[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Council of the Town of Westerly 1-28-2008 by Ch. No. 1628; amended in its entirety 5-13-2019 by Ch. No. 1955. Subsequent amendments noted where applicable.]
In accordance with the express enabling authority granted by the General Assembly in RIGL 44-5.1, there is hereby established in the Town of Westerly a real estate nonutilization tax.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section:
- A neighbor whose property touches the property in question.
- ACTIVELY MARKETED
- Good faith efforts by the owner of the property to obtain one or more occupants for the property. These good faith efforts may include, without limitation, one or more of the following:
- A. Making substantial financial expenditures in comparison with the value of the property;
- B. Listing the property for sale, lease, or both, with one or more real estate brokers, for a price and on terms, or for a rental that is realistic considering the fair market value or fair market rental value of the property; or
- C. Advertising, using one or more signs on the property and at least one other medium, to advertise the availability of the property for sale or for rent for a price and on terms, or at a rental that is realistic considering the fair market value or fair rental value of the property.
- CONTINUOUSLY OCCUPIED
- Any property which is listed during the entire privilege year as vacant in the records of the Director of Code Enforcement.
- DEVELOPMENT PLAN
- A plan to rehabilitate a vacant and abandoned property within a set time frame for a use in conformance with the Town's Comprehensive Plan and zoning ordinances.
- NEW OWNER
- Any person who has purchased the vacant or abandoned property during the period subsequent to the notice of designation as vacant and abandoned.
- NON-PROFIT HOUSING ORGANIZATION
- Any organization exempt from taxation pursuant to § 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code [26 U.S.C. § 501(c)(3)] whose exempt purposes include the provision of affordable housing to low- and moderate-income households.
- PRIVILEGE YEAR
- The twelve-month period corresponding to the calendar year.
- REVIEWING ENTITY
- The administrative officer, designated in accordance with RIGL 45-23-55; if no administrative officer has been so designated, then the Town Planning Board.
- VACANT AND ABANDONED PROPERTY
- Any property which is:
- B. A lot with no existing structure, which contains no evidence of maintenance, has been under continuous citation by the Director of Code Enforcement and that has been determined to be continuously unoccupied by the Director of Code Enforcement for a period of 60 days during the privilege year.
- C. Under a current notice of default and/or notice of trustee's sale, pending a Tax Assessor's lien sale, have been the subject of a foreclosure sale where the title was retained by the beneficiary of a deed of trust involved in the foreclosure, or transferred under a deed in lieu of a foreclosure sale.
The Director of Code Enforcement shall, upon designation of a property as vacant and abandoned, notify the owner of the date of the designation, and the date upon which the nonutilization tax shall be imposed. The Director of Code Enforcement shall file the notice of designation as vacant and abandoned with the Recorder of Deeds and said notice shall also be forwarded to the Town Tax Assessor.
Notice of a designation shall be in writing and sent via regular mail to the address on file pursuant to tax records.
Any person or entity who, through foreclosure or otherwise, vacates or maintains vacant property, shall notify the Director of Code Enforcement.
The Town imposes a tax upon the privilege of utilizing the property as vacant and abandoned within the Town during any privilege year, commencing with the privilege year beginning January 1, 2020 and every year thereafter. The tax shall be in addition to any other taxes authorized by the general or public laws.
The Town shall, through the Office of the Town Assessor, annually impose upon any property which is vacant and abandoned, as determined by the Director of Code Enforcement, a nonutilization tax measured by the assessed value of the real estate at the rate of $10 for each $100 of assessed value of the real estate as most recently returned by the Tax Assessor of the Town.
The tax imposed under the authority of this chapter shall be due and payable in the same manner as other municipal taxes are due in the Town.
The nonutilization tax authorized by this chapter shall not be imposed on property owned by an abutter, a new owner, or a nonprofit housing organization if:
The abutter, new owner, or nonprofit housing organization submits a proposed development plan to the administrative officer, designated in accordance with RIGL 45-23-55; if no administrative officer has been so designated, then to the town planning commission;
The administrative officer, in accordance with RIGL 45-23-55, or if no administrative officer, then the town planning commission, determines that the proposed development plan contains a reasonable timetable for the development or reuse of the property;
The administrative officer, in accordance with RIGL 45-53-55, or if no administrative officer, then the town planning commission determines that the abutter, new owner, or a nonprofit housing organization has obtained adequate funding for the development plan; and
The administrative officer, in accordance with RIGL 45-53-55, or if no administrative officer, then the Town Planning Commission determines that the proposed development plan is in accordance with the approved comprehensive plan and zoning ordinances of the Town and approves it.
The administrative officer, in accordance with RIGL 45-53-55, or if no administrative officer, then the Town Planning Commission, shall deliver a copy of the approved development plan to the Tax Assessor, who shall certify the property as exempt from the nonutilization tax.
Failure of the abutter, new owner, or nonprofit housing organization, without good cause, to carry out the development or refuse of the property in accordance with the timetable set forth in the approved development plan shall result in the property being subject to the nonutilization tax as of the first date of assessment following the expiration of the timetable in the approved development plan.
The Tax Assessor is empowered to abate the nonutilization tax if it is imposed in error.
Appeals from the imposition of the nonutilization tax shall be to the Board of Assessment Review.
In any appeal from the imposition of the nonutilization tax set forth in this chapter, the Board of Assessment Review shall find in favor of an appellant who shows that the property assessed:
Was actively marketed during the privilege year; or
Was occupied for substantial portions of the privilege year, notwithstanding its designation by the Director of Code Enforcement.
Nothing contained in this chapter shall be deemed to enlarge or diminish any other right of appeal that an appellant may possess pursuant to the general or public laws or Town ordinances.