TONIGHT: Y-Gate Scam near the top of the July 9 agenda – is this the big one, or just more diddling around?
The Town Council meeting will feature debate and votes on resolutions that propose that Charlestown pay the Charlestown Land Trust $398,000 for a worthless conservation easement so the Land Trust can pay $600,000 to the Westerly YMCA for an over-priced, junked out campground so the non-resident vacation home owners in the Sonquipaug neighborhood can have expanded backyards.
Yes, readers, it’s Charlestown’s most notorious zombie issue - the Y-Gate Scandal.
Three resolutions on this subject will be taken up near the beginning of the meeting. Why these motions should be considered at all will be a question for voters to ponder over the next 120 days.
|It's time to slay this zombie...|
In the past couple of months, it has been Town Council Boss Tom Gentz, not Avedisian, so the second motion, by Boss Gentz assumes Avedisian’s motion will fail. Gentz’s resolution returns to the discredited, corrupt scheme that Charlestown taxpayers buy the worthless easement on the overpriced rural junkyard by taking it out of the Open Space/Recreation bond but without sending it to the voters for their specific approval.
The third resolution proposes the town actually issue the $2 million in bonds needed to fund this boondoggle.
If Councilor Avedisian stays true to his stated belief that the voters must give their expressed and specific approval to this terrible idea, then Gentz’s motion should fail on a two to two vote unless, CCA Councilor Deputy Dan Slattery breaks his long-standing recusal on Y-Gate votes (Slattery’s property abuts the Y camp) to vote to back his CCA Council running mate. This is a political year, after all, and that trumps “moral, ethical and legal obligations.”
|Is Gregg the one to do it?|
For the past year, Progressive Charlestown has covered every aspect of this scandal. Click here to read the coverage. Town Council member Gregg Avedisian recently gave a sworn statement that substantially confirms our reporting on this scandal. Click here to read his deposition.
But for those of you who having been keeping up, here it is in a nutshell
· The Westerly YMCA has an old 27.5 acre campground on Watchaug Pond they abandoned four years ago
· The Y wants to sell it. Apparently they need the money because their big Westerly construction project is running over budget.
· The Y tried selling it to Ted Veazey, a well-intentioned guy who wanted to build a ten-unit conservation development that would have preserved most of the unspoiled parts of the camp, while clearing up the derelict buildings and old septic systems currently on the site.
· Veazey was attacked and vilified by the Sonquipaug Association, a group of non-resident vacation home owners just south of the camp who had been using the abandoned derelict camp as a playground for their kids.
· Veazey and the Y got screwed by the Town Council when they tried to get zoning approval for the conservation development.
· Along came the Charlestown Land Trust who along with the Y, Sonquipaug and Planning Commissar Ruth Platner come up with the idea to get a state grant and do some private fund-raising to buy the camp for open space.
· An illegally-constituted town committee was formed to facilitate that process. This group also ignored the usual rules about openness and transparency, met in secret and didn’t even keep minutes;
· But this committee did come up with a scheme to use state money and town money (somehow, the private fund-raising plan disappeared) to buy the land.
· The Charlestown Land Trust worked out an elaborate scheme that involved getting an appraisal of the land by telling the appraiser to assume the land was zoned residential (it’s not) and is virgin open space (it’s not – it has 20 derelict buildings, cracked asphalt and concrete surfaces, old chain link fences and old septic systems).
· They also proposed to sell Charlestown a “conservation easement” – the type of which the Land Trust has told IRS is worth less than zero and only provides the town with access by appointment only.
· The Conservation Commission issued its own assessment of the Y-Gate land and ruled that it failed the standards to be considered “open space” by a wide margin, but of course, the Council majority ignored that recommendation.
· RIDEM has withheld its payment of $367,000 in grant funds because it wants a new property appraisal, one that is a lot closer to the reality than the fantasy appraisal offered by the Land Trust.
Since then, a very broad base of Charlestown citizens have risen against this terrible deal. The supporters of Y-Gate include the CCA leadership and the parties who stand to financially gain from this scam. The opponents are just about everyone else in town.
On Monday, with Councilor Avedisian once again holding the key vote – unless Deputy Dan Slattery reneges on his past recusals - the Council will once again vote on whether or not to waste Charlestown taxpayers’ money.