NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The North Kingstown Town Council approved, 4-1, comprehensive plan and zone changes for 55 Brown St., the potential new home of Eve Clulow’s multi-use venue, during Monday night’s meeting.
Planning and Development Director Nicole LaFontaine noted that the changes do not take effect until the subdivision of the property goes through. Solicitor Matthew Callaghan said that process would begin as soon as the council passed the amendments.
Clulow told The Independent after the decision was handed down that she speaks with Callaghan on a regular basis and the process is moving along.
“There’s a B follows A, C follows B process here,” Clulow said. “I have to get certain documentation from my architect, a bidding process for contractors, once I have that I go to the bank then we can close. As Matt said in the meeting, we’re looking for early next year [for a closing].”
The sale of the former Town Hall Annex hasn’t been without controversy. Town voters overwhelmingly approved selling the asset during a special referendum in April. Soon after, Town Councilor Ellen Waxman and descendants of Caleb Allen Chadsey, who left the land and $10,000 to build a library there, contacted the state attorney general’s office. They were concerned the annex was part of a charitable trust.
The matter eventually went to Rhode Island Superior Court, where Judge Sarah Taft-Carter ruled the sale could go through if the net proceeds of the $100,000 purchase went to the Library Board of Trustees. Clulow intends to convert the space into a multi-purpose venue with a restaurant, theater and bar.
Waxman asked to table the changes presented at Monday’s meeting so that the next council could vote on them after their inauguration next week. Her motion did not receive a second.
The comprehensive plan would move the property from a public designation to neighborhood commercial on the future land use map. LaFontaine said the 2008 maps were used instead of the plan submitted for this year’s rewrite because she wasn’t sure what the timing was going to be.
The zone change would bring the site out of a public zone and into the Wickford Village Center. Waxman said she continues to have “ongoing concerns,” most notably that the town did not put a substantial enough price tag on the annex.
“It has to do with the fact that the town is selling this valuable asset at far below fair market value,” Waxman said, saying she was highlighting the top concern she has seen in e-mails, public comment and social media. “And I don’t feel like that is good stewardship of our town property in that we have a duty to be prudent in the management of our public properties.”
She continued, adding that she received another letter from ones of Chadsey’s descendants earlier in the day. He wrote that the family still finds the sale “problematic,” but she was cut off by Town Council President Richard Welch before she could go much further.
“Superior Court found in favor of the sale of this property,” Welch said. “This has already been discussed ad infinitum.”
There was some crosstalk between the two as Waxman called a point of order, while Welch asked for a call to question. Callaghan intervened, saying that the latter overrules the former. The council passed the comprehensive plan change, 4-1, with Waxman dissenting.
Only one person, Carrie Mitchell, spoke during the public hearing portion of the zone change discussion. She told the council that the voters and courts have spoken on the Annex, and that all parties involved should move forward.
“I have read everything, all the pages, all the documents,” Mitchell said. “Those who say they didn’t know what costs were and had no idea about the details clearly didn’t read the purchase and sales [agreement]. Clearly they did not go to meetings. Clearly they did not get informed by many of the meetings that Eve Clulow held or her representatives did.”
Waxman had the last comment before the council voted on the zone change. She continued to read from the letter she received, which said the sale price “further disrespected” Chadsey’s gift to the town.
“He also says he respectfully asks for the town to honor the wishes of his family,” Waxman said. “Please discontinue all efforts to finalize this sale and that he hopes that we take his concerns seriously so no further action becomes necessary.”
The council then approved the amendment by the same count, 4-1, with Waxman dissenting. Town Councilor Kerry McKay offered his congratulations to Clulow shortly after.