No corner gas

Cumberland Farms plan killed as council withdraws support amid protests from Edgewood residents

The Cranston Herald ·

The latest, and possibly last, push to get a Cumberland Farms gas station/convenience store at the corner of Park and Warwick Avenue has been shut down after the sponsors of a re-zoning ordinance withdrew their support last week.

The decision comes after a six-month-long process of City Council meetings, planning meetings, and community get-togethers to argue whether or not the Cumberland Farms should be allowed to locate at the corner.

The residents of Edgewood, specifically those who live on Henry Street, Ingleside Avenue, and Park Avenue, vehemently protested the plan from the time it was first re-introduced.

Lisa Gibb, who is president of a community group called the Edgewood Preservation Society, which brought dozens of people out to city meetings to argue against the plan, said she was shocked when she saw the news of the ordinance being withdrawn.

“I literally just started screaming in the living room, it was super exciting,” she said.

Gibb also said that if the vote had gone through to the full council, she believes it would have got voted down. But if it hadn’t, she added, her group had a lawyer lined up who would have worked with them in a potential lawsuit against the city.

If the plan was voted down by the council, it would have needed to be tabled for at least 24 months. Since it was withdrawn instead, it can be re-introduced anytime, although Gibb opined that Cumberland Farms may not want to come back anytime soon after being voted down twice.

Garo Tashian, whose family owns a nearby-to-the-site Speedy Mart, said he thought the decision was greatly appreciated by the neighborhood, but was skeptical that it was caused partly due to it being an election year and “underlying politics” may have played a role.

Tashian also said that he heard rumors of Cumberland Farms no longer wanting to develop in Cranston because of this, which he thought was unfortunate.

“There is plenty of opportunity to properly develop in Cranston for a company like Cumberland Farms,” he said in an email. “Edgewood just wasn’t one of them.”

Council President Michael Farina said that Cumberland Farms had previously been looking at other potential development sites in the city, but are no longer planning on doing so.

“If the residents are so against Cumberland Farms, they’re going to look elsewhere to develop,” he said.

Proponents of the plan included representatives from Cumberland Farms, who spoke to the council and to members of the community throughout the process to argue their side. Attorney John Bolton argued that the zone change should happen partly because of the way the location is zoned now, which is C2, a gas station could move in if the owner of the site, Bruce Weinstein, sold it to one.

City planning director Jason Pezzullo recommended that plan to the council, stating that the zone change would be consistent with the amended comprehensive plan that his department developed. The planning commission gave a non-recommendation, as they did not have enough votes one way or the other on the change. Pezzullo said that something needs to be done at the site in order to positively redevelop it, and thought that the Cumberland Farms would accomplish that.

Farina, one of the sponsors of the plan, said that there were too many questions surrounding the plan on both sides, specifically about housing loans and health effects of a gas station that close to houses, to continue with the plan.

“We’re not mortgage brokers, we’re not scientists, we’re elected officials,” he said.

Farina said that he still wants to see the site redeveloped and the zone changed because the site owner should be able to make it one consistent zone, adding that the city rules “are pretty clear that it should be one consistent zone.” He said that it may be tough, though, because when there was talk about a “public-private partnership” after the last time the Cumberland Farms plan was shut down, no applicants ended up coming forward, except for the gas station again.

Gibb said that Edgewood residents are “excited about the site,” and have reached out to Weinstein about possibly using small businesses to fill the site as well as apartments above, which she thinks could help make the corner more “walkable” and better for the community.