[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Council of the Town of Westerly 9-22-2003 by Ch. No. 1467. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Pursuant to the provisions of RIGL 42-17.1-1 et seq. or any subsequent modifications or amendments thereto or substitutions, there is established a Westerly Municipal Land Trust (hereinafter called "Trust") for the purpose of acquiring, holding, and managing real property and interests therein including development rights situated in the Town of Westerly, but not limited to the Town of Westerly, subject to the laws of the state in which the real property is located, consisting of open, residential, agricultural, recreational, historical and littoral property, including existing and future well fields and aquifer recharge areas, freshwater marsh and adjoining uplands, wildlife habitats, and/or buildings providing access to or views of water bodies, or for bicycling and hiking paths, or for future public recreation, agricultural, environmental or educational use, or for opportunistic acquisitions in order to further the health, welfare, and safety of the citizens of Westerly, now and in the future.
The Trust shall be administered by seven Trustees who shall be appointed by the Town Council of the Town of Westerly. The Trustees who are first appointed shall be designated to serve the following terms: first, one year; second, two years; third, two years; fourth, three years; fifth, four years; sixth, four years; and seventh, five years, respectively, terms to expire on December 31 annually. Thereafter, Trustees shall be appointed as aforesaid for a term of office of five years, except that all vacancies occurring during a term shall be filled by the appointment of the Town Council for the unexpired term. In addition to the seven Trustees appointed by the Town Council, the current Chairperson, or member designee of the Westerly Planning Board, the Town Planner and the Finance Director shall serve as ex officio members of the Trust. Trustees shall be resident electors or taxpayers of the Town of Westerly, shall serve without compensation and shall hold office until their successors have been appointed. No Trustee may be an elected office or salaried employee of the Town.
The members of the Trust shall elect a Chairperson and Vice Chairperson from among its members. The Trustees shall elect or appoint a Secretary who need not be a voting member of the Trust. The term of office of the Chairperson and Secretary shall be for the calendar year, or for that portion thereafter remaining after each such officer is designated or elected. The Secretary may be a paid position at the discretion of the Trustees and approval of the Town Council. The Trust shall reorganize annually in January and shall file forthwith a list of the officers for the ensuing year with the Town Clerk.
The Trustees shall adopt reasonable rules and regulations governing the conduct of Trust affairs, including the acquisition and management of its holdings not inconsistent with the provisions of this chapter. All rules and regulations of the Trust are subject to the approval of the Town Council. A quorum for holding legitimate business meetings is four members, and decisions shall be by a majority of those members present and voting, excepting in decisions of the acquisition or disposition of land, easements, rights-of-way, which must be by a vote of at least four members. The Trustees shall file copies of their minutes with the Town Clerk. All meetings of the Trust shall be open to the public and held in accordance with any Rhode Island General Laws pertaining to open meetings and posting of meetings.
The Trust shall have the power to:
Purchase, receive by gift, acquire, hold, lease, encumber, manage, dispose of and issue bonds, in accordance with § 30-7, or otherwise acquire fee simple or lesser interests in real property, including development rights of any kind or any interest in real property situated in the Town of Westerly, but not limited to Westerly.
Accept gifts, grants or loans of funds or resources or services from any source, public or private, and comply, subject to the provisions of this chapter, with any terms and conditions thereof within the limits of its available funds.
Accept donations of real or personal property from donors whose intentions, as expressed in deed or gift, is not to preserve or protect the property donated, but to enable the Trust to sell the same to raise funds to finance the conservation activities of the Trust. The Trust may sell property so donated upon the vote of the Trustees in which at least four members vote in favor of the disposition.
Accept from state and/or federal agencies loans or grants or resources for use in carrying out the Trust's purpose and enter into agreements with such agencies respecting any such loans and grants within the limits of its available funds.
Employ counsel, auditors, engineers, appraisers, private consultants, advisors, secretaries or other personnel needed to perform its duties within the limits of its available funds.
Administer and manage land interest in land held by it in a manner which allows, where possible, public use and enjoyment consistent with the natural and scenic resources thereof, (including conveyance of any such land or interest in land to, and contracts with, nonprofit organizations), provided that such land shall continue to be used in a manner consistent with the purposes of this chapter and with the terms of any grant or devise by which such land was acquired by the Trust.
