Cranston Costco Developer Promises More Jobs, But Residents See More Pollution, Traffic and Stormwater
August 13, 2020
CRANSTON, R.I. — In golf terms, a mulligan is an extra stroke allowed after a poor shot that’s not counted on the scorecard. The Massachusetts-based developer eyeing the Mulligan’s Island property likely hopes he gets one.
During a recent site visit, Michael DiGuiseppe, managing partner for Coastal Partners LLC, attempted to sell the idea of putting a Costco on the Mulligan’s Island property to City Council members, the Planning Commission, and dozens of concerned residents. The project would also include a gas station and a 700-space parking lot.
But the Aug. 11 sell was no birdie.
“We’re just excited to bring jobs here,” said DiGuiseppe, sweat shining on his brow as more than one resident muttered, “Yeah, right.”
DiGuiseppe attempted to placate the crowd, promising 22 acres of preserved buffer zone behind the development and 250 to 270 new jobs, all at above-average pay.
“Costco is different than other retailers,” he said. “They pay a higher minimum wage, $15 an hour, plus health and dental for full-time and part-time employees. That’s unprecedented in this industry.”
DiGuiseppe also promised a front-of-store delivery system, downward-facing lights that would turn off by 9:30 p.m., construction jobs for the local union, and drainage upgrades to prevent flooding.
But the crowd gathered wasn’t easily swayed.
“We definitely have concerns,” said Rachel McNally, a member of the Cranston Neighbors for Smart Development, which has produced a video in opposition to the project.
McNally claimed that the New London Avenue property, which is also called the “cornfields” in reference to its farming past, was sold to the owner of Mulligan’s under the assumption that it would act as a buffer zone.
“It was supposed to serve as a large buffer between the surrounding neighborhoods and the state complex and any future industrial or state building over there,” she said. “The biggest concern that we have is that when the golf course was approved … a promise was made and now they’re trying to circumvent that.”
Opponents fear that the development of a big-box store with a huge parking lot will increase stormwater runoff, pollution, and traffic and decrease property values in abutting neighborhoods.
“First, there’s the environmental impact,” McNally said. “They’re saying no more than up to 60 percent of that land would be paved or covered, but obviously that’s a big loss of green space.”
Several City Council members voiced their concerns about paving over the rolling golf hills, and council member Ken Hopkins got the crowd riled up with talk of using the space to create a recreational facility for kids and families.
“I sat on the committee that brought this [golf course] to us,” Hopkins said. “What we need here is a recreational facility, not another box store.”
Other council members spoke about keeping the area family-friendly. Council member Steve Stycos questioned DiGuiseppe’s description of the proposal as “smart growth.”
“You call this smart growth,” he said, “but the principle of smart growth opposes sprawl, and this is sprawl.”
For McNally and her group, smart growth means looking at the area closely and making an informed decision that isn’t influenced by the $500,000 to $600,000 in property tax revenue the project would generate.
“We’re not naive. We understand that we don’t control private business, but at the same time if the owner chooses to close Mulligan’s and wants to sell, something needs to go there that fits the surrounding areas,” she said. “A heavy commercial development is not that.”
Opponents stressed their concerns about increased traffic and noted the impact big-box stores have on local small businesses.
“The city and the state roads can’t handle the extra traffic,” McNally said. “In addition to the fact that there will be deliveries, there will be lights, a lot of disruptions to the area. And Costco sells a little bit of everything, which will affect small businesses. We’re not against Costco itself; we’re against Costco in this location.”
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