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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