April 30, 2018 — The Watch Hill Fire District announced today that it has closed on the acquisition of the “Holdredge” parking lot in Watch Hill, preserving over 100 public parking spaces in the village.  This acquisition follows a similar parking lot purchase on Larkin Road in 2014, which preserved over 100 off-street spaces.

The Holdredge lot was privately owned and, similar to the Larkin lot, had the potential to be terminated by its owners as a parking lot.  In the case of the Larkin lot, the prior owner with the permission of the Westerly zoning board was permitted to build condominiums in lieu of parking.  In the case of the Holdredge lot, thought had been given to turning it into a parkland, in both cases severely curtailing parking in the village.

Randolph Abood, Moderator of the Watch Hill Fire District, said: “A primary goal of the Fire District Council is to balance the need to preserve Watch Hill as the unique and historic place that it is – with the need to maintain a vibrant community that is accessible to tourists and Town residents.  At the same time, this uniqueness contributes to our relatively high tax base, which benefits both Watch Hill and particularly Westerly.”

Continued Abood, “The review conducted by the Fire District was extensive and thorough, and essentially confirmed the conclusion reached by the Watch Hill taxpayers who voted to approve the acquisition.  There’s no question in my mind that developing the property and closing down parking was a real option, and we applaud the Watch Hill Limited Partnership (WHLP), owners of the lot, for their good faith efforts to secure a constructive and civic-minded result.”

Abood said that the Fire District continued to maintain 3 other village parking lots, so that the total public parking in the Village exceeds 350 spots (and with turnover this amounts to up to 1,000 uses per day).  The Fire District has been exploring installing electronic systems for installation at the Holdredge and Larkin lots to open up more short term parking spaces at reduced rates.

Said H. Brian Thompson, WHLP CEO, “We are pleased that this transaction completes the dual mission of our group: maintaining the historic character of this unique part of Westerly, Rhode Island and ensuring parking availability in the village for the long-term.”  He added, “We are proud to have played a pivotal role in making this transaction possible and thank all our neighbors who contributed to and persevered in the process.”

Said Joanne Nicholas, head of WH Merchant’s Association, “This is a positive outcome for Watch Hill, local merchants, the Town of Westerly and its residents.   It preserves ample off-street parking for shoppers and visitors, while eliminating the need for more side street parking — which is not desirable and would create significant safety and other issues.  We thank the Fire District and the WHLP for pursuing and closing on this vision.”