June 16, 2021

East Providence News Briefs

Posted

Metacomet Property Value Put at $8.3M+
The saga of the former Metacomet Golf Course is nearing some final decisions as the City Council officially released its appraisal numbers at a special April 29th council meeting.  The independent appraisal agency, Peter M. Scotti Associates, assessed the former golf course at $8.230 million.  The appraisal number was made public against the legal advice of independent attorney, attorney Harris K. Weiner.  Weiner told the council that they should not disclose appraisal information because it would compromise their position with Marshall Properties, should the matter go to Superior Court.  Scotti Associates is recognized as a real estate expert in Federal and State court proceedings and by zoning boards, tax appeal boards and City and Town councils throughout Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts.  Weiner concentrates his practice in commercial litigation, including contract, real estate, intellectual property, employment, administrative and financial disputes.

However, the council was eager to release the appraisal number to the public, believing that the issue has “dragged on long enough and the public wants this information.”  The council voted unanimously and against legal advice, to release the number publicly.   Attorney Weiner explained that if eminent domain were invoked, “the City will have to deposit at least $8.3M and maybe more to the Superior Court in a very short time.”  All council members indicated that the City doesn’t have the cash to go ahead with taking the property.  In the end, although each member discussed the improbability of the City spending upwards of $11M or more dollars to buy the golf course, the idea of eminent domain was defeated by a 4-1 vote.  Councilwoman Anna Sousa voted against the motion to deny eminent domain.    

In late April the Council had received a public compromise proposal from new owners, Marshall Properties.  The Marshall group was essentially denied their original request to develop Metacomet which would have included a large hotel and major building on the near 140-acre property.  A second “Plan B” provided by Marshall, which requires less, if any, city council approval, was also roundly disliked by many.  The council received a new, “compromise” proposal at its April 20th meeting, which offered the City approximately 79 acres of “Open Space.”  Marshall attorney Zach Darrow said that the open space is “exclusive of the Watchemoket Cove.”  Marshall said they are also gifting 9 other acres along Fort and Lyon avenues and redeveloping 48 acres into a public 9-hole golf course.  Marshall will keep and maintain a public 9-hole golf course. The golf course will be legally restricted for use as only golf/open space.  The EPHS golf team will be allowed free use of the course and EP residents would receive a discounted green fee rate to use the course.  The developer also pledged to create 2.2 miles of new walking trails and a scenic overlook.  Marshall would also establish a substantial residential buffer along the Fisher Street neighborhood.  Another 22 acres is comprised of the Watchemoket cove and buffer areas.

The developer also committed to the following: “No general merchandise/retail store over 30,000 square feet.  No hotel. This would prohibit stores like a Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, BJ’s, etc.  The size limitation does not apply to a grocery store.”

Marshall would be able to build restricted height residential/shops buildings that cannot exceed five stories.  The first story will include stores and shops.  Marshall pledged to “work with community leaders to enhance initiatives such as public art installation, Veteran’s/Heritage Memorials, Farmer’s Market, Outdoor Yoga, Music classes and possibly an oyster bed in the cove.”  Marshall claimed that the entire City would see $8-10 million of annual tax revenue.  They also claim the creation of thousands of temporary and permanent jobs from construction to retail and office.  When asked directly on April 20th by ward 3 councilman Nate Cahoon if Marshall was interested in a “friendly sale to the City,” owner Lianne Marshall answered, “No, we’re not.”  Speakers before the council in person and on zoom, were evenly split on the issue of eminent domain.

As things stand currently, the Marshall group can build housing and business and various other development under current laws and zoning, without city council approval.  The so-called Plan B which develops much of the property can begin soon with only the necessary permitting process required by any property developer.  The new compromise proposal does require a zone change but entails less development and deeds open space buffers to the neighborhood.  The next move is up to Marshall at this point.  City Solicitor Michael Marcello told the Council that “you retain full control on development ideas that Marshall may propose with its compromise plan.  You can place any restrictions you want, including building size, etc,” said Marcello.

