By Tom Shevlin
NEWPORT – City Councilors on Wednesday voted in solidarity with their counterparts on the School Committee to oppose a package of legislation working its way through the General Assembly that would automatically extend contracts for teachers' unions and mandate binding arbitration.
In a resolution that earned overwhelming support, councilors found that the proposal – House Bill 7250 and Senate Bill 2532 – would serve as "disincentive for unions to bargain in good faith and allow existing employee wages and benefits to continue unchanged indefinitely."
Another vote also affirmed the council's opposition to introducing binding arbitration to settle teacher contract disputes.
In a separate vote, the council also ratified a resolution also earlier adopted by the School Committee to support legislation moving the deadline for teacher layoff notifications from March 1 to June 1.
The current system, it found, results in uncertainty and often causes school districts to issue more layoff notices than necessary, thereby creating undue anxiety for both teachers and administrators alike.
All three proposals were unanimously supported by the School Committee earlier this month.
Planning Board Outlines Limits for Turbines
In other business, councilors were set to address a series of proposed principles submitted by the Planning Board to provide the city with a basis for governing residential and commercial wind turbines.
The proposal, which was endorsed as the Planning Board's April 16 meeting, is the result of three scheduled Planning Board meetings and one special session held over the last several months.
While still a working document, Planning Board members recommended creating an overlay district outlining the area where wind turbines may be allowed either through permit or by right.
Utility scale turbines, which can often have 300-400-foot towers and large rotor assemblies, would not be permitted anywhere in the city.
Meanwhile, commercial scale turbines would likely be restricted to Commercial Industrial and Traditional Maritime zones such as the State Fishing Pier and Newport Shipyard. And residential scale turbines would likely be limited to residential districts land area greater than 10,000 square feet – except for in the Historic District.
"The Planning Board regards the local Historic District as an inappropriate location for wind turbines unless the subject property has greater than 40,000 square feet in land area," the Board wrote.
In December, councilors voted 6-0 to adopt a temporary nine-month moratorium on wind turbine development in order to develop a comprehensive policy on the subject.
The vote came on the heels of an Eastnor Road resident’s request to construct a residential wind turbine in his densely populated Fifth Ward neighborhood.
A final proposal is expected to be drafted by early this summer.