“We are delighted that the City of Newport and its residents have agreed to accept this gift on behalf of the Doris Duke Monument Foundation and its donors. We are confident that the revised plans for Queen Anne Square, which were the result of a robust dialogue throughout the community, will be a source of enjoyment for the city and our visitors for decades to come.” - Pieter Roos, Executive Director of the Doris Duke Monument Foundation, Regarding Newport City Council Approval of the Queen Anne Square Proposal.
After months of public workshops, petitions and protests on both sides of the debate, the Newport City Council voted to accept the Newport Restoration Foundation’s gift of a $3.5 million project to redesign Queen Anne Square.
Three amendments were added by Councilor Justin McLaughlin. They included a completion date of June 15, 2012, an agreement that changes to trees would be overseen by the city and that the construction must be fully compliant with the Americans Disabilities Act. The motion was approved 5-1 with Councilor Charles Duncan opposed. Councilor Kathryn Leonard was not present.
“To remain vibrant in the travel and tourism industry, we must keep an eye on refreshing and reinventing ourselves,” said Evan Smith, president of the The Newport & Bristol County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I think you have in front of you a tremendous proposal.”
Although opponents have criticized the foundation and the Council for a poorly communicated process, Mayor Stephen Waluk expressed his enthusiasm for the level of public participation through the workshops and council meetings leading up to the night's vote.
“I commend everyone who has come out and participated,” Waluk said. “The public process, in so many ways, has improved the final product.”
Roos said design changes have included benches, lighting, reduction in the sizes of the foundations and inclusion of amenities such as WiFi and chess boards.
“I see this as the process that works,” Councilor Henry F. Winthrop said.
Winthrop said although some suggested residents should decide on the issue by a referendum vote, that was not a practical option.
“We have a representative form of government. We are elected by all of you, and all those who are not here this evening to make these types of decisions,” he said. “I take that responsibility very seriously.”
He said the government would come to a standstill if residents voted on every controversial issue.
Waluk said that he would like to see the same level of engagement on other city issues that he saw as higher priorities, such as the second water treatment plant that will cost $85 million and the Pell Elementary School.
"I'm just very pleased they liked it," Roos said with an sigh of relief as he walked out of the council chambers.