A N A C T
RELATING TO THE SMITHFIELD LAND TRUST
It is enacted by the General Assembly as follows:
SECTION 1. Chapters 165 and 174 of the 1999 Public Laws entitled "Establishing the Smithfield Land Trust" are hereby repealed in their entirety.
SECTION 2. There is hereby established the Smithfield Land Trust (hereinafter called the trust), a body politic and corporate and a public instrumentality. The trust shall have the authority to acquire, hold and manage real property and interests therein situated in the town of Smithfield, consisting of open, agricultural or littoral property, including existing and future wellfields and aquifer recharge areas, fresh water marshes and adjoining uplands, wildlife habitats, land providing access to or views of lakes and ponds or significant cultural or historical venues, land for bicycling and hiking paths and for future passive or active public recreational use and land for agricultural use.
SECTION 3. The trust shall be administered by seven (7) trustees appointed by the town council. The trustees who are first appointed shall be designated to serve for terms of two (2) for one (1), two (2) for two (2), three (3), four (4) and five (5) years respectively. Thereafter trustees shall be appointed as aforesaid for a term of office of five (5) years except that all vacancies occurring during a term shall be filled for the unexpired term. In addition to the seven (7) trustees appointed by the town council, the current chairperson or member designee of the Smithfield conservation commission and Smithfield planning board shall also be nonvoting, ex-officio trustees. Trustees shall be electors of the town of Smithfield, shall serve without compensation and shall hold office until their successors have been named. No trustee may be an elected officer or salaried employee of the town of Smithfield. All trustees shall be subject to the Rhode Island code of ethics in government, contained in chapter 14 of title 36 of the general laws.
SECTION 4. The members of the trust shall elect a chairperson, vice-chairperson and treasurer from amongst 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, vice-chairperson, treasurer and secretary, unless otherwise prescribed by the Smithfield town council, shall be for the calendar year.
SECTION 5. The trustees may 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 act. All rules and regulations of the trust are subject to the approval of the town council. Decisions of the trustees shall be by majority vote of those present and voting, and no business shall be transacted without six (6) members present with five (5) voting. The trustees shall keep accurate records of their meetings and actions and shall file an annual report which shall be printed in the annual town report. All meetings of the trusts shall be open to the public in accordance with the Rhode Island open meetings act, chapter 46 of title 42 of the general laws.
SECTION 6. The trust shall have the power to:
(a) Purchase, receive by gift or otherwise acquire any real estate situated in the town of Smithfield in the fee simple or lesser interests, including development rights as defined in section 42-82-2(5) of the general laws, or "qualified real property interest" or other conservation easement as further defined in section 170(h)(1) of the Internal Revenue Code, or any interest in real property consistent with purposes of this act;
(b) Accept gifts, grants or loans of funds or services from any source, public or private, and comply, subject to the provisions of this act, with any terms and conditions thereof within the limits of its available funds;
(c) Accept from state and/or federal agencies, loans or grants for use in carrying out the trust's purposes and enter into agreements with such agencies respecting any such loans or grants within the limits of its available funds;
(d) Employ counsel, auditors, engineers, surveyors, appraisers, private consultants, advisors, secretaries or other personnel needed to perform its duties within the limits of its available funds;
(e) Administer and manage land and interests in land held by it in a manner which allows public use and enjoyment consistent with the natural and scenic resources thereof, including conveyance of any such land or interests in land to, and contracts with, nonprofit organizations, provided such land shall continue to be used in a manner consistent with the purposes of this act and with the terms of any grant or devise by which such land was acquired by the trust;
(f) 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 act. Such disposition shall be made by a vote of the trustees in which at least six (6) members vote in favor of such a disposition and further only after having been approved by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of an annual or special financial town meeting of the town of Smithfield. 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 gift or devise for the public use, whether or not such gift or devise is subject to a condition subsequent or reverter;
(g) Otherwise do all things necessary for the performance of its duties, the fulfillments of its obligation and the conduct of its business.
SECTION 7. All funds collected by the trust shall be deposited in a fund to be set up as a revolving or sinking account by the treasurer of the town of Smithfield. Additional monies or other liquid assets received as voluntary contributions, grants or loans, funds appropriated to the trust by a vote of a financial town meeting of the town of Smithfield, or proceeds from disposal of real property or interests shall be deposited in said account. All expenses lawfully incurred by the trust in carrying out the provisions of this act shall be evidenced by proper vouchers and shall be paid by the treasurer of the town of Smithfield only upon submission of warrants duly approved by the trust. The treasurer of the town of Smithfield shall prudently invest available assets of the funds, and all income thereon shall accrue to the fund.
The decision to dissolve the trust shall only result after a vote of the trustees in which at least six (6) members vote to recommend dissolution of the trust to the 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 forty-five (45) days of said hearing. Dissolution shall require three (3) affirmative votes of the town council.
Upon termination or dissolution of the trust, the title of all funds and other properties owned by the trust which remain after payment or making provision for payment of all bonds, notes and other obligations of the trust shall vest in the town of Smithfield which shall manage the lands of the dissolved trust in the open space function for which they were donated or purchased to the best interest of the purposes of the trust. If in the opinion of the town council said lands no longer function in the purposes set forth in this act, the town may dispose of the properties provided that a two-thirds (2/3) vote of an annual or special financial town meeting of the town of Smithfield shall affirm said disposal.
SECTION 8. The trust and all its revenues, income, and real and personal property used by the trust for furtherance of its public purposes, shall be exempt from taxation and from betterments and special assessments, and the trust shall not be required to pay any tax, excise or assessment to the state or any of its political subdivisions.
SECTION 9. Nothing in this act shall affect the eligibility of the town of Smithfield to receive funds under chapter 4 of title 32 of the general laws or any other state land acquisition program.
SECTION 10. The provisions of this act are severable, and if any provision hereof shall be held invalid in any circumstances such invalidity shall not affect any other provisions or circumstances. This act shall be construed in all respects so as to meet all constitutional requirements. In carrying out the purposes and provisions of this act, all steps shall be taken which are necessary to meet constitutional requirements whether or not such steps are required by statute.
SECTION 11. Upon enactment, this act shall take the place of 1999 Public Laws chapters 165 and 174. The powers of the Smithfield Land Trust as created in the 1999 Public Laws chapters 165 and 174 shall be transferred to the trust created by this act. All of the five (5) trustees appointed pursuant to 1999 Public Laws chapters 165 and 174 and the two (2) ad hoc trustees who have been elected pursuant to those laws shall take the place of and be the initial trustees as described in section 2 of this act.
SECTION 12. This act shall take effect upon passage.