Lawmakers call on state to help East Providence acquire former Metacomet Golf Club

EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) – State lawmakers are now stepping into a months-long fight between residents of East Providence and a developer over the former Metcomet Golf Club property.

The 105-acre golf course sits along Veterans Memorial Parkway and was designed by Donald Ross, a famed golf course designer. It officially closed last September.

Marshall Properties now owns the land and proposed last summer to the city council a plan to develop it, if it was granted rezoning. But then the firm withdrew its petition for rezoning and said at the time it would try to develop the property without rezoning.

“Council members at that time expressed their opinion that four out of five of them would have opposed the petition,” said Candy Seel, a resident of East Providence who is a part of the group ‘Keep Metacomet Green.’ “Since then, Marshall has submitted a new plan which they called Plan B, which we refer to as a ‘mishmosh’ of buildings that they would be entitled to use under the zoning but that we can’t imagine that they would actually want to do.”

Seel said she fears Marshall Properties will soon go ahead with their original plan.

“We think that what they would like to do is convince enough people to rezone and they might build the original plan maybe to a lesser scale.”

The group of residents formed the Keep Metacomet Green group in June of 2020 when they first learned of the proposal. Since then, it’s grown to nearly 3,000 people from across the East Bay.

“We can’t believe how far we’ve gotten in these past six months. We started with a couple of people holding signs up at the Metacomet golf course on the parkway and writing some letters, and we never dreamed we’d get to this point,” Seel said.

Their concerns fell on the right ears, as now state lawmakers are getting involved.

Seel said the city council decided to explore eminent domain at the urging of residents, and have hired a land-use attorney to appraise the property.

This week, it was announced that Rep. Gregg Amore (D-Dist. 65, East Providence) and Sen. Valarie J. Lawson (D-Dist. 14, East Providence) would be introducing resolutions calling for the state to help the City of East Providence with the costs of acquiring Metacomet Golf Course.

“Personally I thought this is an opportunity for the city to preserve this urban green space,” said Rep. Amore.

Amore said the resolutions will be introduced next week, and will likely be taken up in March. Residents will be able to testify at that point, and the city should have the appraisal by then, Amore said.

“Senator Lawson and my proposal is basically an after-the-fact proposal. If the city does go forward, we will pursue the existing statute and ask the director of administration, the DEM, to find place in their budget to support this purchase.”

Amore, who is a former member of the golf club, said he is against the development of the land, but he sees both sides.

“There are people on both sides of this argument who have good arguments. I think the KMG people have passionately argued about quality of life, about the environment, about the neighborhood changing its complexion, about traffic. The other hand, I think there are folks that say look we are building a new high school, we do have financial needs, this would increase the city’s tax base.”

East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva sent the following statement to ABC6 on the issue:

“If our state delegation is successful in having funds budgeted into the state budget to fund the purchase this property, we would be delighted.”

Seel said she and the others in Keep Metacomet Green don’t want to get their hopes up, but want state leaders to see that it’s worth it to invest.

“This is our community. People come to East Providence because of the quality of life in this community. People drive down the parkway and look at the golf course and say oh my goodness isn’t that beautiful,” Seel said. “Some of us have been here for generations but even those who’ve just come recently in the past few years, they didn’t come for the thought that there might be a new Dunkin’ Donuts down the street. It was with the thought that it’s a beautiful beautiful community and they want to keep it that way and so do we and that’s why we fight.”

Lianne Marshall of Marshall Properties sent ABC6 the following statement on the matter:

“We have not seen the proposed resolution by Representative Amore and Senator Lawson. That said, it is worth noting that in the development plan previously proposed by Marshall Development, we embraced the importance of urban green spaces by reserving over 40 acres for public green space – which was to be made available without the City or State needing to spend money to purchase such property. We committed to work with the City to program this space in a manner that would be most cost effective and impactful to the City, and serve as a very significant addition to the City’s network of existing public spaces. We look forward to continuing our dialogue with the community in an effort to contribute to urban green space within the City, together with delivering a first class development that will bring the City and State substantial revenues, positive fiscal impact, and jobs for many years to come.”

© WLNE-TV 2021

Categories: News, Regional News, Rhode Island