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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

June Town Council Meeting - Live Blog

by Tom Ferrio

I enjoy the opportunity to sit at home with ClerkBase and Will's preview of the meeting to write what's happening as it happens. The experience is enhanced by a glass of wine, close at hand.

Kingsley (the English Springer Spaniel) gets excited by the sunrise and makes sure that I get a chance to see it too. This time of year that's earlier than I like so I took a nap this afternoon to try to avoid going face-down on my keyboard in the middle of the meeting. (Not that I expect it to be boring, just that sleepiness can be overwhelming.)

I need to close my introduction with the disclaimer that this approach is more prone to error so I will make routine corrections after publication without explanation.

Here's my commentary as-it-happened:

I'll put my commentary in green this month, to better distinguish my comments from the agenda.
6:58 pm and I'm mostly ready. I wonder if the Executive Session that started at 5:30 pm will run longer than expected.

MONTHLY TOWN COUNCIL MEETING – June 10, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
Charlestown Town Hall, 4540 South County Trail, Charlestown, RI

1.      CALL TO ORDER, Moment of Silence, Pledge of Allegiance
7:02 pm Tom Gentz is calling the meeting to order. All Council members are present.

2.      ROLL CALL
Motion to move items to be heard next on the agenda
Tom Gentz announced that Amy has produced an agenda, for the audience in Town Hall, that shows the real order of items to be discussed. Like Will has done here for some months. Unfortunately, I cannot find it online for people (like myself) watching the Council session on ClerkBase.

e.   Resolution of Respect for Robert H. Rohm. Bob died last week after a long illness. He was a URI professor, former chair of the Planning Commission and one of Charlestown’s long-time, dedicated public servants. A gentleman, a fine artist and a really nice guy. Paula Andersen read a statement about Bob Rohm's many accomplishments. Paula then read the resolution of respect. I expected this to be approved unanimously by the Council but Gentz did not ask for a motion or vote.

b.   Discussion and potential action regarding a resolution to honor and thank the Memorial Day Parade Committee. 
Jim Mageau attended to accept the award for the Parade Committee. Mr. Mageau explained that additional volunteers for the Parade Committee are always welcome, as there is much work to do.

7:16 pm
a.   Discussion and potential action regarding ChurchWoods and Shannock Cottages financing and RI Housing update. 
A meeting with Rhode Island Housing was held on June 6. The notes Tom Gentz prepared before the meeting can be read by clicking on the "ChurchWoods" link in the agenda line.
Geoff Marchant spoke to say that Donna Walsh organized the meeting. In the end RI Housing did not agree to fund either ChurchWoods or the Shannock Village Cottages projects. Tom Gentz spoke at length complaining about RI Housing for initially saying it was a good project and now refusing to fund it. Gentz asked Evelyn Smith to speak and she reminded the audience that the applicant is Washington County Community Development, not the Town of Charlestown. Evelyn felt that RI Housing was putting on pressure to direct both projects to family housing rather than elderly housing. The basis for this seems to be an opinion that "senior housing is not needed in Rhode Island." 
Marchant explained that $700,000 was committed by the Town to those two projects. Less than $100,000 of that has been spent so far for planning and design work so the majority of the committed funds are still available.
Gentz proposed directing the Affordable Housing Commission to produce an advisory on options moving forward by the July Council meeting. That was approved unanimously.

7:35 pm
b.   Discussion and potential action regarding the presentation of the Columbia Heights Streetscapes Enhancement Project
This is a project funded by grants to make improvements to streets in Columbia Heights (off of Shannock Road). The planning started in 2002 (not a typo) and has been subject to various delays. It now appears that we may see dirt flying relatively soon.
Geoff Marchant also presented on this project. He explained that the creation of the Water District delayed doing these enhancements. The project will include removal of the old sidewalks that are in terrible condition.
In case the budget does not permit all of the proposed work to be done, Lisa DiBello proposed that moving the playground equipment be prioritized above re-paving the roads, because of the history of vandalizing the playground equipment.
The Council voted unanimously to proceed with the project.

