Keep Metacomet Green Seeks No-Confidence Vote for Mayor
October 18, 2020
EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The mayor and the City Council aren’t addressing a request from a citizens group urging a vote of no-confidence in Mayor Roberto DaSilva.
Organizers from Keep Metacomet Green! are demanding the City Council account for DaSilva’s support for a plan to convert the former Metacomet Golf Club on Veterans Memorial Parkway into a commercial and residential development, and for failing to avert the public outcry that the controversy has fomented.
“We now find ourselves at a place where the Mayor may be likened to a ‘hostile witness’ who refuses to represent those who elected him,” according to a letter signed by residents Heather Andrade, Jane Brindisi Crevier, Roselette DeWitt, Lynn Miller, and Candy Seel.
City Council president Robert Britto is the lone supporter on the five-member council for Marshall Properties LLC and its initial proposal for a retail center with office buildings, townhouses, and public green space.
Residents, however, objected to the inevitable increase in traffic and loss of solitude offered by the historic and pastoral 138-acre golf course.
“The people feel for the first time that perhaps we can change the culture of ‘It’s East Providence, it’s the way things are always done,’ a culture of self-interest over the public interest,” according to the recent letter.
Britto insists, however, that there is ample open space at nearby Pierce Memorial Field and at the 7.8-acre Boyden Boulevard Conservation Area located 2 miles from Metacomet.
“It’s not as if that immediate area is starving for recreation or conservation,” he said.
Britto noted that it’s not appropriate for the city to interfere with the decisions of private landowners, such as Marshall Properties.
When asked about the request for a vote of no confidence, Britto said, “I don’t know what action you can take regarding private property. I don’t know what they are looking to do.”
He maintained his call for a compromise between Pawtucket-based Marshall Properties and residents.
“We need to come to together and have a full discussion,” Britto said.
DaSilva didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, at its Oct. 6 meeting, the City Council agreed to consider acquiring the property through eminent domain. A report from the city solicitor is expected at the Nov. 3 City Council meeting.
The council is also expected to consider an ordinance that would require a permit for tree removal. A few mature trees were cut down soon after Marshall Properties closed on the property, on Oct. 2 for $7.6 million. According to the Planning Department, the felled trees were upland and not within the 200-foot coastal zone. The Planning Department has asked Marshall Properties to minimize any disturbance to the natural and unique land features as its development proposal undergoes review. Marshall Properties will also have to abide by regulations regarding tree removal required by the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC).
Public pushback, and a likely “no” vote by the City Council, prompted Marshall Properties to pull its zoning change request, from open space to commercial and residential. With an open-space zoning designation, the property can host an amusement park, hospital, school, farm, nursery, wood lot, wildlife refuge, park, playground, athletic fields, cemetery, and/or a sportsmen’s club.
Last month, Marshall Properties submitted its master plan for Plan B, a development that adheres to the property’s open-space zoning designation.
While Plan A sought restaurants, retailers, offices, and townhouses, Plan B exhibits an overview of buildings and parking lots but makes no mention of the types of tenants. In the narrative submitted to the city, Marshall Properties states that it may build a hospital, school, club, church, or cultural activity facility “compatible with the adjoining structures and uses as it is in harmony and the general intent of the zoning ordinance and the city’s comprehensive plan.”
Plan B shows seven 2-story buildings with a combined area of 410,450 square feet. An eighth building would house a 2,500-square-foot, single-story sportsmen’s club. Parking lots spread across the perimeter of the property contain 3,711 spaces.
There would be six driveways: one on Veterans Memorial Parkway, two on Lyon Avenue, and three on Fort Street.
No traffic study has been done. Marshall Properties said improved sidewalks, multi-use paths, and secure bicycle parking is meant encourage walking and bicycling.
The development plan calls for creating a safe connection with the East Bay Bike Path, which runs along busy Veterans Memorial Parkway and across the street from the main entrance to Metacomet. A roundabout or traffic light and bus stop are proposed at the main entrance, with the intent to complement traffic improvements planned for the Interstate-195 interchange.
A cell tower will remain on the property.
Rather than a nature refuge and walking paths at the south end of property along Metacomet Brook/Watchemoket Cove that was promised in Plan A, a smaller green space would be created in the center of the property.
Metacomet Brook/Watchemoket Cove is classified as a coastal pond and Type 1 water by CRMC, thus a 225-foot setback is required. A stream on the property requires a 100-foot setback.
Due to wetlands and the setbacks, 95 acres of the 138-acre property is developable.
The master plan is conceptual at this stage and under review by the Planning Department. To get approved, the project must go through three phases of review: master, preliminary, and final.
The Planning Department has already asked Marshall Properties to revise the site plan based on staff comments. Once the changes have been addressed, a certificate of completeness will be issued and the master plan submission will be scheduled for consideration by the Planning Board. Abutters within 200 feet of Metacomet will be notified of Planning Board meetings.
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There is existing property like this in the City it needs to be protected. The traffic on the Veterans Parkway is brutal now during a pandemic never mind another development. Why are two elected officials so persistent on developing this property when the neighbors are against it . Please represent the PEOPLE NOT THE DEVELOPERS
It sounds like another case of back door deals with a few people making money at the expense of innocent tax payers.
Don’t give up on fighting these tie wearing thugs. Good luck in exposing the Corruption
The Citizens of East Providence should request Independent legal counsel be brought in. The current Town Solicitor’s can not serve two Masters. The Mayor’s bought and paid for legal counsel chaired by City Solicitor Marcello who is an advocate for special interest groups
that promote these types of large scale projects , that only benefit the developers , not the taxpayers who suffer the irreversible damage .
KMG needs to reassess their leadership. Any group that continually goes to someone like John Depetro (who recently stated he would back his car up over a BLM protester) for support should have their credibility questioned.
Neighbors should contact the RI Nature Conservancy and other Environmental group and with their support set up a Go Fund Me Site to save the land.
The development of the Metacomet would be a travesty (especially what Marshall has proposed! Both Plan-A & Plan-B!!). Brick and mortar shopping/retail stores are shuttering all over the country & have been for some time now. Building a shopping center is a narrow minded idea that will only end up empty/abandoned in 10+ years only to look like all of the other eyesores across EP. Plan-B is even worse!! Commercial/Industrial bldgs built all along the perimeter in a quiet & well established neighborhood would be an abomination! The neighbors residing in/around the Metacomet would have their lives turned upside-down having to deal with YEARS & YEARS of noise pollution, air pollution & light pollution from all of the excavation & construction! This is NOT the place for any type of development of that scope whatsoever!! We don’t want/need another “been there, seen/done that” type of chain retail/shopping center that can be found in any & every city/town all throughout RI. Why exactly they think that type of development would bring people to come to EP is beyond me! The residents & majority of the council members actually do KNOW what’s best for The Metacomet & EP and Marshall Properties is absolutely not it. Let them revive/renovate so many other empty retail locations in this city – there’s plenty to be had! Have at ‘em! & Leave the Metacomet alone (or at least allow the right people to step in & take it over.).
Currently there are several large developments planned/in the works ALL OVER EP (housing, commercial,…) this isn’t the only option to build something in EP! Ivy Place is to be built across from City Hall, Newport Ave gas station/C-store & apartments (beside the old Uncle Tony’s), the huge eyesore of the old S&S plaza on Newport Ave is to be redeveloped, more apts/housing on the old Leonardo Farm in Riverside…. there’s plenty of developments happening (will be). EP needs to keep open/green space where & when we can!!
I hope they do build it. The state of RI is mostly a dump, what difference does it make. It has the potential to create JOBS which RI so desperately needs.