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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Y-Gate Zombie has risen from the dead

Town Council plans to vote Monday to pay $398,000 in Charlestown taxpayer dollars for worthless easement
By Will Collette

Tucked into its jam-packed agenda for the Town Council meeting next Monday, June 11, is “Item 18.f. Approval of purchasing conservation easement on YMCA property for $398,000, in conjunction with purchase of same property for preservation by the Charlestown Land Trust, using open space and recreation bond funds”

The Y-Gate Scandal is back. This item is being spearheaded by the odd alliance of Councilor Gregg Avedisian and Town Council President Boss Tom Gentz (CCA), with Councilor Marge Frank providing the third and deciding vote. It may have grown out of a secret session held in the Town Council's executive session last month (click here).

This action to rob from Charlestown taxpayers to make a gift to the Charlestown Land Trust, the Westerly YMCA and the non-resident vacation home owners in the Sonquipaug Association is still being done by these same Council members. These members know the Westerly YMCA’s purchase price is based on an appraisal based on fictional conditions and that the Charlestown Land Trust considers its conservation easements to be worth less than zero.

This transaction will also be done without a vote by Charlestown residents. The principle beneficiaries, ironically, will be non-residents.

The Y-Gate caper had been blocked by a lawsuit by Dr. John Donoghue (Donoghue v. Charlestown) whose litigation argued that the Charlestown Town Council violated the state Open Meeting Act last February by improperly advertising their plans to vote to buy the worthless conservation easement for $475,000.

By re-doing the vote next Monday, the Town Council hopes to hurdle the barrier posed by Donoghue v. Charlestown and make the gift of your money to the Y-Gate Scandal players.

Councilor Gregg Avedisian. The Y-Gate Scandal
has risen from the dead
When Councilor Gregg Avedisian told the Westerly Sun just last month that his Y-Gate plan was dead, obviously he didn't mean to say it was really most sincerely dead. 

Just to be clear for those of you who have not been following the Y-Gate Scandal, here are the key points:

  • At the heart of the issue is a 27.5 acre derelict youth campground on Watchaug Pond that was abandoned by the Westerly YMCA four years ago.

    Uncle Fluffy will have new land
    to hop around
  • In its place arose a plan to use state and town tax dollars to buy a “conservation easement” from the Charlestown Land Trust which would use the state and town money to buy the land from the Westerly YMCA.

  • The Westerly YMCA’s sale price of $730,000 was based on an appraisal that used “hypothetical assumptions known to be false,” such as the assumption that the land was going to be used to build a housing development and that none of the 20 buildings and trashed out facilities, old septic systems, etc. exist.

  • The “conservation easement” buys Charlestown access to the land by appointment only. The Charlestown Land Trust reported to IRS that it considers the value of the conservation easements it holds to be worth less than zero, but it is selling Charlestown taxpayers the easement, first for $475,000, but now $398,000.

  • The actual beneficiaries of the Y-Gate Scandal are the out-of-state owners of tiny vacation cottages along the southern border of the Y camp. They get extended backyards out of the deal.
Platner gets more open space for her
 And the taxpayers get screwed. Getting screwed $77,000 less is still getting screwed.

This deal is being heavily pushed by CCA Planning Commissar Ruth Platner who wants open space uber alles. For reasons that have never been clear, Gregg Avedisian and Marge Frank have been supporters of the Y-Gate Scandal from the start. Councilor Lisa DiBello, to her credit, has voted against Y-Gate. Councilor Deputy Dan Slattery has recused himself because his home abuts the north side of the Y camp.

Declarations for candidacy for town office are due at the end of this month. Among those who must decide whether or not to run for re-election are none other than Ruth Platner, Boss Tom Gentz, Gregg Avedisian and Marge Frank.

In Narragansett, their Town Council majority fired the Narragansett Town Manager Grady Miller on the allegation that he misappropriated $3000 in town funds to a non-profit group by spending the money from the wrong budget category. In Charlestown, the Town Council majority intends to pay out $398,000 in town funds to meet the interests of three special interest groups without batting an eye.