7:45 pm
b.   Application for a Peddler’s License from Michele LaPaglia d/b/a/ The Cart of 61 Charlestown Beach Road, with a recommendation from Building Official Joseph Warner, subject to receipt of all required paperwork and that stipulations and rules and regulations as required by the State of Rhode Island, Department of Health and the Town Council
This hot dog cart was approved unanimously after considerable discussion.
7:57 pm
c.   Application for a Peddler’s License from Thomas S. Penhallow  d/b/a/ The Butternut Shop of 4051 Old Post Road, with a recommendation from Building Official Joseph Warner, subject to receipt of all required paperwork and that stipulations and rules and regulations as required by the State of Rhode Island, Department of Health and the Town Council
This Del's Lemonade cart was approved unanimously.

d.   Discussion and potential action regarding the findings of the Chariho Funding ad hoc Subcommittee
The allocation of the cost of Chariho Schools among the three towns is always a source of bitter contention. Charlestown has a much higher tax base than the other two towns so we benefit from the current scheme of allocating cost according to the number of students attending school. The other towns would prefer to see one unified taxing entity with a uniform school tax rate throughout the three towns. Our Council formed an ad hoc committee to study the latest proposal, from Richmond, for just that. Surprise, surprise ... the ad hoc committee concluded that the proposal would be unfair because it would raise Charlestown taxes. The report calls the proposal "unfair and unsustainable". Of course Richmond would call the current scheme "unfair and unsustainable." It just depends on your point of view. I'm not trying to list all of the arguments on either side.
The Council voted unanimously to forward the Committee report to the Chariho School district and Committee and to the Richmond and Hopkinton Town Councils.
To me this was more than a little surreal hearing Tom Gentz complaining about Richmond and Hopkinton trying to get "more blood out of the turnip" after the show that Gentz put on last hear telling the District to reduce costs with giving 

8:15 pm
I omitted the Consent Agenda items from this article. You can see the list on ClerkBase or in Will's Council Preview article.

Lisa DiBello asked that items 11a1, 11a2, 11a3, 18b be removed from the consent agenda, for discussion. Amy also asked to remove 18d from the Consent Agenda for technical reasons. (These will be discussed later in their normal order in the agenda.)
The remaining items passed unanimously. 

8:20 pm

c.   Discussion and potential action regarding Senate Bill 672, Sub A (Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems).  

Charlestown has been a leader in the State in recognizing the importance of our salt ponds and the environmental threats of wastewater pollution. That has led to our town mandating cesspool replacement and requiring periodic inspection of septic systems. This legislation would not permit any Town to have septic requirements more strict than the statewide ones. The State may add requirements to protect the salt ponds but that is not certain. The result, in time, could be that Ninigret Pond becomes as polluted as Green Hill Pond, where shellfishing is not allowed.

Ashley Morris-Hahn explained that this has passed the House and Senate and it is awaiting the Governor's signature or veto. Ashley expressed her opinion that there is nothing our Town can do at this time. She also expressed hope that the Task Force that would be formed by Planning would take an honest look at the needs of Towns such as Charlestown.

The Council decided to not take any further action on this topic.

c.   Discussion and potential action regarding a resolution in opposition to House Bill 6167(Subdivision of Land)
This has been explained here. Ashley spoke strongly of the problems with this legislation. George Tremblay wrote a resolution for the Council to oppose this. The Council approved that unanimously.

a.   Discussion and potential action regarding Budget Transfers in the amount of $225,400.00 as requested by Patricia M. Anderson, Town Treasurer
These fairly routine budget shifts, and the allocation of budget for the special anti-Whalerock lawyer, were approved unanimously.
8:45 pm
b.   Discussion and potential action regarding a Request for Proposals and Bid Specifications for the Ninigret Park Master Plan Update as approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission. 
This contract will produce an update of the Ninigret Park Master Plan. The public meetings that will be a part of this work will certainly highlight the concerns of the Arnolda community neighbors of the park.
This was approved unanimously.

8:58 pm
a.   Public hearing and potential action regarding Ordinance #357 amending Chapter 158 – Parks, Beaches and Recreation Area: Smoking Prohibitions
The Council unanimously approved the beach smoking ban.

c.   Discussion and potential action regarding the approval of the Charlestown Coastal Ponds Management Commission(CPMC) to hear CRMC aquaculture permits and forward their decision in writing to the Town Council as a communication prior to the agenda meeting with any additional information required by the Town Council to be requested of the CPMC prior to the Town Council meeting, thus creating no delay in an applicant’s application. 
CRMC sends out notices with a 30-day comment period. The current procedure has the Coastal Pond Management Commission review notices followed by the Town Council and that usually cannot take place within 30 days. This procedure will not hold up permits in cases where the Council does not want to review them. This passed unanimously.

a.   Introduction and first reading of Mooring Regulations, to be advertised for public hearing on July 8, 2013
There was no discussion on this tonight.

3.      PUBLIC COMMENT for items not on the Agenda
None tonight!

None tonight!