Incur debt only after authorization in each such instance by vote of the Westerly Town Council and in accordance with the requirement for the issuance of bonds by referendum pursuant to the Town Charter. The Trust shall be obligated to pay debt service on all such debt to the extent funds are available and to reimburse any Town funds expended to pay such debt service.
Dispose of all or any portion of its real property or interests therein held by it, whenever in the opinion of the Trustees said lands or properties have become unsuitable or have ceased to be used for the purposes set forth in this chapter. Such dispositions shall be made only by a vote of the Trustees in which at least four members vote in favor of such disposition, and further only after having been approved by a vote of the Westerly Town Council, provided that Town Council approval shall not be required for the disposition of property donated with the intention of the donor that the Trust would resell the property for fundraising purposes. Nothing in this subsection shall be construed to authorize the sale, lease or conveyance of lands or improvements held by the Trust as part of a charitable trust or acquired by gift or devise for public use, whether or not such gift or devise is subject to condition subsequent or reverter.
Otherwise do all things necessary for the performance of its duties, the fulfillment of its obligations and conduct of its business, in particular, in regard to lands deeded to the Trust by the Town of Westerly, and being held or managed by the Trust, said lands shall be deeded back to the Town upon request, as supported by resolution of the Town Council, provided that the grant from the Town does not prohibit the same.
[Amended 7-18-2011 by Ch. No. 1754]
All funds collected shall be deposited in a revolving and restricted account set up by the Finance Director. All monies or other liquid assets received as voluntary contributions, grants or loans; funds appropriated to the Trust by vote of the Town Council; or proceeds from disposal of real property or interests shall be deposited into said account. All expenses lawfully incurred by the Trust in carrying out the provisions of this chapter shall be evidenced by vouchers and shall be paid by the Finance Director of the Town only upon submission by warrants duly approved by the Trust. The Finance Director shall prudently invest available assets of the funds in accordance with the Town's investment policies, and all income thereon shall accrue to the fund.
The Town is empowered, in addition to the authority previously granted, to issue bonds from time to time, upon the written request of the Trust, under its corporate name and seal for the purpose of financing the activities of the Trust under this chapter.
Bonds may be issued or authorized only upon the approval of the Westerly Town Council in accordance with the requirement for the issuance of bonds by referendum. The bonds of each issue may be issued in a form acceptable to the Town Council, in annual installments of principal, the first installment to be not later than five years and the last installment not later than 30 years after the date of the bonds. For each issue the amounts payable annually for principal and interest combined either shall be as nearly equal from year to year as is practicable in the opinion of the officers authorized to issue the bonds; or shall be arranged in accordance with a schedule providing for a more rapid authorization of principal; or shall be arranged in annual installments of principal each of which does not exceed any prior installment by more than 16% of the total principal amount.
The bonds shall be signed by the Finance Director and by the president of the Town Council and shall be issued and sold in such amounts as authorized by the Town Council. The manner of the sales, denominations, maturities, interest rates and other terms and conditions and details of any bonds or notes issued under this chapter may be fixed by the proceedings of the Town Council authorizing the issue or by separate resolution of the Town Council or to the extent provisions of these matters are not so made, they may be fixed by the officers authorized to sign the bonds or notes. The proceeds derived from the sale of the bonds shall be exclusive of premiums, and accrued interest shall be expended for the purpose of real property or interests therein by the Trust; or in payment of the principal or interest on temporary notes issued under Subsection C of this section; or in repayment of advances under Subsection D of this section. No purchaser of any bonds or notes under this chapter shall be in any way responsible for the proper application of the proceeds derived from the sale thereof. The proceeds of the bonds or notes issued under this chapter, any applicable federal or state assistance, and the other money referred to in Subsection C of this section shall be deemed appropriated for the purposes of this chapter without further action than that required by this chapter.
The Town Council may by resolution authorize the issue from time to time of interest-bearing or discounted notes in anticipation of the issue of bonds or in anticipation of the receipt of federal or state aid for the purpose of this chapter. The amount of original notes issued in anticipation of bonds may not exceed the amount of bonds, which may be issued under this chapter, and the amount of original notes issued in anticipation of federal or state aid as estimated by the Finance Director. Temporary notes issued hereunder shall be signed by the Finance Director and President of the Town Council and shall be payable within one year from their respective dates, but the principal of and interest on notes issued for a shorter period may be renewed or paid from time to time by the issue of other notes hereunder, provided that the period from the date of an original note to the maturity of any note issued to renew or pay the same debt or the interest thereon shall not exceed five years.
