February 27, 2021

Regarding Solutions for Metacomet

Posted

There has been much discussion and debate in East Providence over the fate of Metacomet Country Club. You will recall that the facility, which had been under financial duress for years, was sold to a group of investors, who in turn sold it to a local developer. That developer then submitted a proposal to the City for development of the site. Because that proposal required a zoning change, a zoning request was submitted to the City. Since then, as is often the case is in these matters there has been much back and forth between the City, citizens, nearby neighbors and the developer. But, as is often the case, there are two diametrically opposed groups involved. There are those who say “No development of the property is acceptable”. And there are those who say “Private enterprise should have the right to pursue any development as they see fit within the confines of local rules and ordinances". Good and solid arguments can, and have been made for either position. Normally there’s a solution that lies somewhere in the middle. That does not seem to be the case here, as the opposition seems bent on preserving the property “as is” and proposes that the City take it by eminent domain. And the City seems somewhat persuaded by that argument. For me personally, I have no dog in this fight, but urge both sides to sit back and consider their position. First, for the City to take the property by eminent domain, they would probably have a long and expensive legal battle on their hands. Eminent domain proceedings are difficult to pursue and should be considered only as an absolute last resort. There are very stringent requirements for any eminent domain action. And in the end, the City (and taxpayers) must come up with reasonable funds to make a major purchase of property that is a potential major tax revenue producer. A quick on-line review of Rhode Island Eminent Domain laws says that the owner of property being taken is entitled to a minimum of 150 percent of the fair market value of the property being seized, as compensation. On the other side is the added cost to the developer of expending additional funds for a project that is already a major financial undertaking. And they run the risk of alienating themselves from the City for future projects.

The solution should be for both sides to meet somewhere in the middle. But eminent domain should only be considered by the City only as an absolute last resort. And then, only within the confines of existing Rhode Island Eminent Domain law.

Robert Amman
East Providence

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