In April of 2019, the Brad Faxon group bought the golf course for $2.2 million.  At that time Faxon said they would upgrade and improve the property which needed much work.  However, the work wasn’t completed and Faxon sold the course to the Marshall group for $7.6M in October 2020.

State Treasurer Magaziner Visits New EPHS
RI Treasurer Seth Magaziner chose the new EPHS site on April 28th to discuss a progress report on school financing.  Superintendent of Schools Kathryn Crowley, Mayor Bob DaSilva and others addressed the press conference.  Magaziner was impressed with the “state of the art campus, new for Rhode Island.”  Magaziner noted that this is the largest school construction program in R.I.  The 304,000 square foot facility is on schedule and budget for a September 2021 opening.

“Every child deserves to go to school in buildings that are warm, safe, dry and equipped for 21st century learning,” Magaziner, a former public-school teacher, told assembled media and officials.

“We are ecstatic about the construction of our state-of-the-art high school,” Mayor Bob DaSilva said.  “The success in the planning and construction of this magnificent school is evident by the dedication and determination displayed by all here today,” added Mayor DaSilva.

Superintendent Crowley told the audience that this “will provide our kids with a world-class education that requires collaboration across all offices and disciplinary fields.  They will be prepared for college or to enter a competitive work force,” she added.

School Committee Chair Joel Monteiro led the group through a tour of the new school.  Monteiro said that there may be public tours of the old school and the new, when appropriate and socially allowable.  “Not even a global pandemic could slow down the construction of EPHS,” said one of the officials during the tour.

EP Teachers & School Committee Renegotiate Three-year Contract:
At a late April special school committee meeting, the committee approved a three-year teachers’ contract as presented by Superintendent Kathryn Crowley.  The contract’s provision is effective going back to November 1, 2020.  It goes through October of 2023.  The new contract was passed unanimously by the school committee.

Committee members were very supportive of the job performances of teachers and the Superintendent and staff.  The basis of the new contract was to raise the top step of the teacher salary chart from about $78,000 to $87,000.  The increase is basically for those with 10 or more years of teaching and is intended to help keep the more experienced and higher trained teachers in the district.  All sides said the contract included other savings measures for the district.  Crowley said she can afford the increases within the current budget without asking the city council for more money.  The pay scale is believed to move EP top step teachers closer to the state median for teachers and not near the bottom anymore.

Ages 16 and older now eligible for Covid vaccine:
People age 16 and older who live, work, or go to school in Rhode Island are now eligible to schedule a COVID-19 vaccination appointment. Information about additional eligible populations is available online: https://covid.ri.gov/vaccinationVaccination records available: People can also look up their COVID vaccination record.  Rhode Islanders can now get a copy of their COVID-19 vaccine record through www.portal.ri.gov/VaccineRecord. From this website, you can search for and print proof of your COVID-19 vaccination. If you need a second dose of vaccine, this record will tell you when you are eligible to get your second dose. Please note that only people who have received their COVID-19 vaccination in Rhode Island will be able to look up their vaccination record online.  If you are having trouble finding your vaccination record or are not able to go online, you can call 401-222-8022 for help.

Now Illegal to operate off-road vehicles and snowmobiles on City streets:
The East Providence City Council has approved a new ordinance making the use of off-road vehicles and snowmobiles illegal to use on East Providence streets.  The Council, voted 5-0 in favor of the new ordinance, sponsored by Council President Robert Britto and signed into law by Mayor Bob DaSilva.  “We are trying to jump out ahead of it in order to avoid the issues that other cities have had,” Council President Robert Britto said.

The ordinance not only makes it unlawful for a person to operate a snowmobile or recreational off-road vehicle within city limits (except on private property 2.5 acres or greater and with permission of the owner), but it also enables East Providence Municipal Court to issue penalties. Police have the authority to impound any snowmobile or off-road vehicle found to be in violation of the ordinance. A civil penalty of $500 is enforced if the person does not own the vehicle, the owner did not know it was being used and it’s the first time the vehicle has been found to be in violation.

