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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Oops, she said it again

One more reason why the total wind ban was totally unnecessary
By Will Collette

At last month's Town Council meeting, Charlestown Planning Commissar Ruth Platner made the far-reaching claim that under Rhode Island's laws governing zoning, unless a specific land use is permitted, it is prohibited. That is, if the town's zoning code does not give you specific permission to do something to your land or your home, you can't do it.

Last Monday, she said it again.

So here's a question:
Since a property owner is forbidden to install a wind generator unless  Charlestown's zoning code specifically allows a property owner to install a wind generator, why the Hell did the Town Council need to enact a total ban on any wind generator of any size, type or location? 


And Town Council members Tom Gentz, Dan Slattery and Lisa DiBello were there both times Platner made this amazing claim.

Why did those three vote to enact an unnecessary ordinance, since you can't have a wind generator unless the town's zoning code specifically and expressly says you can?

After we heard Commissar Platner's claim last month, Progressive Charlestown ran an entire string of articles listing all the various things that don't seem to be in the town Code of Ordinances. Under Platner's assertion, none of these uses of your property are legal.

Let's put wind generators at the top of the list.

To refresh your memory, here's the rest of the list:

Not expressly permitted so therefore prohibited

  • NEWLY ADDED: A satellite dish on your roof or in your yard
  • NEWLY ADDED: A TV antenna on your roof
  • Planting a garden
NOTE: you are allowed to SELL garden produce but I did not find expressed permission to actually have a garden

  • Planting a rose bush
  • Pulling up weeds
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Not mowing the lawn
  • Having a lawn
NOTE: The only section I found that permitted landscaping is in the section on developments, businesses and multi-family homes, not single-family homes

  • Putting green
  • Badminton net
  • Tennis court
  • Basketball net
  • Baseball diamond
  • Pitcher's mound
  • Volleyball net
  • Croquet set
NOTE: In addition to violating the “whatever is not permitted is forbidden principle”, many sports activities may actually be in violation of Charlestown Ordinance 162-1(h) which forbids you to: Throw any stone, snowball or other missile object upon or at any person, vehicle, building, tree, sign or other public or private property.” If the shuttlecock or the golf, tennis, croquet, bocce, volley, ping pong, foot or baseball hits a person, car, house, tree or anything else – you’re in big trouble! $500 and up to 30 days imprisonment.
  • BBQ pit
  • Outdoor pizza oven
  • Telescope
  • Garden gnome
  • Virgin Mary on the half-shell
  • Lawn jockey
  • Having one of those mirror globe thingies
  • Whirl-a-gigs
  • Mosquito zapper
  • Swing set
  • Sandbox
  • Play fort
  • Seesaw
  • Tree house
  • Brightly colored house paint (e.g., the Pepto-Bismol house)
  • Decorations on exterior of house
  • Electricity-to-wind devices (e.g., compressor on an A/C, car fan belt, electrical fan)
  • Birdbaths
    • Bird feeders
    • Birdhouses
    • Corn feeder for the squirrels
    • Salt lick for deer
    • Deck furniture
    • Gazebo
    • Tree swing
    • Hanging an old tire from a tree for the kids
    • Hammock
    • Listening to a Red Sox game while lying in hammock (or anywhere outdoors)
    • Rain barrel
    • Water sprinkler
    • Weather station
    • Weather balloon
    • Weathervane
    • Wind chimes
  • Pruning a tree
  • Planting a tree
  • Cutting down a tree
  • Planting a shrub
  • Pruning a shrub
  • Removing a shrub
  • Gathering firewood
  • Topiary
  • Clearing out invasive species
  • NOTE: under Charlestown Code Chapter 163, you had better steer clear of any “public” tree or shrub – i.e. ones that are in the public right-of-way – without a permit. But except for developments, commercial properties or multi-family homes, you do not have express permission under the Code to do anything at all to any tree or shrub on your property. “Whatever is not permitted is prohibited.”
    • Fire pit
    • Luau trench
    • Clam bake pit
    • Picnic table
    • Tent
    • Canopy
    • Umbrella
    • Garden bench
    • Outdoor sound system
    • Sun dial
    • Outdoor statues or sculpture
    • Digging a hole
    • Filling in a hole
    • Digging a trench
    • Laying down drainpipe
    • Patching your driveway
    • Clothesline
    • Tree house
    • Dog house
    • Cat house
    • Chicken coop
    • Goat pen
    • Llama or alpaca stable
    • Pet cemetery
    NOTE: if you are engaged in agriculture as a commercial venture, you can have livestock enclosures and other agriculture-type things (with a permit), but it doesn’t look like noncommercial livestock are permitted, and certainly not noncommercial animal enclosures. As for dogs, there is a huge section (Chapter 103) in the Code on what your dog can and cannot do, but no expressed permission to have a dog house or any other structure to shelter your pet. There is no reference to cats anywhere in the Code, so structures for cats are prohibited – and in all probability, Ms. Platner would rule that cat ownership is also verboten.
There are SO many questions we need to be discussing in this town. Like why in the world would we want to grant so much power over our lives to the Planning Commission and Town Council and people like Ruth Platner? Like why do we have so many ridiculous and unenforceable laws on our books? Like what do we need to do to restore balance so that we protect the common good AND personal freedom?