode Island. That is why we have worked with the town to realize our shared opportunities and address shared challenges. As one of the state’s leading economic engines, Quonset Business Park’s presence in North Kingstown is unique, providing great benefits for all.
Steven King, PE, is the managing director of the Quonset Development Corp., North Kingstown, R.I.