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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

ISLANDERS COME TOGETHER TO PLAN THE WEST SIDE OF AQUIDNECK ISLAND

Standing-room only presentations on Navy lands and transportation reflect local desires to preserve public access to shore, create bike paths and calm traffic

MIDDLETOWN, RHODE ISLAND, -- April 17, 2001 -- Aquidneck Island residents and workers participating in recent public meetings about a regional effort to develop a master plan for a 10-mile portion of the Island’s western coast say a West Side Master Plan should preserve public access to the shore, create safe bike paths, alleviate traffic congestion and guide development to be compatible with local neighborhoods.

The Aquidneck Island Planning Commission (AIPC), the island’s regional planning body, is engaging the public in a planning process that kicked off with topic presentations on April 5, 10 and 19, with an additional topic presentation about land use and zoning issues on the West Side scheduled for April 26, 7 –9 p.m. at Middletown Town Hall. The AIPC West Side Master Plan Task Force designed and sponsored the sessions to share information with the public concerning existing conditions on the West Side.

"With an underused railroad corridor, substantial industrial property, potential surplus Navy property and 10 miles of coastline, the West Side of Aquidneck Island presents and opportunity to plan for the future and address Island-wide issues," said AIPC Chairman Robert Quigley. "This is a grass roots effort, led and directed by local people. We invite the public to continue giving us their input so we can work together to create a master plan that expresses Islanders’ hopes for the West Side."

"The West Side Master Plan effort has the active interest and support of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation, state officials and legislators, Aquidneck Island city and town councils and Naval Station Newport," said AIPC Coordinator Kelly Woodward. "Aquidneck Island is home to four communities – Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth and Naval Station Newport – and this is an opportunity for all four to work together to resolve issues that affect the West Side and the Island as a whole. We’re seeking answers to Island-wide issues about land use, social well-being, the economy, transportation and public infrastructure."

Nearly 100 Aquidneck Island residents and business people attended the first topic presentation, "Status of the West Side Navy Lands," on April 5 at Newport City Hall. Presentations by Joanne Galuska, of Naval Station Newport, and by Glenn Rotondo, of the federal General Services Administration, updated the public about the current use and value of the Navy lands on the West Side and the transfer process for some of these lands, should the Navy decide it no longer needs some of its property. During a question and answer period, members of the audience voiced interest in learning more about the excessing process, the Navy's future plans on Aquidneck Island and the selection process for securing a design consultant. Several residents said the master plan should reflect islanders' interest in increasing public access to shoreline areas, preserving neighborhood character and decreasing traffic congestion.

The second topic presentation,"Transportation on the West Side: Existing Conditions and Recommendations," also drew a standing-room only audience who heard presentations by Pam Okolita, of Edwards & Kelcey; John Shevlin, of Pare Engineering; George Johnson, of the Rhode Island Statewide Planning Program; Mark Therrien, of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority; and Ed Parker, of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation about transportation issues and challenges for Aquidneck Island. During a question and answer period, members of the audience voiced interest in learning more about potential bikeways and bikepaths, plans to repair or replace the Sakonnet River Bridge, and opportunities for rail and trolley use to alleviate traffic congestion. Several residents said the transportation element of the master plan should reflect islanders' interest in preserving public access to shoreline areas, maintaining historic and natural elements such as stone walls and prolific trees, and ensuring the safety of neighborhood children who wish to bike upon paths and roadways.

The third topic presentation, "Potential Land Use Scenarios for the West Side," was held April 19, 7 - 9 p.m., at Portsmouth Town Hall, with presentations from Keith Stokes, of the Newport County Chamber of Commerce; Eric Offenberg, of Northeast Engineers, Inc., and the Ted Hood Company. The fourth presentation, on April 26, will be a forum for municipal planners and consultants to update the public on present and future use and zoning of lands within the West Side project boundary. Scheduled speakers include Arnold Robinson, of Newport Collaborative Architects; Bob Gilstein, planner for the Town of Portsmouth; Michelle Maher, planner for the Town of Middletown; and Paige Bronk, planner for the City of Newport.

Partners in the West Side Master Planning Process include the municipalities of Aquidneck Island (Newport, Middletown, Portsmouth), Naval Station Newport, the Newport County Chamber of Commerce, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation, the Rhode Island Statewide Planning Program and Rhode Island Sea Grant/University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center. The goal of the AIPC West Side Master Plan Task Force is to develop a long-term, coordinated master plan for the West Side of Aquidneck Island.

The AIPC is made up of the municipalities of Aquidneck Island and Naval Station Newport. The mission of the AIPC is to provide Middletown, Newport, Portsmouth and Naval Station Newport with tools and techniques needed to resolve island-wide issues and to achieve the shared island vision. To learn more, visit the web site at www.aquidneckplanning.org or call 849-4027 for more information.

CONTACT: AIPC Coordinator Kelly Woodward (401) 849-4027

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