Narragansett council votes to sell controversial Belmont building
NARRAGANSETT, R.I. (WLNE) --The Narragansett Town Council officially voted 3-2 late Tuesday night to approve a motion to sell the controversial Belmont building to a private developer.
The vote was met with outrage from library supporters, dozens of whom packed the room and spoke out against the sale during public comment.
"People are angry," said Nancy DeNuccio of the Love Your Library Coalition. "People are distraught. Shouldn't the town council be representing the will of the people?"
Many in attendance at the meeting had hoped the building would become the town's new library, after a majority of voters approved that plan in a 2016 referendum.
Now, the plan is for the developer to convert the space to a European-style eatery concept similar to a food court.
Town council president Matthew Mannix says it's the kind of business that could revitalize the struggling Pier Marketplace.
"I understand that the foot traffic at the pier has not been as vibrant as it once was," Mannix said. "But I think we have a duty to at least make an attempt."
Yet adding to the concerns, the deal involves the town -- not a bank -- loaning money to buyer Carlos Mouta of Connecticut.
Mouta's company had previously filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Some residents see it as giving him an unfair advantage.
"Favor an out–of–town developer over the mom and pop businesses that currently exist and struggle in Narragansett," said one resident.
Other residents wonder why the town never put the building on the open market.
"Why wasn't this property evaluated, assessed, and then put out for other people who might have interest in it?" a resident said. "That's a really important question. And all the smoke and mirrors we've had tonight, do not divert people from what is going on here. I don't know what it is, but there's something going on."
Mouta was not present at Tuesday night's town council meeting.
Library supporters say they may now be pursuing legal action.
©WLNE-TV-ABC 6 2019