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Friday, December 6, 2013

PREVIEW: Town Council meets Monday

Planning Commission returns with revised anti-business ordinance proposals
By Will Collette
Bring us a shrubbery!
Planning Commissar Ruth Platner will take another run at trying to drive the last of Charlestown’s small businesses out of business as she returns to the Council with revised versions of her proposed Ordinance #359 on shrubbery and mulch, and Ordinance #360 on parking.

While most Charlestown residents have probably not thought of shrubbery, mulch and parking as serious issues in Charlestown, let me tell you that these are issues of paramount importance for the radical conservationist wing of the CCA Party. 

They have been working for over a year on these issues, using a consultant paid for with your tax dollars to come up with a comprehensive, minutely detailed approach to deal with these dire threats to the safety and well-being of the town’s citizens.

The October presentation of these ordinances did not go well for Platner or for fellow CCA Party leader Faith Labossiere, who actually proposed stronger and more expansive controls over mulch and shrubbery. 

Labossiere held the podium for an hour on October 7 to expound on the need to strictly police what town businesses do to promote the planting and maintenance of berry-growing shrubbery on their property, and to also crack down on businesses who do not lay down deep layers of natural mulch.

Meet Charlestown's new shrubbery and mulch volunteer patrol
The other speakers at the October 7 Council hearing did not share Platner’s or Labossiere’s zeal in adding yet another mandate onto Charlestown’s shrinking small business base or more unenforceable laws on Charlestown property owners.

The Planning Commission made some minor changes at its November 19 meeting. Unfortunately, you can’t watch their deliberations because there is no Clerkbase video – the meeting site was moved. 

The linked versions of the proposed ordinances is a mish-mosh of colors and charts that is difficult - almost impossible - to follow. When Platner originally presented the ordinances, the Planning Commission simply struck out all of the existing ordinances and presented all of the proposed ordinances as if the two were entirely different. 

You could not tell what changes had been made. This presented a serious public relations problem as businesses looked at the entirety of the language and realized the extent to which town government intended to screw them. That made Platner - actually, Ashley Hahn, our recently departed town Planner - scramble to come up with a before-and-after presentation that made it look less like the Planning Commission had totally lost its collective mind.

Platner needed to be able to say that a lot of what is in the ordinances is actually already in existing law or is similar. Thus, the inscrutable and basically useless color-coding.

All this is consistent with Planning Commissar Ruth Platner’s on-going practice of limiting public access to information and minimizing public input. Let people either trust her to act in their best interests or try to figure it all out for themselves. 
Cliff Vanover - next in line for a CCA
political patronage appointment?

That’s good government, CCA style.

Also on the agenda is the roll-out of the plan to come up with a scheme for the newly acquired town property officially called the Charlestown Moraine Preserve, better known by most as the former site of the Whalerock wind turbine proposal.

There’s also the surprise resignation of David Provancha as Alternate #1 to the Zoning Board of Review (ZBR). Provancha was only just re-appointed in October. This allows CCA Party bard Mike Chambers to move up from Alternate #1 to #2 and creates another slot for the CCA Party majority on the Town Council to make another political appointment. I have heard that the only contender at the moment is CCA Party leader Cliff Vanover


Here’s the Town Council agenda for its December 9 meeting which starts at 7:00 p.m. at Town Hall. My snarky comments and predictions appear in bold red.

1.  CALL TO ORDER, Moment of Silence, Pledge of Allegiance. NOTE: It will be interesting to see if Council Boss Tom Gentz uses this moment to honor Nelson Mandela. I doubt it, but it would be nice to see. We're also coming up on the first anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School slaughter, but I doubt Gentz will touch that one either.


Motion to move items 7a, 15c, 12, 9a and 9b to be heard next on the Agenda


a.      Discussion and potential action regarding the presentation of the Hometown Hero Award to the Charlestown Historical Society


c.      Discussion and potential action regarding the presentation of a Proclamation for Joshua Alan Hedin in recognition of his attaining the rank of Eagle Scout


All items marked with “CA” are to be considered consent agenda
Motion to accept, approve and place on file the following as the consent agenda: 8a, 11a, 11b, 13a, 13b, 17a, 17b, 18a, and 18b. 

NOTE: the “Consent Agenda” is for non-controversial items that are not discussed or debated, but are simply approved as a bloc on a single vote. Often, either Councilor Lisa DiBello or Deputy Dan Slattery pull an item off the consent agenda when they want to make a point or grind an ax.


“CA” a. Discussion and potential action regarding the placement of the Affordable Housing questionnaire from the RI League of Cities and Towns and the answers provided by the Town on the Town's website and authorization for the Town Administrator to facilitate future requests from Councilors for information to be placed on the Town’s website


“CA” a. Discussion and potential action regarding the approval of a retail firearms dealer’s license

for the following businesses, subject to receipt of all required Local approvals and State and Federal licenses:
1.      Carolina Consultants, 110 Carolina Back Road
2.      Brad’s Guns, 4203 S County Trail 

NOTE: Owner Raymond Bradley describes the business as "Firearms Internet Sales" being sold from an R-40 zoned dwelling. I wonder how much ammunition he has stored on site.

Bradley is one of the organizers of "We the People of Exeter," the group composed largely of people NOT from Exeter, who petitioned to force the December 14th recall election of four of the five members of the Exeter Town Council.

