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Monday, March 10, 2014

Town Council meeting preview – TONIGHT at 7 PM

animated animated GIF
Quarry ordinance, plan for former Whalerock site, impending war with Hopkinton and Richmond on the agenda
By Will Collette

Before the public portion of the Charlestown Town Council meeting, there will be a closed, Executive Session. The only item on the agenda is the lawsuit against Charlestown and several present and former Charlestown officials by Council member Lisa DiBello. That lawsuit is now over two years old and may be ripe for settlement. We will not know what they discussed unless they take a vote and then tell us about it.

Despite a seemingly full agenda, there are actually only three matters that seem likely to take up a lot of time. Coming first in the order of business is a continuation of the discussion about the town’s plans for the future of the Charlestown Moraine Preserve. This is the property bought by the taxpayers for $2.1 million in open space/recreation bond money last summer to end the on-going battle over the proposed Whalerock wind farm.

While there seems to be broad agreement that this is a great piece of land, there’s debate about whether to give away property rights to an outside group to “lock up” the land as open space and close the door on any other conceivable municipal use in the future. 

Former Town Council President Deb Carney argued at the last Council session that locking up the property and foreclosing other uses was ill-advised and unnecessary while CCA Party Mike Chambers mounted a personal attack on Carney in the Westerly Sun. Mikey seems to want to give away the land, largely for his own self-interest as Richard Hosp pointed out in a great letter to the Sun. Deb skewered Chambers for his usual misstatements of fact, if not outright lies.
Let's give that $2.1 million parcel to the deserving
poor, like the Charlestown Land Trust or the
Arnolda neighborhood

Town Council Boss Tom Gentz of the CCA Party crafted a memo some months ago listing several potential recipients of a conservation easement to lock up the property. However, after pursuing Gentz’s list, the Conservation Commission discovered that only one of those groups – the Charlestown Land Trust – is still interested. Readers may remember the central role played by the Trust in the 2012 Y-Gate Scandal.

If the Town Council majority insists on locking up the land by giving away a conservation easement, it will have to go before the voters, probably at this summer’s financial referendum.

Next in the batting order is what to do about mining. The Council has before it a flawed but important ordinance to ban new mining and blasting and to regulate existing mining. Some Council action is needed at this meeting because the six-month moratorium the Council passed expires this month.

They will hold a public hearing and will no doubt hear pro and con testimony. Then they must decide whether to pass the ordinance, flaws and all, or send it back to the Planning Commission to fix while extending the expiring moratorium. Or do something else.

Toward the end of the meeting, the Council is scheduled to take up five closely related issues all tied into the potential civil war within the Chariho School District pitting Charlestown against Hopkinton and Richmond over the apportionment of power, control and costs. 

war animated GIFCCA Party Council member Dan “Vladimir” Slattery wants war in order to preserve the status quo. Maybe he’ll talk about mobilizing the Charlestown town militia to occupy the Richmond piece of Carolina to protect ethnic Charlietowners who happen to live on the wrong side of the town line.

If Charlestown withdraws from Chariho, which is what Vlad Slattery is threatening to do, we will need an alternative way to teach Charlestown’s children. Planning Commissar Ruth Platner may suggest that we deport families with school-age children.

Our current Chariho School Committee members "Swami" Ron Areglado and Donna Chambers might want to start up a charter school or craft a home schooling curriculum for them.

Or maybe we’re going to need that land in the Charlestown Moraine Preserve for a new school building.

Here’s the agenda listed in the actual order of business. The Clerkbase documents were not posted after business hours on Friday, so not all of them are posted below. I think I managed to get the important ones linked. My snarky comments are in bold red.

1.      CALL TO ORDER, Moment of Silence, Pledge of Allegiance. 

2.      ROLL CALL
Motion to move items 12, 7a, 8g, 9a, 9b, 9c and 15b to be heard next on the Agenda

All items marked with “CA” are to be considered consent agenda. 

“Consent agenda” items are those generally considered to be non-controversial. They are lumped together and voted on as a bloc without discussion or debate. Usually Councilor Lisa DiBello and sometimes Dan Slattery ask to have an item pulled for discussion usually so they can make a point. I predict Councilor DiBello will want item 11.a.1., the soccer tournament, pulled for discussion since she did that last month to the same item.

