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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sore losers

By Linda Felaco

I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later. I suffered an environmental exposure to a Chamberpot,™ one of those muddled bits of prose by Michael Chambers, Charlestown Citizens Alliance resident pundit and patronage appointee to the Zoning Board of Review. In his latest opus, Mike wants us to know that he’s very sad that the conservation easement on the Charlestown Moraine Preserve was voted down, and that he feels responsible for it failing to pass.

He thinks the easement lost because he “attempted to give the voters the truth about easements that protect property” when he “instead should have identified any one of the many Internet links where they could see for themselves the legal descriptions of conservation easements.”

Now, written expression is surely not Michael Chambers’s forte, so I have no doubt that people would have found pretty much anyone else to be more persuasive than him on this or any subject. But I don’t think lack of information was the reason the easement was voted down. I think voters had plenty of information—enough for them to draw their own conclusions about why certain parties were pushing so hard for it.

To put it plainly, I think voters saw through Chambers’s naked self-interest as an abutter to the property in promoting the easement. Especially once he tipped his hand and acknowledged in a comment on a letter by Jim Mageau in the Westerly Sun that his big fear is that because the Moraine Preserve was purchased with an Open Space/Recreation bond, as opposed to the Open Space-only bond that the CCA put forward this time around, the preserve might actually be used for {shudder} recreation. To wit:

Mr. Mageau seems to miss the point. The Moraine Preserve was bought with open space and recreation money, not just open space money. It is the recreation definition that causes people to believe that a future town council, given the right circumstances, would sell or use that property for recreation development in the broadest sense of the word recreation. Ninigret Park is across the street and that should meet the needs of our small community for recreation. Many people would like to hike and enjoy the land unspoiled without the pall of development hanging over that land.

Yep, wouldn’t want to have “the pall of development hanging over that land” … or, ya know, the pall of coming across other people while you’re out hiking there in your own little private nature preserve at town expense. (Though other users of the town’s hiking trails have acknowledged that it gets awfully lonely out there.) The rest of us should be able to meet our recreation needs by rubbing elbows with the great unwashed at Ninigret Park.

   —Donna Chambers, espousing the CCA’s Political Platform
Meanwhile, Chambers’s wife, CCA School Committee member Donna Chambers, has muttered darkly to the Westerly Sun about “seeing what the intentions are” for the Ninigret bond. Those “intentions” should be no mystery, seeing as how the Ninigret Park Master Plan is, after all, a written document, readily available on the town website—and, according to standard assessments of reading level, it’s written in high school English. I will leave it to readers to ponder the irony of a self-proclaimed adult education expert who is apparently so lacking in core study skills such as reading comprehension.

Or it could perhaps be that the Chamberses are new in town and weren’t here during years-long, townwide process of developing and then recently revising the Ninigret Park Master Plan. Except according to the town’s property tax database, they bought their house here in 2001, meaning they were here when the original survey that led to the master plan was circulated.

This is of course all in keeping with the CCA’s winner-take-all politics. Instead of being happy that they foisted the seventh consecutive annual tax increase on us plus put us on the hook to spend another $2 million on open space, they’re carping about not being able to give control of the Moraine Preserve to their friends and the circumvention of their plan to exclude recreation from the open space bond. Apparently, the possibility that non-CCA-affiliated residents might actually get to have a say in something really rankles them. Sour grapes, much?