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Monday, February 13, 2023

Major land purchase completed on Route 1 property

Currently an eyesore, what do the buyers have in mind?

By Will Collette 

Some person or persons unknown paid $2.7 million to buy the 12 acres at 5407 Post Road. The site, currently occupied by the derelict old Lobster Pot Restaurant and long-closed Ocean View Motor Inn, includes a 23-lot trailer park up the moraine and behind the trees. 

The property was owned by Nancy Brooks, who could count on a good summer income in the days when Charlestown hosted several major events and festivals in Ninigret Park. That ended when the Big Apple Circus and Reggae Festival left and the town permitted onsite camping during Rhythm and Roots.  

All of the commercial buildings on the property are closed and run-down, described as "below average" by Charlestown’s Tax Assessor. 

Only the trailer park remains occupied with 5 double-wide mobile homes and the rest singles. Five units are owner-occupied on leased land while the remaining units and the land they sit on are leased. 

Charlestown currently assesses the value of the property at $758,500. The purchase price of $2.68 million puts almost $2 million into Charlestown’s tax base. 

Clearly the big question is what the new owners plan to do with the property. And what will happen to the folks living in the trailer park? 

The news release put out by Providence-based realtor Hayes & Sherry gives this clue:

“It is an income-producing property with near limitless redevelopment potential for both retail and residential in a seacoast community with nearby state and town beaches, marinas, restaurants and a national park.” 

Except, other than the trailer park lease payments, it produces no income. This is quite an upbeat description of a property where all the buildings will probably need to be torn down.

Their agent, Derek Brazeau, said:

“It’s not often that a property of this size in such an in-demand area becomes available, and as such, we wanted to maximize the amount of exposure and opportunity our client deserved. It is exciting to just think about the potential this property offers and what those possibilities are. As a firm, we’re thrilled both for our client and for the fact the buyer is local.”

This guy is obviously not from Charlestown.  

Plus, I’m not sure about the buyer being local. I’ve heard unconfirmed reports that the buyer is a consortium from Connecticut. 

We won’t know for sure until the town records are updated to reflect the sale. I’d be surprised if a local buyer would want to keep their identity and plans secret while allowing the real estate agent to talk about “near limitless redevelopment potential.” 

Though the November election drastically changed Charlestown’s political dynamics as the Charlestown Residents United slate booted the Charlestown Citizens Alliance off the Town Council, the Planning Commission remains largely unchanged. Only one CRU candidate won a seat leaving supreme power in the hands of Planning Commissar Ruth Platner and her obedient CCA minions.  

Platner used her power to obstruct to delay construction but
lost her effort to force the fire district to completely change
the design and materials
Who can forget Ruth’s campaign to block construction of the Cross Mills Fire station because they built with brick instead of “traditional materials” such as straw-and-wattle? Plus, she didn't like it that the building was sized to fit modern fire equipment rather than the more traditional horse drawn steam pumpers. Yeah, "rural character."

Even though the 5407 Post Road property is an eyesore and typifies what I call the “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” – Charlestown’s shameful array of defunct businesses - it’s hard to imagine any future use that will get past Ruth without a long, drawn-out, expensive struggle. Unless this is an investment by one of the CCA bigwigs.

Let’s not forget the 23 leaseholders in the trailer park. If the future plans for the site include eliminating their homes, where will they go? 

On February 4, GoLocal ran a story on new data from the RI Association of Realtors that showed that Charlestown house prices increased by the highest percentage of any RI municipality.  

In 2021, the average sale price in Charlestown was $500,000. That grew by 23.5% in 2022 with the new average sale price of $617,500. 

For years, the CCA tried to get the state to exempt Charlestown from the state law mandating that each municipality’s stock of residences should include at least 10% that are affordable. A new push is on led by a rural coalition including Foster, Scituate, Glocester, Richmond, Hopkinton, Exeter and West Greenwich. Charlestown has not, at least not yet joined this group.  

I hope we don’t. Rather than continue to complain that the General Assembly simply doesn’t understand our “rural character,” we should get on with the work of helping to get more affordable housing, if for no other reason than to allow the children of residents and elders looking to downsize to stay here.