|Deputy Dan Slattery to lead|
Charlestown Open Space Cadets?
Who knows what lurks on
’s “phantom properties?” Charlestown
Charlestown Citizens Alliance Town Council member Dan Slattery has another big issue he wants the town to pursue – what to do about
’s vast number of phantom properties. Charlestown
Slattery has referred to this “problem” on several occasions, saying a number of citizens have raised their concerns that the town isn’t watching what's happening on town-owned land.
This issue somehow warranted Page One coverage in the
Westerly Sun (free access here) on October 3.
On November 9, the Town Council and Conservation Commission will hold a special joint session to address this crisis.
So, what is this about?
First, the source of Dan Slattery's agita was testimony by CCA Steering Committee member Virginia Wootten at the two 2011 Citizens Forums that are Slattery’s pet project. Since Wooten spoke on the same subject – i.e., who is watching
’s town-owned land – twice, Slattery counts this is “citizens,” (plural) not “a citizen” (singular). Charlestown
Here’s how Ms. Wootten’s statements were recorded in the official minutes:
Minutes of the Citizens Forum, August 15, 2011:
Virginia Wootten read the following statement:
Town-owned properties, particularly the Town's Open Spaces, are not monitored.
Exception: The Conservation Commission has taken responsibility for 4 open spaces, but there's a lot more
Why is this important?
• Town-owned property and open space is an asset to the Town, and it is best when it is taken care of by noting whether conditions have remained the same from year-to-year; if not, what changes are there and by maintaining communication with abutters as they are the "eyes" and "ears" when you are not there; they often have suggestions you have never thought of; and they help the Town and the abutters focus on the larger picture.
Ms. Wootten suggested that someone needs to observe all properties; each property should be seen once a year.
Minutes of the Citizens Forum January 24, 2011:
The conditions of Town-owned buildings are monitored through the Building Commission. Town-owned properties, particularly Open Spaces, are not monitored. I suggest that they should be in order to:
· Note whether conditions have remained the same from year-to-year. For example, I have noted that the white cedar trees in
appear to be "stressed" Is there new growth? What's the quality of the water in the swamp? Is the 3% salt mixed with sand to clear snow and ice on Rt1 affecting this observation, or is it a combination of factors? White Cedar Swamp
· maintain communication with abutters -
They are the "eyes" and "ears" when you are not there;
They often have suggestions you have never thought of;
Helps the Town and the abutters focus on the larger picture
These 2 factors have worked well for me as the land steward for Harry Hathaway Preserve.
OK. Somehow, these two statements, in Dan Slattery’s mind, translate into broad-based public concern that will now lead to some yet-to-be-determined major response by town government.
When Ms. Wootten made her statement in August, Town Administrator Bill DiLibero noted the town owns a variety of parcels scattered all across the town. Some of them comprise only a few square feet. Some properties are inaccurately described (the Sun article says that some patches of land described as town-owned were actually privately owned). Some town-land is “landlocked,” according to Conservation Commission member Forrester Safford – surrounded by private property with no public access.
I’m curious why this “problem” is a “problem.” While I do not advocate neglect of town-owned land, what are Ms. Wooten and Councilor Slattery so worried about?
I haven’t noticed any instances of renegade use of
public land – no proliferation of pirate lemonade stands or moonshine stills or toxic waste tankers unloading their cargoes in the woods or nuclear weapons testing. Or wind turbines. What exactly should we be looking for on town-owned property? Charlestown
So what does Dan Slattery propose to do to resolve Ms. Wooten’s concerns? How about trying to recruit a new volunteer corps – the Charlestown Open Space Cadets, maybe – to keep an eye out for suspicious activity on town-owned land? That approach has worked so well in enforcing the town’s tree ordinance where NO ONE has volunteered to join the Tree Committee to monitor trees on public land.
Maybe we should try a snappy marketing approach. Give the Open Space Cadets uniforms and hats, a whistle and a truncheon, and send them forth.