Future uncertain for former site of Zion Bible College in Barrington

East Bay

BARRINGTON, R.I. (WPRI) ─ Broken glass and spray paint mar the once majestic image of Belton Court, the now-vacant former estate of Frederick Peck.

The wealthy businessman’s palatial stone home was built and expanded upon in the early 1900s but now, more than a century later, it’s fallen into disrepair.

Barrington Town Manager Tim Cunha said every single room inside the 55,000 square-foot mansion was tagged with graffiti the last time he went into the building.

“Water infiltration everywhere. Virtually every pane of glass has been broken,” he said. “Some of the outbuildings, the old wooden dormitories, the floors are collapsed and portions of the roof are collapsing.”

The buildings and nearly 40 acres of land sit on were previously home to Barrington College and then Zion Bible College. The latter moved out in 2007 and in 2011, Massachusetts-based Shineharmony Holdings bought the property at auction for about $3.5 million.

The company planned to turn the Middle Highway property into a continuing care retirement community, but they abandoned those plans in 2017 and listed the parcel for sale.

The sale price is undisclosed, but the town has assessed the property at more than $8 million. Shineharmony currently pays the town upwards of $110,000 a year in taxes.

Cunha called the site an “attractive nuisance” and thinks property taxes for residents could be lowered if it were to be redeveloped. He said he’s sent many prospective buyers to Shineharmony, but a sale has never been finalized.

Shineharmony declined to comment.

Cunha said the Barrington Police Department keeps a close eye on the property. Logs provided to Eyewitness News by the town show police and fire have been called to the property hundreds of times in the past 10 years.

The town considered buying the parcel to either resell or use as a location for a school, but Cunha said it was too expensive.

While he’d like to see the property used for senior housing, though he said it can be rezoned to accommodate another project like a corporate campus.

“Right now this is a blight on our community and we want it fixed,” he said. “We’ve done everything we can to encourage the owners to try and sell it off or develop it as appropriate, and we’ve been unsuccessful, but we’ll continue to try to do that.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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