“We are hoping this ordinance, which is something we’ve never had before will give our law enforcement team the tools that they need,” Mayor Bob DaSilva said. “The position we will take is a zero-tolerance approach starting today.”

The ordinance prohibits acts to elude police officers such as increasing speed, changing directions, turning off lights or taking other steps to avoid a police officer.

“The passage of this ordinance will keep the community safer by not having the officer engage in vehicle pursuits especially on the bike path, which endangers the public,” Chief William Nebus said.

The ordinance also states that all off-road vehicles must be registered with the Rhode Island Dept. of Environmental Management and that there will be no storing of unregistered snowmobile or off-road vehicles on public or private property.  Off-road vehicle, referenced in the ordinance, refer to a motorized or electronic vehicle designed to travel over unimproved terrain including, but not limited to, minibikes, dirt bikes, all-terrain vehicles and any other three- or four-wheel vehicles regardless of type or design and does NOT include golf mobiles, golf carts, riding lawn mowers or tractors.

Update:  The East Providence Police issued a follow up statement which said, in part, “The police have increased enforcement.  Since the April 21st ordinance signing, six individuals have been cited under the ordinance and their off-road vehicles seized pending asset forfeiture proceedings.  Additionally, four separate individuals have been criminally charged with Reckless Driving/Eluding Police while operating similar style motor bikes.  A warrant will be issued for a fifth individual.  The East Providence Police will continue to aggressively enforce the illegal operation of off-road vehicles on our city streets.  As many of you have personally witnessed, often times these vehicles are driven in a dangerous, reckless manner on our streets, sidewalks, lawns, city parks, businesses, bike paths and parking lots,” finished the police statement.

EP awarded $20,000 TD Green Space Grant for Innovative Urban Forestry Initiatives in Underserved Neighborhoods
The City announced that it received a $20,000 USD TD Green Space Grant from TD Bank Group (TD) and the Arbor Day Foundation to support innovative urban greening and tree planting projects in underserved communities.

East Providence plans to use the grant to plant a bio diverse grove of native trees in May, with species tags and educational signage for the public, as well as the build out of an outdoor classroom in October inside the circular grove that will support educational activities. East Providence was one of 20 U.S. and Canadian cities selected to receive a grant.

"Green spaces provide long-lasting environmental benefits, but they also play a vital role in creating more vibrant, livable cities by providing social, health and economic benefits for individuals and families," said Shelley Sylva Head of U.S Social Impact at TD Bank. "TD is proud to work with the Arbor Day Foundation to help create a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow by supporting critical green space programs in the East Providence community."

“Our goal with this grant program is to help communities not only enrich their green spaces but also enrich lives,” said Dan Lambe, President, Arbor Day Foundation. “We are supporting East Providence and its effort to build awareness about the benefits of trees, educate residents on proper tree care, and lay the groundwork for a greener future.”

The Arbor Day Foundation and TD Bank tree-planting project, which proposes to plant a bio diverse grove of native trees, will commence at Hull Street Park behind Whiteknact Elementary School on May 4, 2021. This project will enhance the park for students, families, and neighborhood residents, and provide an opportunity for outdoor education accessible to the school and the wider community.  To carry out this project, the City is working in partnership with EP Urban Forest, working to enhance the City’s ecosystem through education, planning and community activities.

The tree-planting event on May 4, 2021 will engage community volunteers in the planting of 14 native trees in the park. Neighbors, students, families, and school faculty are warmly invited to attend the event.  “We are absolutely honored to be a recipient of TD’s Green Space Grant, which helps to support our city’s existing urban greening and tree planting efforts,” Mayor Bob DaSilva said.

“We are so thankful to TD Bank and the City for helping us to build an urban forest refuge for our students and the neighborhood,” Jennifer Tierney, founding member EP Urban Forest.

