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Monday, April 23, 2012

The Ninigret Park Giveaway

Why would anyone give away their rights to use property they own?
By Deborah Carney

Why would anyone give away their rights to use property they own? That very scenario could come to pass in Charlestown.

The March 12, 2012, Town Council meeting agenda, and two subsequent agendas, included three resolutions from Councilor Dan Slattery, each involving Ninigret Park. Councilor Slattery proposed that Charlestown create agreements with various entities that would require the Town to get permission from non-Ninigret Park owners. 

The premise behind these agreements is that somehow the Federal Government will take back Ninigret Park from Charlestown unless the town gives up its rights to the land.  Land that Charlestown owns.




Councilor Slattery’s first resolution calls for Charlestown to scrap the existing Master Plan for Ninigret Park, spend $15,000 to hire a consultant, and create an entirely new group to create a new Master Plan. The Ninigret Park Master Plan needs to be updated every ten years. The last plan that was approved by the Town Council in 2008 took five years to develop.  

Numerous committees, residents, and members of the Town staff worked diligently to create the Master Plan and then build town consensus supporting it. Why would anyone want to discard five years' worth of hard work to update a plan that’s good for another six years?

Councilor Slattery’s second resolution calls for Charlestown to place all of Ninigret Park, including 55 acres owned outright by the town, under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Specifically, Mr. Slattery wants to “require all town staff or commissions to coordinate any proposed changes to Ninigret Park with this stakeholder before the Town Council makes any votes on any Park related matter.” 

Councilor Slattery’s third resolution calls for another agreement that gives the Frosty Drew Observatory and the neighbors of Ninigret Park the right to determine what happens in the Park. He wants to “require all town staff or commissions to coordinate any proposed changes to Ninigret Park with these stakeholders.” Aren’t the real stakeholders all the citizens of Charlestown?

There are many problems with Councilor Slattery’s resolutions; chief among them is that they disregard the fact that the town owns two parcels of land at Ninigret Park. One parcel is 55 acres and the other is 172 acres.
 
As noted in meeting minutes from 1994 with John Kelly from the National Park Service, “The Park was received as one contiguous property, but there is a differentiation in the restrictions on different parts of the property that arises from the difference in the deeds of the two parcels. The 55 acres is owned outright by the Town of Charlestown through purchase, this parcel is not within the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.” 

The 55 acres is owned outright by the town. The town entered into an agreement with Frosty Drew on March 14, 1983, allowing Frosty Drew to use the parcel of land. I have no issues with Frosty Drew, but why would the town grant such sweeping rights to a group that is using town land for free?

In 2002, the National Park Service again acknowledged that Ninigret Park is really two properties, and that they have no jurisdiction over the 55 acres. 

This came up when Charlestown was considering withdrawing from the Chariho School District and was contemplating building two schools at Ninigret Park on the town-owned 55 acres. Facilitation Committee meeting minutes from 2002 state, “Elyse LaForest of National Park Service stated National Parks would have nothing to say if the physical plant is located on the town owned 55 acres.” 

In 1994, John Kelly from the National Park Service stated the town-owned 55 acres is not within the jurisdiction of the National Park Service.  

In 2002, Elyse LaForest from the National Park Service stated National Parks would have nothing to say if the physical plant is located on the town 55 acres. Over the past 2 decades, National Parks has been clear that the Town owns the 55 acres and they have no jurisdiction over the Town-owned land.  National Parks has not threatened to take back the land.  The Town owns the land.

The remaining 172-acre parcel was transferred to the Town of Charlestown by the National Park Service for parks and recreation use by the public. One of the requirements was a ten-year plan of utilization. That was done in 1994. The updated Master Plan was approved in 2008. 

It doesn’t make sense for the Charlestown Town Council to give away any of the Town’s rights to use Ninigret Park. The town owns 55 acres. The remaining 172-acre parcel is to be used for parks and recreation as is planned in the existing Master Plan.  

I hope that when the Town Council considers Councilor Slattery’s motions on April 23rd, the majority will see that those resolutions just don’t make sense.

2 comments:

  1. Why would anyone give away their land rights you ask? Have you seen the Planning Commission in action? or the Zoning Board? I was once in attendance at a Zoning board meeting where a man was attempting to build an addition to his house but was told that his 2800 sq ft house was big enough and adding more space was an extravagance. Land owners have no rights left in this town. Ordinance after ordinance has been passed that continually infringe upon the rights of property owners in Charlestown. I find it rather ironic that the town loses its rights as well.
    G.W.

    ReplyDelete
  2. So Deputy Dawg has thin skin AND fleas
    Saw his rant rebuttal in April 25 Westerly Sun letter-Seems to think that he is right....
    Mr S seems to be substituting good manners and the Town's best interests with quick reflexes....

    ReplyDelete

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