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Monday, March 10, 2014

March Town Council Meeting - the play-by-play

by Tom Ferrio

Like baseball, it's hard to predict whether the Town Council meeting will be a thrilla or a snooza. But we'll be here giving you a near real-time commentary on the action.

Will has been doing these real-time reports for several months and I honestly think his results are better than mine. But it's time for me to share the load a little, and maybe there's some benefit to practice.

I have loaded up the agenda that Will previously published, along with some of my pre-meeting comments. I'll be adding commentary on what happens in red as the meeting progresses. I plan to be at Town Hall for the end of the Executive Session and then zip home to my ClerkBase connection and a glass of wine.

We thought that the Executive Session, considering the DiBello lawsuit against the town, might lead to some news. Unfortunately, Tom Gentz announced that no votes were taken in the Executive Session. So it continues.

The Council chambers room was packed. I got the idea many of them were there for the commercial vehicle parking ordinance and the extraction ordinance.

I missed Council discussion down to item 7 while I was rushing home. Sorry.

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. 

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. 

There has been quite a debate on the editorial pages of the Westerly Sun on this topic. 

The Council was in the midst of this item when I got on ClerkBase to listen. There was some talk of the Council not accepting part of the part about offering an easement and giving away Town control.

The motion (which I missed the wording of) passed unanimously.

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

This item was not covered because the Wastewater Commission has not completed consideration of the draft letter.

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)
Tom Gentz announced that this zoning change request has been withdrawn.

b.      Public hearing and potential action regarding Ordinance #363 – Chapter 218-59, Commercial and recreation vehicles in residential district (Parking).

Several people stood to spoke in opposition to the ordinance restricting commercial vehicle parking. The point was made that this type of work is very common in Charlestown and this ordinance wants to put people out of work. The point was made that our Town enforcement is "complaint based" and will do more to cause bad relations among neighbors. Beth Richardson noted that large vacation motor homes and trailers are permitted when they can be as large or larger than the commercial vehicles and trailers being prohibited.

Ruth Platner pointed out that the existing language dates from the 1990s and that the new proposal is actually less restrictive.

The Council agreed to remove the section prohibiting residential parking of towed equipment and voted for that change unanimously.

The Council then voted for the resulting ordinance change that basically changes the limit for residentially parked trucks from a maximum of "1.5 tons" to "12,000 pounds gross vehicle weight.

The hearing on the Extraction Ordinance was delayed awaiting arrival of a lawyer.

3.      PUBLIC COMMENT for items not on the Agenda

DiBello complimented the entire Public Works staff for handling the bad winter weather so well.


a.      Town Administrator
b.      Commission Reports

b.      Discussion and potential action regarding the Hometown Hero Award

Tremblay made a motion to change the award to the Charlestown Community Service Award. This passed unanimously.

The lawyer arrived and they started the hearing on the Extraction Ordinance.

c.      Public hearing and potential action regarding Ordinance #364 – Chapter 155, Nuisances (Extraction). 

Will has written about this proposed ordinance here and here.

Town Planner Jane Weidman gave an introduction to the proposed ordinance. Most was discussed in Will's articles.

Tom Gentz read a prepared statement. He explained that extraction is currently unregulated in Charlestown. He went on to say that new regulations would affect all operations, even those that have been good neighbors. He said that the reports of damages from the COPAR quarry motivated this new proposed ordinance.

8:00 pm
Gentz read four proposed amendments to the ordinance. These amendments are from the Planning  Commission that came to them from comments at the Planning public hearing. He started on this and then decided there might be only three, so I will list these later.

Sue Clayton, who is near the COPAR Bradford quarry, spoke to question whether someone could reopen a quarry like the one on Klondike Road could operate for 18 months without constraint. Platner said that is only for existing quarries. Clayton questioned whether reopening the Klondike Road quarry would be re-opening or continuing. I did not hear an answer to that.

Christina Holden-Shea stated that reclamation bonding should be part of the permitting process and that restoration should not have to wait until the quarry is closed. She also gave a shout-out to Progressive Charlestown!

Ray Morgan spoke to say that hours of operation should be addressed and that noise is a big concern.

Jane Weidman produced the correct three amendments for Tom Gentz at this point:
1. Each application shall have a named person who is the licensee. There are various requirements for this licensee.
2. This adds requirements for ground water testing with monitoring wells.
3. This adds a requirement for topsoil refill
The first and third ones are on page 21 here.

Al James spoke to to say that a 150 foot buffer is nothing as he can say from being a quarter-mile from the COPAR quarry. He also asked whether the well monitoring would include data before quarrying and monitoring after the quarry closes. Weidman responded that the monitoring plan is subject to specific site conditions. He also protested the amount of damage that can be done in 18 months of a temporary license.

Tom Gentz reminded the audience that operations in Charlestown have not received complaints. And now they are going to have to bear the brunt because of an operation across the border. (So what is the action based on this information? Wait for COPAR to lease more quarries here?)

Another speaker (did not catch the name, sorry) spoke to "correct" Gentz's statement that there have been no problems with Charlestown quarry operations, explaining some of the issues in her neighborhood. This woman did go on to say that an ordinance such as the proposed one would have helped with some of their problems. She suggested that onsite equipment generating noise, such as rock crushers, should have larger setbacks from neighbors.