“CA” b. Discussion and potential action regarding the approval of the following events at Ninigret Park with a recommendation from the Parks and Recreation Commission, subject to review of contracts by the Town Solicitor, receipt of all applicable paperwork and insurance and that all event details are satisfactorily met by the Parks and Recreation Director:

2. Event: Rhythm & Roots
Park Reservation (Setup): August 23 – September 4, 2014
Event Dates: August 29 – 31, 2014
Camping: 1,500 Max Campers
Insurance: $2 Million General Liability; $2 Million Liquor Liability
Fee: $9,000.00


“CA” a. Town Council Minutes:

November 6; November 12 (Executive and Regular)

“CA” b. Reports:

Building Official – November 2013; Police Chief – November 2013; Public Works Director – November 2013; Town Clerk – November 2013; Treasurer – October 2013; Wastewater Manager – November 2013


“CA” a. Discussion and potential action regarding the acceptance of the resignation, with regret, of David Provancha from the Zoning Board of Review as Alternate #1.

NOTE: Provancha was re-appointed just last October 7. His resignation means CCA Party pundit Mike Chambers, who was given a political patronage appointment to the ZBR as Alternate #3, moves up a notch. And it creates another slot for the CCA Party Town Council Majority to give out another patronage appointment to one of their supporters. Is there anyone else among Ron Arglado’s flock who hasn’t gotten a patronage appointment? 

“CA” b. Appointment of Donna M. Deyorio

to the Parks and Recreation Commission, term to expire in January of 2016


“CA” a. Discussion and potential action regarding the award of the Heavy Duty Pickup Truck bid to Flood Ford of East Greenwich for a Ford F-350HD with radio, plow and frame for the net bid price of $37,400 through a lease-purchase agreement as budgeted through line item 990-9916, and authorization of the Town Administrator and Town Treasurer, each, to take any and all such actions, and execute and deliver such certificates, receipts or other documents as may be necessary to carry into effect the foregoing

“     CA” b. Discussion and potential action regarding the award of the Rubberized Asphalt Chip Seal bid to be placed on Shannock Road and other Town roads (in the Spring of 2014 as funds remain available) to All States Asphalt, Inc. in the amount of $4.55/square yard, not to exceed $109,260, as budgeted from line item 01.990.9961, and authorization of the Town Administrator and Town Treasurer, each, to take any and all such actions, and execute and deliver such certificates, receipts or other documents as may be necessary to carry into effect the foregoing.  

NOTE: this is a relatively big contract (for Charlestown) and instead of awarding it to a Rhode Island contractor, it went to one located in Sunderland, MA.  

Even though Charlestown unemployment recently dropped from 9.1% in August to 7.7% in October, that's still too damned high to be awarding contracts to out of state companies. Because All-State was the only bidder, Charlestown should have re-bid this job. 


a.      Continuation of the public hearing and potential action regarding #359 amending Chapter 218-74 Zoning, Landscaping. 

NOTE: this is a bad ordinance. An anti-business ordinance. A classic case of Planning Commission micromanagement. It is hardly changed from when it was first proposed in October. Click here for an analysis of its earlier form – the new version is only slightly modified.

b.      Continuation of the public hearing and potential action regarding #360 amending Chapters 218–56 through 218-61 - Zoning, Parking. 

      NOTE: this is another bad, anti-business ordinance. This one also contains some ugly surprises for Charlestown homeowners who either (a) bring work vehicles home or (b) park recreational equipment – e.g. boats, RVs, tent campers, etc. on their property. It is hardly changed from when it was first proposed in October. Click here for an analysis of its earlier form – the new version is only slightly modified.

       Both ordinances are “complaint-driven” which means that the main way they are enforced is when neighbors complain about each other, often as the result of feuds.


3.      PUBLIC COMMENT for items not on the Agenda




a.      Town Administrator

b.      Town Solicitor

c.      Commission Reports


b.      Discussion and potential action regarding a management plan for the Charlestown Moraine Preserve, to be constructed by the Conservation Commission in coordination with the Town Planner and the Planning Commission with the goal of creating open space in perpetuity, through one or more conservation easements, to be returned to the Council for a formal vote before being given to the voters at a Financial Referendum 

NOTE: this is the next step in the Gentz-Platner plan to transfer effective control of this new piece of town property to some friendly non-profit group to prevent some future Town Council from turning it into a nuclear power plant. I am not making this up - see November's Council meeting.


b.      Discussion and potential action regarding the Ninigret Park event fee schedule and the request of an advisory opinion from the Parks and Recreation Commission



a.      Board and Commission vacancies

NOTE: the buzz is that CCA Party leader Cliffie Vanover is applying for the Zoning Board vacancy created by David Provancha’s resignation (see #17A, above). Gee, I wonder what his chances are in getting the votes of CCA Party Town Councilors Boss Gentz, Deputy Dan Slattery and George Tremblay? To the victors go the spoils.


a.      Introduction and first reading of Ordinance #361 amending Chapter 158-4.1, Friends of Ninigret Park - Establishment and membership, to be advertised for public hearing on January 13, 2014. 

NOTE: this ordinance corrects a mistake that was made when Friends of Ninigret Park was initially authorized. The town limited membership to three people, meaning that members - who technically constituted a quorum if two or more of them participated in the conversation - could not talk to each other without violating the state Open Meetings Act. Duh.

b.      Discussion and potential action regarding a resolution in support of Newport Pell Bridge Safety. NOTE: I'm sure there will be a lot of debate, pro and con, about safe driving on the bridge. Not that anyone from Charlestown ever goes to Newport.


19.    LEGAL MATTERS – None