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Monday, May 12, 2014

VIDEOS: A Dozen More Charlestown Tapas

Lots more tasty tidbits of local news
By Will Collette

Shelter Cove today [Google Earth screen shot]
Shelter Cove Decision

In recent years, Charlestown has engaged in a war of attrition with Shelter Cove LLC, a business on Charlestown Beach road that includes the marina and Johnny Angel’s clam shack, over its offering commercial parking to visitors to Charlestown Town Beach. 

In 2011, Shelter Cove was cited for an illegal use of the property by the town Building Official. Shelter Cove appealed to the Zoning Board of Appeals which ruled in favor of Shelter Cove and threw out the Notice of Violation.

Shelter Cove had argued, correctly as it turned out, that they had been offering paid beach parking there for “over twenty years,” at least back to 1978.

The Town Council decided this result was unacceptable. So they approved a lawsuit against the Zoning Board (producing a Charlestown v. Charlestown case where it costs the town money at both ends. 
As it was in 1995 (earliest available Google Earth screen shot). You can
see more moorings, but not more parking

The Court sent the case back to the Zoning Board of Review to re-do the appeal proceedings. They did, deciding on a 4 to 1 vote to go with ZBR vice-chair Ray Dreczko’s proposal to throw out the Notice of Violation and let Shelter Cove continue to offer parking as it has for a generation. With that, it looks like this case is finally over.

What puzzles me is the reasoning that leads the CCA Party-controlled Town Council to decide to sue the Zoning Board and, at other times, to allow a controversial Zoning Board decision to stand unchallenged. Charlestown spent a small fortune of taxpayer money waging a losing battle in the courts to block the Zoning Board’s initial decision to allow the Whalerock Wind turbine proposal to go forward, and more thousands to try to stop Shelter Cove’s long-standing parking business.

But there was no such action by the Town Council to defend the Building Official’s finding that the Botka quarry right on the shore of Pasquiset Pond was an illegal use operating in violation of town laws. If this Council followed consistent reasoning, they would have immediately gone to court against the ZBR’s decision and to reinstate the Building Official’s cease-and-desist order. Instead, the Council left it up to local residents to spend their money to mount their own legal challenge.

Why does this Council find some causes worth fighting and others not worth the bother?

Copar gone…Meet Armetta LLC

Phil Armetta fighting with the Inland Wetlands
Commission in Middletown CT over filling
in wetlands without a permit
(photo courtesy of Stephen DeVoto, and
the Middletown Eye)
The notorious Copar Quarries (sites in Bradford, Charlestown and Richmond, as well as in Connecticut) is gone. So is their felonious Chief Executive Officer Sam Cocopard. Emerging in their place is “Armetta LLC,” named after one-time Connecticut trash mogul Phil Armetta, whose money had been financing Copar all along. Read the full story about Copar’s re-branding by clicking here.

Does re-branding make a difference? Take a look at similar moves, such as how Blackwater USA dealt with its image as a supplier of mercenaries with a record of indiscriminate murder of civilians in Iraq. They took care of the PR problems by re-branding themselves as “XE.”

Then there’s Phillip Morris Tobacco whose name lost its luster as more people figured out that the company’s business was selling death. Solution: change the name of the company to Altria.

Usually a company with a bad reputation changes its name to something obscure and innocuous. However, in the case of Copar, changing the name to Armetta only draws more attention to the incredible legal and environmental issues connected to Phil Armetta, detailed here.

Incidentally, if you’ve seen a lot of Copar trucks running at high speed along Route One, that’s because Copar won a part of the federal subcontract to supply sand for the Misquamicut Beach restoration project. As it turns out, the controversial Botka quarry – cited as an illegal operation by our Building Official – was not able to supply enough sand quickly enough.

Despite Copar’s record of violations, federal tax liens, health and safety violations and battles with Charlestown and Westerly, expedience wins out over ethics.

Speaking of re-branding, what happened to the Gentleman Farmer?

Windmills are NOT allowed in Charlestown
Not to worry. The long-time Charlestown institution is back under a new name – the Old Mill Diner – but is being run by its former owners, the Zarokostas family of Coventry. 

Some of my colleagues have checked it out and they report the food is much better than it was under the last owners.

"Old Mill" comes before the Town Council for a beverage license on May 12.