Motion to accept, approve and place on file the following as the consent agenda: 11a, 11b, 13a, 13b, 17a, 17b, 17d, 17e, 18a, and 18b

“CA” a. 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:

1.         Event: Seaside Classic Soccer Tournament
Park Reservation (Setup): July 12 – July 13, 2014
Event Dates: July 12 – July 13, 2014
Camping: N/A
Insurance: $1 Million General Liability
Fee: $3,400

2.         Event: Chariho Youth Soccer – Spring/Fall Season
Event Dates: March 1 – June 29, 2014 (Soccer Fields Only. Saturdays and Sunday - 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays – 4:00 p.m. to Dusk for make-ups)
Camping: N/A
Insurance: $2 Million General Liability
Fee: Waived

3.         Event: 2014 Ocean State Senior Olympics – Ocean State Masters Cycling Classic
Park Reservation (Setup): June 21, 2014
Event Dates: June 21, 2014
Camping: N/A
Insurance: $1 Million General Liability
Fee: $100.00

4.         Event: Northeast Masters Cycling Association (NEMCA) Criterium Skills Clinic
Park Reservation (Setup): April 27, 2014
Event Dates: April 27, 2014
Camping: N/A
Insurance: $1 Million General Liability
Fee: $25.00

“CA” b. Approval of the following events to occur within the Town of Charlestown per RIGL §31-12-12(a):

1.         TRIMOM Tri Training Series
Event Dates: June 11, June 25, July 16, August 6, August 20, 2014 from 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Route: (Bike) From Burlingame Day Use Entrance – right onto Prosser Trail; Route 1 South to Old Post Road; right onto Klondike Road; right onto Ross Hill Road (Westerly); right onto Buckeye Brook Road (Westerly – Charlestown); right onto Shumankanuc Hill Road to Kings Factory Road; bear right onto Prosser Trail; right back into Burlingame. (Run) from the Parking Lot, runners head out onto Sanctuary Road; left onto Montauk Road; left onto Prosser Trail; left onto Cayuga Rd; Montauk Rd; Mohegan Rd; left onto Seneca Trail; right back onto Sanctuary Rd into the Parking lot.

2.         Rhode Warrior Half-Iron Distance Triathalon (Bicycle Race)
Event: August 24, 2014
Route: From Misquamicut Beach – right onto Atlantic Avenue; left onto Weekapaug Avenue; straight thru Langworthy/Shore Road; straight Thru Dunn’s Corner Rd/ Route 1; left onto Ashaway Road; right onto Tomaquag Road; left onto Woodville; straight thru intersection onto Clarks Falls Road; right onto Pendleton Hill Road; right onto Route 49 Beach Pond Road; right Route 138 Rockville Road; right onto Route 3; left onto Nichols; right onto Mechanic/Switch; right onto 91; left onto Kings Factory; right onto Shumankanuc; left onto Buckeye Brook; right onto Church; left onto Route 91; right onto 1A; left onto Maplewood; left onto Atlantic

3.         Rhode Island Duathlon Festival (Bicycle Race)
Event: October 19, 2014
Route: From Burlingame Campground Main Entrance – right onto Klondike Road; right onto Ross Hill Road (Westerly); right onto Buckeye Brook Road (Westerly – Charlestown); right onto Shumankanuc Hill Road to Kings Factory Road; right onto Prosser Trail to Route 1 South to Old Post Road; right onto Klondike Road; right back into Burlingame

“CA” a. Town Council Minutes: February 5; February 10 (Executive and Regular)
“CA” b. Reports:
Building Official – February 2014; Police Chief – February 2014; Public Works Director – January 2014 (CRCC) and February 2014; Town Clerk – February 2014; Treasurer – January 2014; Wastewater Manager – February 2014

“CA” a. Reappointment of Susan A. Carpenter to the Board of Canvassers, term to expire in March of 2020
“CA” b. Reappointment of Michael Roy to the Coastal Pond Management Commission, terms to expire in March of 2017
“CA” d. Appointment of Peter Wronski to the Friends of Ninigret Park Subcommittee, term to expire in March of 2017
“CA” e. Reappointment of Ronald Russo to the Friend of Ninigret Park Subcommittee, term to expire in March of 2017

“CA” a. Request from the Tax Assessor for abatements in the amount of $9.31
“CA” b. Discussion and potential action regarding the award of the Animal Shelter Roof Repair bid to WPI Construction, Inc. in the amount of $7,200.00, 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

a.      Discussion and potential action regarding the Charlestown Moraine Preserve Management Plan and the potential for conservation easements on the property. Let's see if this turns into a debate between CCA Party pundit Mike Chambers and Deb Carney who have been fighting it out in the pages of the Westerly Sun. Bring popcorn.

