R.I. Airport Car-Rental Site Clash Likely Headed to Court

WARWICK, R.I. --- The Rhode Island Airport Corporation, after having been issued a notice of violation in September, is disputing the city of Warwick’s claim that T.F. Green Airport’s commercial rental companies were illegally using residential land for business, likely sending the matter to court, the Providence Journal reported.

The Building Department issued the notice ordering the Airport Corporation to stop Hertz, Avis and Budget car rental companies from doing business in a condemned residential zone.

In a six-page response to the notice, Airport Corporation attorney Richard Licht argued that the zoning violation was "legally and factually unsound," the newspaper reported.

According to Licht, local governments "must conform their zoning laws to projects of a state agency."

Licht said that if this were an issue, it would be one for the State Planning Council rather than the Warwick Zoning Board. He also attached copies of correspondence between city planners and corporation officials regarding design issues when the project was under construction in 1998, the report said.

However, city officials claim that there were concerns then that were not expressed in the attached letters.

The airport corporation began condemning houses in 1987 due to high levels of jet noise. After clearing out 15 acres of residential zones, the airport corporation took the land off of the tax rolls.

The rental car agencies first leased the land in 1999.

According to officials, Rhode Island tax assessors could start levying property taxes on land that the airport corporation leased. A memo to officials said that the land is still taxable and still governed by the city’s Zoning Ordinance and Comprehensive Plan, according to the newspaper report.

The city currently receives taxes levied from Hertz, Avis and Budget, not taxes on the value of the real estate. Instead, the companies are taxed, not as airport tenants, but as condominiums would be.

Peter Ruggiero, the assistant city solicitor who first suggested taking legal action, said this situation was unique because the Airport Corporation owned the land, the newspaper report said. The Department of Transportation owns most airport properties with the Airport Corporations operating them under a state lease.

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