The word is that they changed the name to emphasize the new ownership. I just hope their decision to put a windmill on their new sign will not lead to a fatwa issued against them by the Areglado Anti-wind cult.

Hartford appointed received for Central Coventry Fire District

Former Westerly Town Manager Steve Hartford was appointed by Governor Lincoln Chafee as receiver for the troubled Central Coventry Fire District. The CCFD was almost liquidated last week, saved by a legal decision to put the CCFD under state jurisdiction to – hopefully – be saved or dismantled.

After being forced to resign as Westerly’s CEO, Chafee hired Hartford to a high-ranking policy position. This new assignment comes with no bump in pay. His mission is to figure out how to juggle all of the District’s debts with the public safety needs of local residents. Given Hartford’s botched handling of the Copar flap in Westerly, I don’t hold out much hope for a happy ending to this.

Chariho High School makes the Top Ten list of Rhode Island’s best high schools

US News and World Report issued its own report card on the nation’s 20,000 high schools and Chariho was awarded a “bronze” medal for the quality of its teaching. Given that thousands of schools were reviewed and ranked, bronze is pretty good.

Among all 52 Rhode Island high schools, Chariho came in at #9, again not too shabby. Barrington came in at #1 (big surprise).  Classical came in second and North Kingstown came in third.

Nine Rhode Island high schools received Bronze medal ratings. That includes Chariho and also includes Westerly High School which squeaked into the Bronze category and came in at #14 overall.

Deepwater on a roll

Oh, the horror! This is what Deepwater will look like from Block Island
Despite continued resistance from anti-wind NIMBYs, Rhode Island’s Deepwater Wind has scored some significant wins that bring it closer to creating Rhode Island’s first off-shore wind energy project and making Deepwater a major player in the green energy industry.

RI’s Department of Environmental Management (DEM) issued Water Quality Certificates and a Freshwater Wetland permit after finding that  Deepwater’s wind farm and underwater transmission cable comply with state and federal law. Next, Deepwater expects to get final Coastal Resource Management Council approval and the go-ahead from the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Army Corps of Engineers. Then they begin to build.

Deepwater also signed an agreement with the Conservation Law Foundation, National Wildlife Federation and the Natural Resources Defense Council to carefully avoid any harm or disruption to marine mammals such as the endangered North Atlantic right whale when they build the five-turbine pilot wind farm and their larger, 200-turbine project, Deepwater One. Click here for an interesting piece on how this is going to work.

If all that wasn’t enough, Deepwater announced a collaboration with Seattle-based Principle Power to build the first floating wind farm 15 miles off the coast of Oregon. This is planned as a five-turbine project called WindFloat Pacific.

Rhode Island’s version of Agenda 21[1]?

CCA Party Town Councilor George Tremblay has been sounding the alarm for months about a nefarious plot by the state to implant mind-control devices in every resident’s head. Or something like that. Anyway, Tremblay has been warning Charlestown about the dangers of the “RhodeMap RI" project being conducted by the RI Division of Planning.

RhodeMap RI has put on sessions across the state to “help identify intersections between the state’s environmental, economic and social resources, and determine where and how future development should happen.”

As any sentence with the word “development” is cause for alarm for Tremblay and his CCA Party comrades. Tremblay has been pushing for CCA followers to hoof over to every RhodeMap RI meeting they can to make sure there’s no funny business going on.

So far, the Division of Planning has held 23 community meetings plus another 30 focus groups and meetings. Now they plan six more. The session slated for South County will take place on Tuesday, May 13 at the Wickford Middle School, 250 Tower Hill Road, North Kingstown (5-8 p.m.)

Check out the Charlestown Police Department Facebook page and website

CPD chief Jeffrey Allen has opened up the Department and made it easier for residents to get public information. They have been posting current happenings, such as accidents, and some nice retrospectives on their Facebook page. Their website is pretty user-friendly as well, especially when you need forms or information on public safety.

From the CPD Facebook page, repair work at the Charlestown Breachway, just completed:

Congratulations to Tim Faulkner

Tim is a sharp environmental news reporter for EcoRI and you’ve probably read his work re-posted here at Progressive Charlestown under our content-sharing arrangement with EcoRI. Tim was named one of ten environmental journalists worldwide and won a Metcalf Institute Fellowship.

He will join nine other journalists from as far away as El Salvador and Israel to spend a week at URI to gain “gain hands-on research experience through scientific field and lab work at the University of Rhode Island Graduate School of Oceanography campus in Narragansett,” according to the information released by the Metcalf Institute for Marine & Environmental Reporting.

Tim is the only one of the fellows who will be able to commute to this year’s June 1-6 program. Nonetheless, it is an important recognition for Tim’s great environmental reporting to be picked as one of this year’s fellows.

Some follow-ups from previous Tapas

Rhode Island is home. So STFU!
Do you agree with the poll numbers I reported in the last Tapas that Rhode Island sucks? It really doesn’t, and as evidence, I offer you this piece in no less august a publication than the New York Times. Read it, and then as dessert, read this great piece from the Phoenix. Then smile, drink a coffee milk, eat ya grindah and STFU!


The Richmond Town Council finally had its shoot-out with Republican Town Council member Paul Michaud on May 6. The Councilors were angry at Michaud who voted WITH them in their unanimous vote to support this year’s Chariho School District budget and then sent out a mass-mailing to voters urging them to vote down the budget.

It was pretty much a waste of time. Councilor Erik Davis wanted Michaud to publicly explain why he reversed position and Michaud responded that Davis’s question was politically motivated, which of course it was, but at least it was an honest position. Unlike Michaud’s stab in the back. Council President Joe Reddish declared the matter over and directed his colleagues to move on.


Contender for worst Governor (of course, there's Ed DiPrete)
Former Governor Donald Carcieri is at least temporarily off the hook for back taxes on a piece of prize property he took over from the town of East Greenwich in 2000 for a non-profit educational program. The educational program never happened, so after waiting more than a decade for Carcieri to honor his commitments, the town served him with a tax bill of $24,452. When Carcieri failed to pay, they put the property, called the Olney House, up for tax sale.

Carcieri cried and whined, saying he was trying to get the promised work done on the house to bring it up to code, and to get back the tax exempt status for the “Academy Science Center” which had its 501(c)(3) status revoked by IRS in 2010. It seems like it takes Carcieri a really long time to accept his responsibilities.

Despite the lameness of Carcieri’s arguments, East Greenwich has lifted the tax sale on the property on Carcieri’s promise that the work will be done and the building will be open to the public this summer. Right.

Jayne Donegan's NKPD booking photo
Watch the video to see her son's new 
booking photo. Family fun!

North Kingstown bad girl Jayne Donegan has more headaches besides the aftermath of her arrest and controversial plea deal for violating the state’s “social host” law for a party at her home with over 100 teenagers, many of them drunk or stoned.

The latest is the arrest of her son Jack, age 18, for assault, also at her North Kingstown home. According to NK Police, the assault occurred on April 29. The report says that Jack Donegan beat up another teenager when that unnamed teenager denied Donegan’s allegations that he had stolen jewelry from the house.

Police say the unnamed victim was beaten bloody, suffered a concussion and vomited up blood. Another house guest apparently took video of the beating. Naturally.  

According to police, the victim told them a group of teenagers were sitting in the living room of the Donegan house drinking Grey Goose Vodka before the assault. The victim also say Jayne Donegan was at home at least part of the time, but later left.

Donegan was released on $1,000 personal recognizance and faces simple assault and disorderly conduct charges. As of yet, no additional social host charges have been brought against Jayne Donegan. What's up with these people?

Here is that video embedded in a Channel 12 News report:

Live feed

While the video may not be as entertaining that of Jack Donegan beating the crap out of one of his friends, there’s a new live feed from the International Space Station. Regular Progressive Charlestown readers probably have seen notices I’ve posted of times when the ISS passes over Charlestown. The live feed is pretty cool.

Beisel gets scholarship

South County swim star Elizabeth Beisel was honored with an NCAA Postgraduate scholarship. She’s not just an Olympic medal winner and two-time national champion, but is a first rate scholar as well. A native of North Kingstown, she’s done South County and Rhode Island proud.


[1] In case you’re wondering, Agenda 21 is one of the many fevered nightmares of right-wing conspiracy theorists. They believe it is the opening gambit toward creating a New World Order that will make the United States the slaves of other countries. In reality, “Agenda 21” is a voluntary United Nations protocol that urges the nations of the world to practice environmentally-friendly “sustainable development” practices. Click here for more detail. As noted earlier, just the use of the word "development," regardless of the context, is enough to get many of the CCA Party members to fill up their drawers.