EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The developer seeking to convert the Metacomet Golf Club into a mixed-use development in the face of fierce local opposition plans to buy the property next month no matter where the process stands, a spokesperson said Tuesday.
The 138-acre site is currently owned by Metacomet Property Company LLC, whose investors include Rhode Island native and pro golfer Brad Faxon, which bought it last year for $750,000. But Faxon’s group has now entered into an agreement to sell the club, which abuts Watchemocket Cove, to Pawtucket-based Marshall Properties.
Marshall wants to develop 67 of the 138 acres with residential and commercial buildings, and is seeking a zoning change to do so. That plan has triggered a ferocious backlash in East Providence, with the activist group Keep Metacomet Green blanketing the area with green signs opposing Marshall.
One of Marshall’s attorneys, state Sen. William Conley, lost his Democratic primary race in an unexpected landslide on Sept. 8 to Cynthia Mendes, an East Providence resident who opposes the Metacomet redevelopment. Conley is chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.
Supporters of Keep Metacomet Green have repeatedly pointed out that Marshall is not the owner of the golf club yet but rather only has it under contract. Bill Fischer, a spokesperson for Marshall Properties, declined to say when the company plans to close on the purchase, but insisted it won’t be called off.
“I don’t have a specific date for you at this time,” Fischer told 12 News. “I can tell you that the closing will take place in October and that Marshall Properties is committed to closing with or without the zone change they are seeking.”
The East Providence City Council is scheduled to meet about — and potentially vote on — Marshall’s request to rezone Metacomet at a hearing this Friday at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of East Providence High School. (The five council members now serve four-year terms and therefore are not up for re-election in November.)
Keep Metacomet Green has scheduled a rally against Marshall’s plans for Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Marshall issued an ultimatum to East Providence residents last week ahead of a community meeting on the proposal, saying the company has a “Plan B” for Metacomet that would be allowable under the property’s current zoning, “including hospital uses, public and private educational uses, live/work spaces, various private club uses, youth camps and municipal facilities.”
“We are asking everyone to give this plan a second look and keep in mind that we have the right to redevelop the property under current zoning designations without a zone change,” Lianne Marshall, principal at Marshall Properties, said in a statement. “The Metacomet Country Club as we all know it will no longer exist. There are many reasons for the club’s demise and none of them have to do with Marshall Properties.”
Marshall’s previous development projects include the Brown Physicians building on Wampanoag Trail in East Providence, which opened in 2016, and the retail plaza on Smith Street in Providence that includes Aldi’s and Family Dollar, which opened in 2010.
In a statement Tuesday, East Providence Mayor Bob DaSilva said he was “concerned” about that the Marshalls’ Plan B “would not fit with the fabric of the community” and argued that the developer’s team “put forth a good faith effort by taking residents’ input and incorporating it into Plan A,” referring to the development the zoning change would authorize.
“Do I believe the council has the ability to negotiate a better plan – a smart, sound plan and a plan to be proud of – yes,” DaSilva said. “The council has the power and they may negotiate something even better than what has been put forth. It is in their hands to do what is best for the community.”
The mayor added, “The Marshalls are getting ready to close on the property and will be the new owners and if they have no intention of keeping it as a golf course, then we should have a strong say in what does happen to that property.”
The East Providence Conservation Commission in August voted to advise the City Council to reject the zoning change in order “to enhance and maximize open space within the City of East Providence.”
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook