PAWTUCKET — In an effort to encourage reuse of more of the city's vacant mills or underutilized commercial buildings, the City Council is supporting legislation that would expand the “arts and entertainment district” that offers an exemption from sales tax on original works sold by individuals working in arts-related fields.
At Wednesday night's City Council meeting, the council voted 8 to 0 in favor of a resolution supporting a bill sponsored state Representatives Eileen Coderre, Raymond Johnston, Edward O'Neill, Mary Duffy Messier and William San Bento that would provide a sales tax exemption for sales by writers, composers and artists within a designated area.
The legislation, strongly endorsed by Mayor Donald Grebien, would substantially expand the existing arts and entertainment district, which encompasses the downtown area that includes the intersection of Dexter Street and the Central Falls line, then east along the Central Falls line to the Blackstone River, north along the city boundary to the Cumberland line, west along the city boundary to I-95, south along I-95 to Pine Street, north on Pine Street, northwest to Dexter Street and then north to the Central Falls line.
The proposed new arts and entertainment district would encompass other parts of the city, including Mineral Spring Avenue to the intersection of San Antonio Way, and then following the Moshassuck River along Pawtucket Avenue and Main Street to the Providence city line. Included in the expansion would be the Hope Artiste mill development, the mill complex at 560 Mineral Spring Avenue and renovated mills at 1080 Main Street and 545 Pawtucket Avenue.
The resolution notes that the creation of the city's arts and entertainment district in the downtown has been an extremely successful marketing tool for city officials in their attempt to revitalize several vacant or underutilized buildings in what was a desolate section of the city.
It further notes that with most of the targeted buildings in the district either fully developed or in some stage of development with artist-driven projects, city officials believe that expanding the district to include other areas with vacant or underutilized buildings would greatly help with the redevelopment of those sections of the city. City officials believe that the legislation would help eliminate blight and expand housing and economic development opportunities, which would be in the best interest of the city as well as the state.
In addition to Pawtucket, the existing legislation also allows for arts and entertainment districts in “defined economic zones” in Providence, Warwick, Woonsocket, Westerly, Warren, Tiverton and Little Compton.
The legislation allows for sales tax exemptions for “original and creative work,” which includes a book or other writing, a musical composition or the performance of said competition, a painting or other like picture, a sculpture, traditional and fine crafts, the creation of a film or the acting within the film, the creation of a dance or the performance of the dance. The individual involved is required to make an application to the tax administrator for the sales tax exemption and comply with all pertinent requests.
In other matters, the council approved a resolution in support of reinstating the historic structure tax credit program, and a resolution in support of a bill aimed at allowing Pawtucket to use a portion of the money collected by the state in the I-95 Pawtucket River Bridge fines for the purpose of improving businesses and detour roads in the city.
The council also approved an ordinance setting the salary for the position of part-time, non-union fire dispatcher at $15 an hour, and established an annual pay rate for position of part-time, non-union deputy director of emergency management at $14,461.
Also, the council approved the appointment of Thomas P. Perry, of 112 Walcott St., Pawtucket, to the Historic District Commission for a term that expires in February of 2015.
The council tabled a resolution in support of legislation to increase the membership of the Pawtucket Housing Authority from five to seven commissioners in light of questions over whether city or federal funds are used to pay the stipend that they receive.
Several councilors have criticized a request by the mayor to add two more members to increase the diversity of the Housing Authority. However, given that the commissioners receive annual stipends of $1,200, some councilors questioned whether the money should be spent if it comes from the city budget. The council is expected to take up the matter at its next meeting.