g.      Discussion and potential action regarding supporting a letter from the Wastewater Management Commission to CRMC pertaining to the spraying of phragmites in West Pond and groundwater nitrate levels in Quonochontaug

a.      Public hearing and potential action regarding Ordinance #362 – Chapter 218, Zoning Map Amendment (Collins Revocable Living Trust, 9 Prosser Trail, Map 17, Lot 185)
b.      Public hearing and potential action regarding Ordinance #363 – Chapter 218-59, Commercial and recreation vehicles in residential district (Parking).
c.      Public hearing and potential action regarding Ordinance #364 – Chapter 155, Nuisances (Extraction). 

This is a generally good ordinance that was sent to the Council despite a number of serious flaws. Planning Commissar Ruth Platner pretty much said she and acting Town Planner Jane Weidman were sick of dealing with it, so they are throwing it into the Council’s lap. Click here and here for more detail.

b.      Discussion and potential extension of the Temporary Moratorium on the Permitting and Licensing of Excavation, Quarrying, Mining and Material Processing Facilities for an additional three months, pending action on Ordinance #364 – Chapter 155, Nuisances (Extraction)  

The smart move for the Council would be to extend the moratorium and send Ordinance 364 back to Planning for the revisions it needs to make it a truly effective ordinance. Anyway, that’s my opinion. The decision will ultimately be decided by the three CCA boys (Boss Tom Gentz, George Tremblay and Dan Slattery).

3.      PUBLIC COMMENT for items not on the Agenda



a.      Town Administrator
b.      Commission Reports

b.      Discussion and potential action regarding the Hometown Hero Award

a.      Discussion and potential action on a Resolution Requesting the Charlestown School Committee to Provide Conceptual Changes to the Chariho Act
b.      Discussion and potential action on H 7553 on the Chariho nine members school committee, and its equivalent Senate bill
c.      Discussion and potential action on H 7568 on Chariho Matriculation and its equivalent Senate bill
d.      Discussion and potential action regarding the authorization of the Town Council President to write a letter to the Town Council in Hopkinton requesting that their Town Council take a vote rejecting tax equalization, with the Richmond letter attached as an example
e.      Discussion and potential action regarding the reconstitution of the Town’s Ad Hoc Chariho Withdrawal Committee, announcing vacancies on the Committee, directing the Committee to study the matter of the Town’s withdrawal from the Chariho Regional School District and to issue a final report on its recommendations including but not limited to the financial impact to Charlestown Taxpayers, and authorizing the publication of the report in a Pipeline Newsletter to all Charlestown residents in early April 2014 - How this short date will be possible under the procedure for making town committee appointments will be interesting. I'll bet Deputy Dan will have a creative explanation for getting around that rule. Maybe there's an Australian rule he can cite.

dan feuerriegel animated GIF
Dan Slattery's fantasy of leading Charlestown against its enemies....
Items 8.a. through e. reflect the escalating dispute that pits Charlestown against Richmond and Hopkinton over the sharing of power, control and costs for the Chariho School District. The main protagonist on the Charlestown side is CCA Party Councilor Dan “Vladimir” Slattery who has been banging the war drum over even the idea about discussing any changes to the status quo.

Item “e.” regarding the reconstitution of a Chariho Withdrawal Committee is the logical extension of Slattery’s attitude. Hey, maybe if we end up needing to build a new school, there might be a convenient site RIGHT ON ROUTE ONE! How about that, Mike?
....but the reality is more like this

f.       Discussion and potential action regarding the sale and/or disposal of Map 9, Lot 19 (Charlestown Beach Road) 

This would eliminate a five foot wide, town-owned path and close off another route for public access to the beach for the benefit of eleven, largely non-resident beach property owners. Shame on Charlestown if we do this!

But this is also classic CCA Party philosophy - serve the out of state beach front owners over the public interest.


a.      Board and Commission vacancies

a.      Discussion and potential action on a Plastic Bag Ban Resolution

Our CCA Party Councilors generally don’t give a sh@t about any environmental issue other than open space next door to CCA Party supporters and campaign contributors, so it will be interesting how they come down on this otherwise innocuous issue.


c.      Appointment to the Parks and Recreation Commission, term to expire in January of 2017; applications received from Edward Vazquez and David E. Currier

19.    LEGAL MATTERS – None