Pending any authorization or issue hereunder or pending or in lieu of any authorization or issue of notes hereunder, the Finance Director, with the approval of the Town Council, may, to the extent that bonds or notes may be issued hereunder, apply funds in the treasury of the Town to the purposes specified in Subsection B of this section, such advances to be repaid without interest from the proceeds of the bonds or notes subsequently issued or from proceeds of applicable federal or state assistance or from other available funds.
Any accrued interest received upon the sale of bonds or notes hereunder shall be applied to the first payment of the first interest due thereon. Any premiums arising from the sale of bonds or notes hereunder shall, in the discretion of the Treasurer, be applied to the cost of preparing, issuing and marketing bonds or notes hereunder to the extent not otherwise provided, to the payment of the cost of the acquisition of real property, to the payment of the principal of or interest on bonds and notes issued hereunder or to any one or more of the foregoing. The cost of preparing, issuing and marketing bonds or notes hereunder may also, in the discretion of the Finance Director, be met from bond or note proceeds exclusive of premium and accrued interest or from other monies available therefor.
All bonds and notes issued under this chapter and the debts evidenced thereby shall be obligatory on the Town in the same manner and to the same extent as other debts lawfully contracted by the municipality. No such obligation shall at any time be included in the debt of the Town for the purpose of ascertaining its borrowing capacity. The Town shall annually appropriate a sum sufficient to pay the principal and interest coming due within the year on bonds and notes issued hereunder to the extent that monies therefor are not otherwise provided by the Trust. If such sum is not appropriated, it shall nevertheless be added to the annual tax levy. In order to provide such sum in each year notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, all taxable property in the Town shall be subject to ad valorem taxation by the Town without limitation as to the rate or amount.
Any bonds or notes issued under the provisions of this chapter, if properly executed by officers of the Town in office on the date of execution, shall be valid and binding according to their terms notwithstanding that before the delivery thereof and payment therefor any or all of such officers shall for any reason have ceased to hold office.
The Town, acting by resolution of the Town Council, is authorized to apply for, contract for and expend any federal or state advances or other grants or assistance which may be available for the purposes of this chapter, and any such expenditures may be in addition to the monies provided in the ordinance. To the extent of any inconsistency between any law of this state and any applicable federal law or regulation, the latter shall prevail. Federal and state advances, with interest where applicable, whether contracted for prior to or after the effective date of this chapter, may be repaid as projected costs under Subsection B of this section.
Bonds and notes may be issued under this chapter without obtaining approval of any governmental agency or the taking of any proceedings or the happening of any conditions except as specifically required by this chapter for such issue. In carrying out any project financed in whole or in part under this chapter, all action shall be taken which is necessary to meet constitutional requirements whether or not such action is otherwise required, but the validity of bonds and notes issued hereunder shall in no way depend upon validity or occurrence of such action.
Notwithstanding the foregoing provisions of this section, no bonds shall be issued in excess of amounts approved by a vote of the Westerly Town Council. A vote not to approve an amount of bonds hereunder shall not preclude any later vote to approve the same or a different amount.
The Trust and all its revenues, income and real and personal property used by the Trust for the furtherance of its public purpose shall be exempt from taxation and from betterment and special assessments, and the Trust shall not be required to pay any tax, excise or assessment to the State of Rhode Island or any of its political subdivisions.
The decision to dissolve the Trust shall only result after a vote of the Trustees in which four members vote to recommend dissolution of the Trust to the Westerly Town Council. The Town Council shall then hold a public hearing on the recommendation to dissolve. At the conclusion of the public hearing, the Town Council shall vote on the matter within 45 days of said hearing on the dissolution. Upon termination or dissolution of the Trust, the titles of all funds and other properties owned by the Trust, which remain after payment or making provisions for payment, all bonds, notes and other obligations of the Trust shall vest in the Town of Westerly, which shall manage the lands of the dissolved Trust in the open space function for which they were purchased or donated. If in the opinion of a majority of the Town Council said lands no longer function in the purposes set forth in this chapter, the Town may dispose of those properties.
The provisions of this chapter are severable, and if any provision thereof shall be held invalid in any circumstances, such invalidity shall not affect any other provisions or circumstances. This chapter shall be construed in all respects so as to meet all constitutional requirements in carrying out the purposes and provisions of this chapter, and all steps shall be taken which are necessary to meet constitutional requirements whether or not such steps are required by statute.