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Sunday, April 10, 2016

Save the General Stanton Inn!

Diverse citizens group leads ballot initiative effort
By Will Collette
Friends of the General Stanton Inn purpose statement

Two buildings in Charlestown stand out as icons for the town’s past and its future. One is the Narragansett Indian Church, rich in meaning for the town’s original inhabitants.

The other is the General Stanton Inn, built in 1667 whose history covers nearly the entire span of time European immigrants came and took control of Charlestown.

The General Stanton Inn survived over the centuries by changing with the times. The Inn offered many a generation a place to meet, eat, drink, play cards or the myriad of other activities it took to keep the Inn a going concern.

For decades, Janice and her late husband Sonny kept the Inn going, but after Sonny passed away, Janice found herself needing to let others try their hands at running the Inn using various business models. Few of those efforts succeeded and last year, Janice tried her last best effort to find a new owner of the Inn.

She tried to sell to a fundamentalist Christian group that uses the Bible to treat drug addiction, but the Charlestown Town Council would have none of that, leaving the fate of the Inn in limbo.

I had suggested that rather than put Janice and the town through more controversial battles over who should own the Inn and what should be the Inn’s future use, Charlestown should seriously consider buying this unique treasure.

Charlestown voters generally supports preserving open space and expanding recreational opportunities. Why not support historical preservation?

Now, there seems to be a new movement to do just that. A new Friends of The General Stanton Inn has been incorporated to promote a ballot question to save the General Stanton. They have started an official petition to place the question before town voters at the June 6 Financial Town Referendum to authorize issuing a $1.75 million bond.

With that $1.75 million, the town would acquire the Inn and an adjacent property and have enough money to keep the Inn from falling into disrepair. It buys Charlestown the security and the time to plan for the Inn’s future uses as the anchor for historic heart of Charlestown.

It’s a plan that is good for local business, property values and quality of life. Unlike South Kingstown which stands to lose its iconic Larchwood Inn to the wrecking ball, Charlestown will keep the General Stanton as an important center of our community.

To get the Bond question on the ballot, with or without the Town Council’s approval, the Friends of the General Stanton Inn will need to collect a minimum of 200 Charlestown registered voters.

They expect to turn in their completed petitions by Friday, April 15 with more than enough signatures to meet the minimum 200 required.

If you want to get your name on the petition, contact one of the leaders of the effort, Frank Glista at 364-3723 or Frank told me he's even willing to come to your home to collect your signature.

Whether the Town Council approves or not, if the petition contains the required signatures, the measure will go to the voters on June 6.

The Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party) holds every seat on the Council, as well as every other elected position. 

Last year, as you may recall, the CCA Party did not support the citizen initiative to authorize $1 million in improvements to recreation facilities, mostly in Ninigret Park, and CCA Party members were seen telling voters at the polls to reject the measure – which passed overwhelmingly despite their opposition.

This time, the CCA Party is sending out mixed signals. While they carried an item on their official website, the comments from CCA partisans were largely detached, dubious or outright negative. 

In fact, the CCA leadership went out of their way to twice note the mention of the initiative on their website doesn't mean they or the Town Council like the idea.

Town Council Boss Tom Gentz, who has been frequently spoken disrespectfully to the Inn’s current owner Janice Falcone at Town Council meetings, is believed to be opposed.

Notwithstanding the CCA Party’s mixed signals, this is one of those “what’s not to like?” proposals with broad-based support cutting across the usual political divides in Charlestown. 

Like last year’s Recreation Bond, this measure seems to be a unifying and uplifting cause that few can fault, try as they might.

Here’s the text of the petition:

We, the undersigned registered voters of the Town of Charlestown , Rhode Island want the following warrant question to be included in the all day referendum of June 6, 2016. Shall the Town Treasurer and the President of the Town Council be authorized, pursuant to RIGL 45-12-2, to issue and refund from time to time, bonds, notes or other evidences of indebtedness in an amount not to exceed $1,750,000.00 (one million seven hundred and fifty thousand dollars) to finance the acquisition, maintenance and capital projects of two properties, the General Stanton Inn 4115 Old Post Rd, 6.85 acres, AP13 lot 1, purchase price $1,325,000. (One million three hundred twenty five thousand dollars),: and 2.3 acre lot on Old Post Road , AP 13 lot5, purchase price $163,000. (one hundred sixty three thousand dollars), : and Maintenance/capital fund of $262,000. (two hundred sixty two thousand dollars), or any interest therein alone or in conjunction with Federal agencies, State agencies, land trusts, or preservation organizations or nonprofit organizations, for the acquisition of said  listed properties, the terms, details and condition of such bonds, notes or other evidence of indebtedness, to be set by resolution of the Town Council or by the Town Treasurer and the President of the Town Council in the absence of such resolution?
Explanation: Acquire the General Stanton Inn and one adjacent property for preservation and enhancement of our community village center. It is envisioned that a non-profit citizens organization would be created to manage, develop and promote community values, uses and activities in the village. Envisioned activities include historic preservation, education, commerce that serves our community, entrepreneurial incubator business space, seasonal events and activities to guide and promote the continued development of Charlestowns central village, while preserving its character.