Land Use

Developer Reframes Metacomet Plans Ahead of Council Meeting

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Marshall Properties Inc. is reframing its argument for rezoning the Metacomet Golf Club ahead of a key City Council meeting.

In a Sept. 17 online public forum, the commercial development team presented its request to rezone the 138-acre golf course as a distinct choice between a live-work-play community or a private, fenced-in, secured property.

Offering colorful renderings of a pedestrian-focused “small-format retail with a Main Street-feel,” the Marshall Properties team presented Plan A as a town center with cafes, scenic overlooks, and publicly assessable open space with 2 miles of walking trails. Plan B, which the Pawtucket-based developer will pursue if its zoning request is denied, is a private sportsmen’s club, hospital, or school with no public access and no cultural or recreational amenities.

Sen. William J. Conley Jr., D-East Providence, an attorney for Marshall Properties, said Plan A is unlike anything in the state, “with this combination of cultural and recreational amenities and this commitment to these hiking trails and a publicly assessable wildlife preserve.”

A redesigned map showed a two-phased development with a grocery store, shops, restaurants, offices, and townhouses. Nearly 30 acres would be set aside as open space with walking trails. A second phase would consist of a 34-acre residential development.

Many residents on the recent Zoom call wanted to know why the choices were so stark. Some simply saw the latest outreach as a remake of the company’s original request to change the zoning designation from open space to residential and commercial designation.

“With so many people opposed to it, why are you so adamant on coming into the city and building where you really aren’t welcomed,” said Linda Love, a resident of South Broadway.

Marshall Properties’ pugnacious attorney Zachary Darrow emphasized repeatedly that its his client’s right to develop the property and that the land will likely be developed by someone. Therefore, neighbors should engage in compromise.

The Marshalls “are going to develop the property because that’s what they do,” Darrow said. “They are going to do it within all the bounds of the law. They would prefer to do it as a community process.”

He noted that the Marshall family has built many commercial structures in East Providence and is committed to the community. 

But Love replied, “I have seen the things you’ve built. I don’t really want those to be built there to be honest with you. They are ugly big-box buildings. We don’t want them.”

Tracey Finkbeiner, a resident of Fisher Street, wanted to know why Marshall Properties wants to build retail and other commercial establishments when in 15 years they will be empty like so many other properties nearby.

“Really what we want, is we just don’t want it developed,” Finkbeiner said.

“Don’t go against the grain,” Darrow said. “Work with us and let’s achieve as many of your goals as possible. Remember compromise can be met with compromise but when a compromising effort is met with ‘No. Go away’ when we have a right to be there and develop this as a private land owner with our commitments that we made to the neighborhood.”

At the Sept. 25 City Council meeting, there is likely to be considerable debate, possibly a vote on the zoning change request, and a request to have the property planning process managed by the East Providence Waterfront Commission, the quasi-state agency that has been accused of lacking transparency and bypassing resident influence. Since the first public hearing on Aug. 11, the city’s Conservation Commission has sent a letter to the council offering its preference that the property maintain its open-space zoning designation.

The special City Council meeting is scheduled to be held at the East Providence High School auditorium, 2000 Pawtucket Ave., at 6 p.m.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, only 125 people will be admitted.

The meeting will also be streamed online at www.zoom.us. The meeting ID is 993 0796 0324 and the passcode is 653929.

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