TD provides funding for the grants, which are awarded annually for tree planting, maintenance costs and educational activities. The program is administered by the Arbor Day Foundation. TD Green Space Grants are made possible as part of the TD Ready Commitment, TD's global corporate citizenship platform, aimed at opening doors to a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow.  For more information, visit www.arborday.org/programs/tdgreenspacegrants .

City 2021 Summer Day Camp Registration
The Recreation Dept. will hold a six-week summer day camp for East Providence youth ages 6-12 (age as of September 1, 2021). Camp will run from June 28, 2021 – August 6, 2021 (no camp July 5, 2021), weather permitting at Pierce Field, 201 Mercer St. East Providence, RI 02914. The program will follow all COVID-19 safety guidelines to ensure the health and safety of our campers and staff.

Recreation counselors will lead children through a fun-filled day of camp activities that include sports, arts and crafts, special events and much more!  Free lunch is provided.

Camp operates Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. weather permitting. Camp will be cancelled on rainy days. Transportation is NOT available to and from camp. Children must be dropped off and picked up.

Camp fee is $450 per child for the six-week program.  The $225 deposit is due at registration. Final payment is due July 9, 2021.  In order to maintain stable pods, all campers must be registered for the entire six- week program. Register online at https://eastprovidence.recdesk.com   Space is limited.  For more information, please call the Recreation Department at 401-435-7511.

Police arrest individual suspected of vandalizing the police station
The East Providence Police released a statement as they arrested a local man in a vandalization act at the police station on Waterman avenue.

“On Friday April 16, 2021 shortly after 3 a.m., a person was observed via video surveillance vandalizing the front of the East Providence Police Department headquarters, located at 750 Waterman Avenue. Soon after the incident, a suspect was apprehended.

“I credit our East Providence Police Department dispatchers and patrol officers for their swift actions in identifying, locating and arresting the person responsible,” Mayor Bob DaSilva said.

It was determined the suspect spray painted the EPPD sign and a section of the building.  The suspect also threw two large rocks at the front entry glass doors, shattering two panes. He then fled in a vehicle.

“Our dispatchers broadcast a description of the suspect and his vehicle. Minutes later, Officer Fontaine observed a vehicle matching the description in the vicinity of Commercial Way, which is a short distance from the police station.  Officer Fontaine conducted a motor vehicle stop. During the motor vehicle stop, officers observed a can of black spray paint, along with a pair of rubber gloves inside the car. After further investigation, the operator of the vehicle was arrested,” said Chief William Nebus.

The suspect is identified as East Providence resident, Mitchell C. Lawson, age 23.  Lawson was charged with:

  • Two Counts of Vandalism
  • Obstruction
  • Disorderly Conduct
  • Driving With an Expired License

According to the police statement, the motivation for this crime appears to be recent national headlines involving police.  “This appears to be an isolated incident.  We have always enjoyed an excellent relationship with our community and we look forward to continuing and building upon that relationship,” added Chief William Nebus.

Henderson Bridge Advisory
The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) has released Henderson Bridge Project Update.  “We need to fully close Waterfront Drive Sunday-Tuesday nights and intermittently close Massasoit Avenue Wednesday and Thursday nights for steel girder demolition.  Follow signed detours. Weekday operations will include continued demolition of the existing westbound bridge concrete deck, excavation prior to demolition for the existing ramp from Massasoit Avenue to the Henderson Expressway westbound, and prep work for the last temporary traffic signal on North Brow Street in East Providence,” said the RIDOT.

Crescent Park (Blount) Chowder Available This Summer
Although the concession stand next to the Crescent Park Carousel will remained closed this summer while a new stand is planned, Blount Foods will provide a food truck with a limited menu.  The stand will be available on Thursdays through Sundays.  The City is looking to fund a more permanent “restaurant” type concession building for the property.

(portions of this news brief were compiled with contributions from Bob Rodericks)

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