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Thursday, April 5, 2012

LarryLand lawsuit - the first Act

Defendants have no knowledge or information, but deny the allegations anyway
By Will Collette
Charlestown Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero sent the court a response to developer Larry LeBlanc’s latest lawsuit against the town. LeBlanc is suing Charlestown to force it to approve his proposed housing development sited in pretty much the same spot as his proposed industrial wind farm. The wind farm is also tied up in complex litigation.

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LeBlanc’s suit names Charlestown Planner Ashley-Hahn Morris, Council Boss Tom Gentz and the members of the Planning Commission.

Other than admitting that we have an Ashley Hahn-Morris working for the town, and that the names of the Planning Commission members are correct, the town’s answer either denies knowledge of what LeBlanc is talking about or denies LeBlanc’s charges.


Six pages of nothing in what could be a case with far-reaching implications for the town. I’m not faulting the town solicitor for this response. It is typical of the first set of answers a defendant files in this sort of civil action. It’s also an example of how the legal system can chew up time and money.

LarryLand - click to enlarge
At issue is the ultimate use of 81 acres of undeveloped land running across the moraine along the north side of Route One. LarryLand.

LeBlanc bought this land in 2003 for $1.1 million. Ever since, he has been trying to turn a profit by selling it either to the town or the Narragansett Indian tribe, or failing that, putting something up there, something most people in town probably will hate.

Over the years, LeBlanc has proposed building a huge housing complex, far bigger than the one at issue in this new lawsuit. Or an industrial wind farm. Or he might sell it to the tribe so that when it is combined with other tribal land, the tribe has suitable space to build a big Indian Casino.

Most of LeBlanc’s proposed uses for the 81 acres are either impractical or unacceptable to the town. The consistent subplot to the story of LarryLand has always been one of ultimately getting the town to buy the property at an acceptable profit for Larry.

If he loses the Whalerock wind farm case, or this new CCAH LLC case over the affordable housing proposal, LeBlanc will just come up with some other idea for the land.

He will not stop until he either sells the land at a profit or builds something on it that will turn a profit.

In my opinion, once the town comes to its senses and cancels the terrible Y-Gate deal, thus saving the town $475,000 it would have paid for a worthless conservation easement to an overpriced piece of land, we need to get serious about buying “LarryLand.”

I have no affection for Larry LeBlanc. I have no interest in enriching him. I do have a self-interest in seeing his 81 acres atop the moraine just a mile northeast of my house preserved - sort of like an extension of my own backyard. I also think the town owes itself the kind of peace and quiet it would get by ending LeBlanc’s nonstop project ideas for that land.

Larry LeBlanc is the Terminator of land developers. You can’t reason with him. You can’t stop him. You either give him what he wants or get out of his way.

The one best way to end the LarryLand nightmares is for the town to own LarryLand. Drive by it. Check it out for yourself. It’s rough, wild, undeveloped land – part of what makes that stretch of Route One an officially recognized Scenic Highway.

And since Route One also happens to be U.S. (as in United States) Route One, and the CCA wants to put Charlestown under direct control of the federal government, maybe the ultimate solution to the town’s chronic LarryLand problem is to have the feds take it over.

After all, last May, Charlestown’s federal overseer, Charlie Vandemoer, wrote an opinion in May 2011 stating that the US Fish & Wildlife judged LarryLand to be outstanding open space property. Since we’re about ready to hand Ninigret Park over to the feds, why not let them use eminent domain to grab LarryLand too?