The people of Save Cranston’s Open Space have hired a lawyer, and sent out a press release to let everyone know what the potential developer of Mulligan’s Island has been up to. From the press release:
CRANSTON, R.I., July 12 â€“ Save Cranstonâ€™s Open Space has hired William R. Landry of Blish & Cavanagh to represent neighbors opposed to the commercial development of the 55-acre Mulliganâ€™s Island golf complex and sale of a city-owned ball field to make way for a four-lane entrance to the proposed big-box development. Landry, an experienced trial lawyer and partner in the firm, has extensive experience in litigation and arbitration of residential and commercial land-use disputes.
Among the latest developments in the Mulliganâ€™s Island dispute was distribution of a section of a modified â€œCentre at Garden Hillsâ€? proposal to abutters by Greg Oâ€™Brien, the public relations representative of developer Churchill & Banks. The new proposal is expected to be presented at the Tuesday, Aug. 7, Planning Commission meeting.
â€œThe new Churchill & Banks proposal entirely misses the point of our objections â€“ as would any proposal for development of the Mulliganâ€™s Island land,â€? according to Rachel McNally, one of the organizers of Save Cranstonâ€™s Open Space. â€œWe appreciate the fact that Cranston needs more economic development, but there are other areas already zoned commercial where that should take place. Cranston also needs more open space â€“ not less.â€?
Oâ€™Brien began distribution of part of the new Churchill & Banks conceptual plan with visits to the abutting Oak Hill Terrace neighborhood on Saturday, July 7, offering a plan with a 50-foot extension to the back yards of 10 properties on Hilltop Drive and to 11 properties along Beeckman Ave. To date, abutters along Laura Circle have not been offered property extensions. Abutters to the city-owned ball field and wooded property, including six on Hilltop Drive, have not been offered the 50-foot property extensions. Just beyond the abutting backyards, the plans show approximately 19-acres of â€œopen spaceâ€? â€“ largely along the Beeckman Avenue neighborhood. They also show very narrow bands of open space between some Hilltop Drive and Laura Circle homes and the proposed retail development.
The new proposal includes a 119,598 square-foot space expected to be a BJâ€™s Wholesale Club with a 12-pump gas station and a 60,000 square-foot space that Oâ€™Brien told at least four neighbors would be a Raymour & Flanigan furniture store. It also includes one unnamed 16,650 square-foot retail store, two restaurants and parking for over 1,100 cars. After paving the current ball field to make way for a four-lane entrance from New London Avenue at the intersection of Hilltop Drive, the new proposal calls for developing two ball fields for the city.
After distribution of the developerâ€™s plan, an initial Save Cranstonâ€™s Open Space poll showed 10 out of 10 Hilltop Drive abutters who were offered back yard extensions still firmly oppose the commercial development of Mulliganâ€™s Island. The organization has begun polling abutters offered the 50-foot extensions on Beeckman as well as abutters on Laura Circle. Results so far show unanimous opposition among several already reached.
â€œThe 50-foot extension to abuttersâ€™ backyards is nothing but a transfer of 50 feet of property from the â€˜open spaceâ€™ area to the tax bills of the residents,â€? McNally said. â€œA high and wide berm with trees and shrubs would still be needed to buffer the neighborhood from the retail development.
â€œThe new proposal also does not solve the problem of increased traffic throughout the area, which affects the entire Garden Hills area, including Oaklawn Ave., as well as directly abutting neighborhoods. It doesnâ€™t address the problems of safety, noise, lights or runoff. In fact, it exacerbates the safety problem by putting the two proposed ball fields where our children will be playing along the proposed four-lane entrance where cars will be entering and exiting and where 18-wheelers will be making deliveries,â€? she said.
â€œAs for the approximately 19 acres of â€˜open space,â€™ we do not know that this would be deeded to the city and that it would be permanently zoned â€˜open space.â€™ In fact, we understand that the developer wants to keep the Mixed Plan District designation that was granted solely for Mulliganâ€™s Island, but have it modified to allow their heavy commercial use on part of the property. That is totally inconsistent with the intent of the original MPD designation and sets a precedent that would endanger the remaining â€˜openâ€™ MPD space in the future.â€?
The August 7th planning meeting to be held at Cranston East High School promises to be a fiesty one. Churchill & Banks will be presenting their plan for the “Centre at Garden Hills” and the opposition will be there to ask questions and raise the safety and environmental concerns cited above.
Councilwoman Paula McFarland had said in a previous thread that another development proposal (Atwood Village) was not feasible partially because of the existence of a city-owned ball field on the site. Her words were: “It was not the relocation of the ball field that led to the area not being able to be used for development, but the use of federal funds to support and sustain the creation of the recreation facility years ago. In other words, because federal funds were used to build the ball field, it can’t be demolished It sounds like Churchill & Banks believe that if the plan includes the building of a new ball space (or two of them), then it’s okay to demolish the old one. Perhaps they have won this battle elsewhere.
I don’t live close to this, so it’s hard for me to imagine what it must feel like to know that a huge retail development might be going in right nearby. I imagine it must be quite frightening, especially when the proposal includes a 12-pump gas station (all that gas, stored right nearby, though in my own neighborhood there is a gas station only two-and-a-half blocks away) and provisions for tons of parking spaces. A 19-acre buffer sounds significant, but it doesn’t appear that all homes would enjoy that large of a buffer.
As Councilwoman McFarland has indicated in previous comments, the city is in need of recreational space. She believes, as do many residents and leaders of the city, that our commercial development needs to be contained in the areas already commercialized, such as Oaklawn Avenue, Cranston Street, and Chapel View.