Evelyn Smith spoke saying she is the owner of Shoreline Gravel in Charlestown. She also mentioned that is the owner of possibly the only gravel bank in Charlestown fully recovered and put into residential use - the condominiums and pond behind the Cross Mills Fire Station. She spoke to oppose the ordinance, giving claims of numerous legal flaws in the ordinance. She specifically pointed out the lack of any appeal provisions in the proposed law. She suggested better defining abandonment so that inactive locations can reactivate and setting proper hurdles for new operations.

Attorney William Landry, representing Charlestown Land Company and South County Sand and Gravel, spoke. (I believe I heard him mention the Klondike Road quarry as if it was an existing quarry.) He echoed some of Ms. Smith's points about legal flaws of exceeding the Town's authority of licensing land use for quarries. 

Attorney Tia Preollo(sp?), representing Marone Land Company, echoed Mr. Landry and Ms. Smith about the legal issues of the ordinance. 

Frank Glista stood to say he knows people want to get something done but we have to get it right and not get it reversed in a court of law.

The Council asked the Town lawyer Peter Ruggiero to speak to the legal claims made. He said that he would like to suggest some language to address some of those issues and to clarify language around some of the other points made.

Gentz, Amy and Peter talked about a schedule for his suggestions. They believed they could have that done in time for announcement for a meeting on March 24. Slattery suggested that schedule is too aggressive to put proper thought into doing this right. Paula Andersen agreed. Gentz pointed out that the hearing could be continued again at the Mar 24 meeting if necessary. They agreed to continue this to the next regular Council meeting on April 14. Gentz voted against that, saying he thought it could be done sooner.

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)  

9:50 pm
This agenda item was included in case the Extraction ordinance in the previous agenda item is not approved tonight. Accordingly, the Council unanimously approved the 3 month extension of the moratorium on new extraction businesses.

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. Our CCA Party Councilors and supporters have been leading conflict on the Charlestown side. 8.e can be considered the "nuclear option," probably designed to prevent any future civil discussion among the towns.

a.      Discussion and potential action on a Resolution Requesting the Charlestown (perhaps this is an error and should be "Chariho" - this seems to have led to confusion during the discussion...) School Committee to Provide Conceptual Changes to the Chariho Act
This resolution makes the claim that changes in the Chariho Act should go through the Chariho School Committee and not be advocated individually by Towns. This offered a great oportunity for Dan Slattery and Ron Areglado to claim that the other Towns and Larry Valencia are acting badly. Interestingly, the phrase "minority members of the other town councils" was used often. It's not clear how a minority of a town council could make such a thing happen. This passed unanimously with the addition to also send it to the State legislators for the other Chariho Towns.

b.      Discussion and potential action on H 7553 on the Chariho nine members school committee, and its equivalent Senate bill
This continues to oppose one of the specific bills put forth by Larry Valencia. They amended this to 1) include the corresponding Senate bill, 2) state that a reduction in the size of the Chariho School Committee would cause difficulty with the operation of the Committee, and 3) state that the construction of Richmond Commons if this bill were passed would lead to unanticipated outcomes. This passed unanimously.

c.      Discussion and potential action on H 7568 on Chariho Matriculation and its equivalent Senate bill
This continues to oppose the second specific bill put forth by Larry Valencia. Deb Carney again raised the potential issue of Richmond Commons leading to elementary school overcrowding and pushing kids around to balance the load. This passed unanimously with the same (or similar) amendments.

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
This resolution raises the threat of Charlestown withdrawing from Chariho if another town moves toward tax equilization (which would increase Charlestown's tax rate to something like that of Richmond or Hopkinton). Richmond has confirmed that they do not want to push for tax equilization. This motion requests Hopkinton to make the same statement, although there seems to be documentation showing that intent to push for tax equilization. This passed unanimously.

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 - 
We previously expressed puzzlement about how the April 2014 date will be possible under the procedure for making town committee appointments. 
This item is designed to signal a big message to the other Chariho Towns. This seems to be viewed as a relatively simple spreadsheet exercise based on the previous study and our current tax base. Surprisingly, there seemed to be surprise when Amy said that this Committee membership opportunity had to be advertised. The suggestion was made (did not catch name) that the existing Budget Commission simply be charged to do it. Dan reported that the Budget Commission has already refused. (?) Dan's proposal for an ad hoc Committee was approved, with the change to May 2014, unanimously.

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

This seems to 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. 

This must be done by ordinance with a hearing at the April meeting before placing on the budget referendum. This passed 3-2 with DiBello and Andersen opposing. The Council can still decide to not place the sale on the financial referendum after the hearing.


a.      Board and Commission vacancies

a.      Discussion and potential action on a Plastic Bag Ban Resolution
This will be continued until the next meeting.


c.      Appointment to the Parks and Recreation Commission, term to expire in January of 2017; applications received from Edward Vazquez and David E. Currier
The Council voted (4-1, DiBello opposed) to accept Edward Vasquez. There evidently is another resignation in the works.

19.    LEGAL MATTERS – None

Done 10:54 pm (whew)