None tonight!

a.   Town Administrator No discussion tonight
b.   Town Solicitor No discussion tonight
c.   Commission Reports No discussion tonight

d.   Discussion and potential action regarding a communication from the Town of Richmond requesting support for reimbursement of the costs of the May 14, 2013 and June 18, 2013 Chariho District Financial Referenda by the Chariho School District. 
Lisa DiBello wanted to just make a motion to not support this but Tom Gentz insisted on talking about it: how Richmond demands payment from the school district for elections after the town voted the budget down. Furthermore Richmond is demanding payment from the other towns if they don't support this position.
The Council voted unanimously to oppose this initiative from Richmond.

9:30 pm
a.   Public hearing and potential action regarding an application received from the Charlestown Rathskeller Tavern, Inc. d/b/a “Charlestown Rathskeller Tavern” for a Class BV Full Beverage License, to apply to premises located at 489A Old Coach Road, Charlestown RI  02813, to be advertised for public hearing on June 10, 2013. Designated premises: The main restaurant building and patio adjacent to the tavern entrance on the east side, including the small deck, bocce court and horseshoe court areas; from the southeast corner of the restaurant, to include the spring house, the sauna area and fire pit; the grounds located southwest of the main entrance (west side) to approximately two hundred (200’) feet south of the employee parking lot; the open porch and deck on the west side of the restaurant; and from the north side of the restaurant up to the stone wall located approximately ten (10) feet from Old Coach Road. Hours of operation: Monday through Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m. and Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.
More people wanted to speak on this topic than I ever would have imagined. None were opposed to the application but it took 20 minutes for the public hearing. A couple people spoke to claim that the Rathskeller was being treated more leniently than they were. The license was approved unanimously.
9:53 pm
b.   Discussion and potential action regarding the cap on beverage licenses within the Town of Charlestown
For some reason the Council always keeps the current cap on liquor licenses to have no capacity to add any. So every time a restaurant serving alcohol is added they have to increase the cap. The increase was approved unanimously

c.   Discussion and potential action regarding an application received from Anne Mulhall
for a Class F Liquor License for the South County Film Festival to be held at Ninigret Park on July 19, 2013 - alcohol to be served 12:00 pm until 7:00 pm.
This was approved unanimously.

d.   Discussion and potential action regarding an application received from Gray Matter Marketing for a Class F Liquor License for the Summer Rhode Island Brew Fest to be held at Ninigret Park on August 10, 2013 - alcohol to be served from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.This was approved unanimously.

10:00 pm

a.  Approval of the following events at Ninigret Park

Park Reservation: August 10, 2013
Lisa DiBello asked for this to be removed from the consent agenda. She asked Jay Primiano how the fee was determined. Jay said that the Parks & Rec Commission saw it as a very small one-day event and chose this introductory fee. This passed unanimously.
Park Reservation: September 8, 2013
Lisa DiBello asked for this to be removed from the consent agenda. She suggested waiving the fee whether or not a 501c3 sponsorship is obtained. This passed unanimously.
3.      SCYSC Seaside Classic
Park Reservation: July 13 – 14, 2013
Lisa DiBello asked for this to be removed from the consent agenda. She asked Jay Primiano if this is part of the tournament that takes place at URI. Jay said yes. This passed unanimously.

b.  Approval of the use of funds from the Pond and Beach Preservation Fund Account for an amount not to exceed $75,000 for rock removal in and near the Charlestown Breachway as requested by the Town’s Geographic Information System Office on behalf of the Charlestown Dredge Committee with endorsement from the Charlestown Coastal Ponds Management Commission
Lisa DiBello asked for this to be removed from the consent agenda. She wanted to ask about liability issues. Steven McCandless explained that the current rocks in the channel are a serious danger. The state is going to remove some rock, but not as much as we would like. We can remove more rock cost effectively while the equipment is in place.
This was approved unanimously.

d.  Retraction of the March 11, 2013 award of the Vending Bid for Sam Ferretti Blue Shutters Beach to The Dog Pound and award of the re-bid of the Vending Bid for Sam Ferretti Blue Shutters Beach to John Martin in amount of $2,000.00
Lisa DiBello asked for this to be removed from the consent agenda. Tom Gentz reworded this to say "John Martin dba Johnnie's Clam Shack." This was approved unanimously with Lisa DiBello abstaining.

a.   Board and Commission vacancies
Tom Gentz read the list of vacancies.


d.   Discussion and potential action regarding a resolution in opposition to House Bill 5394 and Senate Bill 322 (Property Tax Relief for Developers)
George Tremblay prepared a resolution opposing this bill because it shifts risk from developers to towns. It exempts developers from paying property taxes on unsold housing units. Tremblay noted that the current "Sub A" version of this bill now has a sunset clause that makes it more reasonable. So Tremblay withdrew his resolution.

All done at 10:23 pm!