Drake Patten only wanted to start a business. Her store, cluck!, was intended to nurture and supply materials to the emerging urban farming and gardening movements. In the process, she was going to revitalize a long-abandoned gas station on Broadway. It seemed like a simple – and non-controversial – plan.
Then, the opposition started. Various factions, including some abutting neighbors and Sts. Vartanantz Aremian Church across the street, came out to fight Patten's plan, including the zoning variance she needed. Evenutally, she won her case and was set to open for business. Then, the opposition appealed, winning on a minor technicality, and now she is forced to start over again. In the process, this little corner of Broadway has become a battleground for competing visions of the neighborhood. Opponents cite concerns about increased traffic and parking, and contend that the business would not be in keeping with the character of the neighorhood. Meanwhile, many neighbors – including residents, business owners, community organizations and elected officials – have rallied behind Patten's cause, going so far as to stage a rally of support outside the store on April 14 and organizing a fundraising campaign on Indiegogo to help pay for the legal services necessary to restart the process. We caught up with Patten and asked her for an update...
How did we wind up with all this fuss over a farm supply store? Why are you so controversial?
I wish I knew. Some of the reasons that have been expressed to me firsthand or otherwise seem just too strange or nonsensical to entertain. In the end, I actually don't know if it is my business specifically or just any business on that site. I am not the first one to be opposed there – I am just the first one who didn't leave. Perhaps it is as simple as everyone wants that site and its continued emptiness had interested parties imagining all kinds of opportunity for themselves. I've also been alerted that there is financial support coming in to the opposition's case that is linked to my neighborhood work opposing an out-of-scale development planned for Western Cranston. I find that kind of alarming, and I really hope it is not true, but people do strange things in the name of profit. In the end, I really don't know what the reason is.
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