East Providence City Council approves Metacomet rezoning over community objectionsDeveloper Lianne Marshall smiled as she left the City Council chambers. Now that the City Council has voted, they have no more say in the development of the project, which now goes through a review process before a series of unelected boards.
Published on July 21, 2021
By Steve Ahlquist
“We’re deeply disappointed by their actions,” said East Providence resident Candy Seel, who has been fighting against the development of the Metacomet Golf Course into a series of businesses and homes. “We think that they didn’t quite understand the options that were available to them.”
Seel, one of five leaders of Keep Metacomet Green (KMG), which wants to keep the land as open space, spoke to reporters outside the council chambers after midnight, after a grueling hearing that had run well over five hours. Inside, the council was continuing to discuss other business.
The area under discussion is one of the last open patches of greenery left in the heavily developed City of East Providence. The developer of the project, Marshall Properties, was granted a long sought after “rezoning comprehensive plan amendment” that would change the designation of the property from “open space” to “a new sub-district of the East Providence Waterfront Special Development District” with allowed uses that include, but not limited to a mix of commercial, office, retail, mixed density residential, single family townhouses and multifamily condos, fast food, continuing care facilities, conference centers, fast food, hotels and pharmacies. Half the golf course, 48.1 acres, will be maintained.
KMG came playing to win. They were represented for the first time by their lawyer, William Harsh, who worked as the Director of the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and chaired the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). KMG brought in two experts, one on zoning and one on environmental concerns.
KMG presented a compelling case against the development, as can be seen here: Statement from Keep Metacomet Green to the East Providence City Council on proposed development
Previous reporting from UpriseRI:
- They’re not as strong as we think they are: An interview with Senator-elect Cynthia Mendes
- Marshall Properties issues ultimatum on Metacomet Golf Course project
- The fight over Metacomet Golf Course isn’t over, just delayed until after the primary
- Keep Metacomet Green brings their message to East Providence City Hall
- Marshall Development and Keep Metacomet Green battle during East Providence City Council meeting
- Public pushes back against politically connected developer in East Providence
Unpersuaded by KMG, the East Providence City Council voted 3-2 to rezone the property and amend the comprehensive plan to allow Marshall Properties to go ahead with their plan.
Developer Lianne Marshall smiled as she left the City Council chambers. Now that the City Council has voted, they, and the public, have no more say in the development of the project, which now goes through a review process before a series of unelected boards.
Here’s the video:
City clerk introduces the zoning change under consideration:
Marshall Properties once more makes their case:
KMG’s lawyer presents their case:
Former State Senator William Conley, who was unseated in part due to his being a lawyer working for Marshall Properties against the community he serves as a senator, objected to KMG’s witness on zoning claiming that the expert witness was “partisan.”
KMG’s zoning expert testifies:
KMG’s environmental expert testifies:
Public comment begins:
State Senator Cynthia Mendes (Democrat, District 18, East Providence) testifies:
East Providence City Council President Robert Britto was offended by some of the things said during this testimony, and openly and loudly argued. He apologized later in the meeting for his outburst:
More public testimonies:
Closing remarks from KMG’s lawyer:
Closing remarks from Marshall Properties’ lawyer:
The East Providence City Council discusses the rezoning: