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Friday, February 6, 2015

PREVIEW: Town Council meets Monday

Some items to watch
Charlestown Town Council rolls again
By Will Collette

Here is the official Town Council agenda with some preview commentary from me shown in bold red lettering.

There are some items of special note. Appearing early in the meeting is discussion by the Council of who to appoint to replace the late Richard Hosp on the Budget Commission. 

There are three qualified candidates. Past precedent – indeed, made almost a sacred precedent by the CCA Party – is to appoint from among qualified candidates based on the order their applications were received. 

Using that criteria, the appointment should go to Priscilla Flynn. However, Budget Commission chair recommends skipping over her and going instead to Robert Krause. There’s a lot of politics behind this one.

There are a flurry of new ordinances and resolutions on this meeting’s agenda but two that interested me both relate to issues that rose during the long controversy over the Copar Quarry, and both show how ineffectual the CCA Party-led Town Council has been and continues to be on the issues.

The first is an ordinance to change business licenses, but instead of adding a long-needed “bad actor” provision that would have kept Copar out of Charlestown, all this ordinance does is offer a symbolic cut in the annual business license fee.

The second is yet another version of a Council resolution asking the General Assembly to intervene on the matter of regulating quarries. After two years, we’re still stuck at this stage. Except this year, this resolution will have to be carrying by two new General Assembly members – Rep. Flip Filippi and Sen. Elaine Morgan – who have no political clout at the State House whatsoever and little ability to move this resolution. The Council will probably once again blame the legislature for its own gutless inaction.

But the most serious item on the agenda is, as usual, stuck at the end of the agenda. This is a resolution calling for a new $2 million open space bond question to be put before the voters. This time, the CCA Party left off “recreation” and seem to want this money to be given to the Council (actually more likely to Planning Commissar Ruth Platner) a Amex Platinum card with a $2 million credit limit for open space acquisition with no further voter accountability.

This measure demonstrates that the CCA Party town leadership have learned NOTHING from the bloody battles fought over the beach pavilions, Ninigret Park, the YMCA Y-Gate scandal and the Whalerock controversy.

REGULAR MEETING, Town Hall, 4540 South County Trail, Charlestown, RI 02813, February 9, 2015, 7:00 PM 




A.  Robin Spears – Presentation of Hand Crafted Narragansett Tribal Ceremonial Dance Sticks, Tomahawks, and Other Unique Items
And I suppose in return for these gifts, Boss Gentz and the other CCA Party Council members will declare an end to the town's perpetual war against the Tribe.


A.  Discussion and Potential Action Regarding the Presentation of the 2014 Fiscal Year Audit by Cayer Caccia LLP 




A. Discussion and Potential Action Regarding an Appointment to the Budget Commission, Term to Expire in June of 2016, with a Recommendation from the Commission Chair. Applications Received from Priscilla J. Flynn, Arthur Haskins and Robert W. Krause.
BC Chair recommends Haskins over Priscilla Flynn and Robert Krause even though Ms. Flynn is not only highly qualified, but has had her application on file since June 2014, whereas Krause only applied last month. Watch this decision for more signs of CCA Party patronage over past precedent.

B.  Discussion and Potential Action Regarding the Reappointment of Ryan J. Campbell and David E. Currier to the Parks and Recreation Commission with a Term to Expire in January of 2018.
Normally, reappointments to the Parks & Recreation Commission are handled as consent agenda items. Maybe the CCA Party has decided to turn its attention to P&R and to replacing those commissioners with CCA Party loyalists, such as Arnolda residents intent on shutting down human activity in Ninigret Park. 


A.  Administrator Report
B.  Commission Reports 


Motion to accept, approve and place on file the following as the consent agenda: “CA” A – “CA” G. These items will not be discussed or debated nor public comment allowed. They will be voted on as a bloc.

"CA" A. Town Council Minutes:
1.   January 7
2.   January 12 (Executive and Regular)
3.   January 26 (Emergency)
4.   February 2
"CA" B. Reports:
1.   Building Official - January 2015

2.   Town Clerk - January 2015 – Four deaths and no births in January as Charlestown’s shrinkage continues.

3.   Treasurer's Report - December 2014
4.   Wastewater - December 2014
"CA" C. Discussion and Potential Action Regarding Reappointments to Agricultural Preservation: Nancy B. Hedgpeth and Michael Merner as Full Members, with Terms to Expire in January of 2018; John Patrick Barrett and Susan W. Barrett as Alternates, with Terms to Expire in January of 2016
"CA" D. Discussion and Potential Action Regarding the Reappointment of Charles F. Connery to the Conservation Commission with a Term to Expire in January of 2018
"CA" E. Discussion and Potential Action Regarding the Reappointment of Lara Wibeto to the Juvenile Hearing Board with a Term to Expire in February of 2018

"CA" F. Award of the 2015 Beach Concession Bids for Both the Town Beach and Blue Shutters Beach for an Amount of $5,107.00 for Blue Shutters and $5,507.00 for Charlestown Town Beach, 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, or Any Action Relative Thereto.
Johnny Angels Clam Shack wins the bid again.

"CA" G. Approval of the Request from the Nature Conservancy for Property Tax Exemption for Map 24, Lot 1-2.
This grants the Conservancy tax-free status for the new property it acquired last month (the old United Nuclear property) even though that land was zoned for potential business use under Charlestown Holy of Holies, the Comprehensive Plan. 


A.  Introduction and First Reading of Ordinance #370 – Chapter 218, Zoning Map Amendment (Edna M. Mckenzie Irrevocable Living Trust, Dated 10-07-2008, 169 Sanctuary Road, Tax Assessor’s Map 17, Lot 108), to be Advertised for Public Hearing on March 9, 2015 


A.  Public Hearing and Potential Action Regarding Ordinance #369 – Chapter 149-37 Taxation Purpose; Chapter 149-38 Taxation Definitions; Chapter 149-39 Taxation Administration; Chapter 149-40 Taxation Noncompliance and Revocation of Reduced Tax Assessment

B.  Continuation of Public Hearing and Potential Action Regarding Ordinance #365 – Chapter 218-52. Residential Cluster Subdivision

C.  Continuation of Public Hearing and Potential Action Regarding Ordinance #366 – Chapter 218-54. Residential Compound and Chapter 218-55. Rear Lot Subdivision

Why does Charlestown continue to issue licenses and
contracts without background checks?
D.  Public Hearing and Potential Action Regarding Ordinance #368 – Chapter 147-7 License and Business Regulations, Business Registrations and Fee

If you were waiting for the Town Council to finally enact a “Bad Actor” ordinance to require the town to consider the legal and financial track record of businesses seeking town licenses, you are wrong. This one simply cuts the annual fee from $25 to $10. This will neither encourage new businesses from coming to Charlestown (or staying), given all the other things Charlestown does to drive business out, nor will it vet undesirable businesses (e.g. Copar Quarry) from entering the town. 



A.  Discussion and Potential Action Regarding the Receipt of an Offer from Attorney Joseph A. Priestly, Jr. to Donate Land Owned by Mary L. Lucey (AP 16, Lots 6-1, 13 and 13-1) to the Town of Charlestown, with Advisory Opinions from the Conservation Commission, Planning Commission, Parks and Recreation Commission, Building Official, Town Solicitor and Town Planner

B.  Discussion and Potential Action Regarding a Resolution Relative to the Regulation of Earth Removal, Gravel Extraction and Blasting

This is yet another installment of meaningless and ineffective activity by the Town Council to deal with the problems posed by present and potential future mining operations in Charlestown. 


A.  Discussion and Potential Action Regarding a DEM Conservation Easement for Charlestown Moraine Preserve.
There is no paperwork connected to this item. Presumably, the Council plans to lock up the property so it can never be used by granting a conservation easement to DEM.

If indeed this is the plan, watch to see whether this would place the groundwater under the moraine under DEM’s control to tap as they see fit in the future.

B.  Discussion and Potential Action on a $2 Million Open Space Bond Referendum.

Well, we knew this was going to be coming…The CCA Party-dominated Council wants to put a $2 million blank check in front of the voters when the special Budget referendum is held. That’s customarily one of times when there is the lowest voter turn-out.

What makes this $2 million bond issue different than the one we used up when the town bought the land out from under the proposed Whalerock wind turbine project is that it leaves out “Recreation” as a potential use.

CCA Party leader Cliff Vanover was rabid on the subject of using the last bond issue for anything other than open space acquisition even though the voters approved the money for “Open Space AND Recreation.”

But that "problem" is solved this time by simply omitting “Recreation.”

This bond proposal also fails to resolve another sticking point that came up during debate over the beach pavilions, the aborted YMCA camp scam and the Whalerock property buy. That problem is when should a SPECIFIC project go before the voters. The beach pavilions did; Whalerock did not and if public outcry had not stopped the Y-Gate scam, that would have been a backroom deal, too.

This looks to me like a blank check to the CCA Party and as written, a bad deal for Charlestown taxpayers.

C.  Discussion and Potential Action on a Request to Have the Planning Commission Draft a Municipal Government Subsidy Ordinance for LMIH (Low and Moderate Income Housing)