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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Get the earplugs and smelling salts ready

Morainiacs suffer big setback in effort to block Ninigret Park concerts
The peace and serenity of Ron Areglado's ashram is about to be disturbed
By Will Collette

I was wrong. I repeat, in case Mike Chambers misses it, I was wrong.

After Mike and Donna Chambers plus other members of Bishop Ron Areglado’s Mother of the Moraine Temple on Partridge Run (Morainiacs, for short) threw a tantrum at the October 7 Charlestown Town Council meeting against Frank J. Russo's proposal to hold one or maybe two concerts in Ninigret Park in 2014, I was certain Russo’s plan would die a swift death.

In fact, I predicted how it would happen. I said that once the federal government shut-down was over, the US Fish & Wildlife manager of the Ninigret Wildlife Refuge Charlie Vandemoer would be asked by Planning Commissar and CCA Party Leader Ruth Platner to nix the project as a disruption to the National Wildlife Refuge.

But I was wrong. 

Charlie Vandemoer - OK with Russo proposal but wants
music to be aimed north.
Maybe Areglado and his followers have run out of juice with the CCA Party or have fallen behind on their payments to the CCA Party campaign fund, but Vandemoer has signed off on Russo’s concert proposal with minimal changes, except for one.

He wants the sound system to be shifted further north so the music projects away from the wildlife refuge and aimed more directly at Areglado and his followers’ neighborhood!

Actually, this is the second time I’ve been wrong on this same issue (I don’t know what’s wrong with me – I must be coming down with something). 

In my October 15 article on the Town Council debate on Frank Russo’s proposal, I said I had expected the opposition to Russo’s proposal come from the Arnolda neighborhood, since that’s where opposition to human activity in Ninigret usually comes from. Click here for a prime example.

But I failed to take into account how Russo’s decision to have his event on the opposite side of Ninigret Park, the section closest to Areglado/Chambers et al., would shift the NIMBY winds from Arnolda to the Morainiacs. [Pronunciation guide: that's "More-RAIN-eee-ax" as in Charlestown Moraine.]

A year and a half ago, Charlie Vandemoer was drawn into the middle of the CCA Party’s purge of former Town Administrator Bill DiLibero by Planning Commissar Platner. Vandemoer provided Platner and CCA Party Town Councilor Deputy Dan Slattery with the grounds that were used to hound DiLibero into resigning. Those “grounds” were that DiLibero was violating the federal government’s rights over Ninigret Park when DiLibero pursued two town-approved projects.

Later, when the damage was done and DiLibero’s position became untenable, we all learned that Charlie’s information was wrong. Too late for Bill.

Charlie apparently learned to be more cautious about sortieing out into Charlestown’s caustic politics and defied my prediction that he would try to block Russo. Instead, Charlie sent a thoughtful 5-page letter on October 22 to Town Administrator Mark Stankiewicz loaded with some pretty constructive suggestions for how the concerts could be held without undue disturbance to the Refuge. This was a follow-up to an apparently successful meeting with Stankiewicz and Parks & Rec Director Jay Primiano.

Ninigret - Photo by James Bedell
Charlie’s suggestions include ideas for parking, traffic, lights, camping, coordination and, of course, aiming the music away from the Refuge’s birds and critters and more toward Ron Areglado’s flock. 

Click here to read Charlie Vandemoer’s letter.

In his letter, Charlie suggested the town set aside a buffer area of native vegetation along the edge of the Park in the future to “accommodate larger events” and “decrease noise pollution and potential trespass issues.” I’m not sure what those “trespass issues” are since all of this is public land but the overall idea is pretty good.

Charlie notes that he has been trying to put up a similar natural buffer on the federal side of the land but “[o]ur ability to develop a strong vegetative buffer on the Refuge side of the boundary is limited due to poor soil conditions.”

This is to be expected since the whole area used to be a Navy air field and in addition to be almost totally paved over, the Navy also dumped toxic waste on the site.

I’m not sure the soil on Charlestown’s side of the line is any better since it's part of the same old air field, but Charlie makes the reasonable offer that his staff “would provide assistance in maintaining the buffer."

In a string of e-mails involving Primiano, Russo, Russo’s staff and Stankiewicz, all of Charlie’s concerns were handled with dispatch, and without causing any problems with Russo. This November 6 e-mail is typical of how concerns seem to have been addressed, one by one.

Nonetheless, Stankiewicz seems worried about making a decision. Given Charlestown’s history under CCA Party control, this is the kind of issue that could lead Council Boss Gentz, Deputy Dan Slattery, and Commissar Platner to launch a “Stomp Stanky” campaign if he handles it wrong. 

Let's not forget Charlestown is run by the same CCA Party people who loved Bill DiLibero right before they decided he was the devil and used the "Kill Bill Campaign" to drive him to resign.

See this e-mail string. So Stankiewicz sent out this CYA e-mail.

Now that Vandemoer has pretty much given his blessing to Frank J. Russo’s concert plan, thus taking a federal veto (or filibuster) off the table, what will Areglado and his flock do next? 

Or more to the point, what will Gentz, Slattery and Platner do to placate this CCA Party constituency? 

Or has the CCA Party decided that spending $50,000 for a Special Counsel, $2.1 million on land acquisition plus patronage jobs for Areglado, Mike and Donna Chambers and Peter Herstein is enough political payback for one group?