Taxpayers Pay $600K in RIDOT Rent Annually to Owners of Business Polluting Providence Neighborhoods
Proposed fiscal 2024 budget includes using gas tax proceeds to buy the Allens Avenue property
June 7, 2023
PROVIDENCE — A scrapyard that has been a dirty thorn in the side of local residents and government officials for more than a decade could be selling one of its Allens Avenue properties to the state of Rhode Island for up to $8 million.
In 2019, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) entered into a five-year agreement with 288 Allens Avenue LLC to lease the 33,324-square-foot building at 288 Allens Ave. as a garage/highway maintenance facility. The single-story building was built in 1960.
The 288 Allens Ave. lease is costing taxpayers about $600,000 annually. There’s an option to buy the property.
The 8.6-acre property is owned by Ralph and Jared Sevinor, a father-son duo who, through a maze of real estate holding companies, own a number of properties along the city’s waterfront, including Rhode Island Recycled Metals.
Recommended changes by the House Finance Committee to Gov. Dan McKee’s fiscal 2024 budget include $8 million from gas tax proceeds to buy the property in the lower South Providence neighborhood. The company 288 Allens Avenue LLC bought the property in 2014 for $750,000. Last year, it paid $96,851 in property tax.
In fiscal 2022, the land at 288 Allens Ave. was assessed at $2,048,800, the building at $571,700, and an outbuilding at $115,400, for a total value of $2,735,900.
While taxpayers have paid some $2.4 million in RIDOT rent for the past four years, they also have been funding the legal actions taken by the state during an eight-year legal battle to get the owners of Rhode Island Recycled Metals to comply with state and federal environmental regulations.
Rhode Island Recycled Metals (RIRM), at 434 Allens Ave., began polluting in 2009 when it opened without all of the required permits. During multiple inspections between 2010 and 2012 of the site, the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management found, among other violations, the unpermitted discharges of stormwater associated with scrap metal recycling and the unauthorized crushing and dismantling of vessels.
The Sevinors repeatedly ignored the state’s warnings and notices of violation. Six years later, in 2015, the state took the business to court. The Sevinors have been playing games with state officials ever since, according to a timeline of events recently shared by the attorney general’s office.
In a letter sent last month to those concerned about RIRM’s illicit operations, Attorney General Peter Neronha wrote that over the past 13 years the state “has invested a great deal of time mounting a concerted legal effort to bring the RIRM site into compliance with all environmental laws.”
Earlier this year, the Sevinors bought a 9.8-acre property next to their RIRM Allens Avenue site near the Port of Providence for $2.7 million.
The Sevinors’ portfolio of property ownership in the Port of Providence area also includes 355 Allens Ave., 444 Allens Ave., and 27 Warren Way, all of which are close to the neighborhoods of Washington Park and South Providence.
The city’s industrial waterfront has been adversely impacting the two neighborhoods for generations. A 1.8-mile section of Allens Avenue, from Point Street to New York Avenue, is arguably the most unpleasant stretch of road in Rhode Island.
The territory is marked by a headache-inducing stink, dilapidated buildings, mountains of scrap metal, hills of asphalt, graffiti, chain-link fences, vacant lots and parking lots blazoned with plastic waste, overgrown vegetation that obstructs sidewalks, bicycle lanes covered with grit, heavy truck traffic, and idling vehicles.