Menu Bar

Home           Calendar           Topics          Just Charlestown          About Us

Monday, November 22, 2021

"Have I got a deal for you!"

The Muddy Genesis of the CCSPAA

Decade-Old Charlestown Citizens/Sachem Passage Alliance Association Emerges From The Mud Hole

By Robert Yarnall 

In small towns, it is easy for small decisions and big mistakes, local squabbles and petty rivalries to become the business of everyone. This is the story of how one neighborhood’s disputes can have a major effect on everyone, residents and town employees alike. 

Part 3 Here’s Mud In Your Eye 

There it was, stuck at the bottom of the Charlestown Town Council’s November 8th Regular Meeting agenda, under Unfinished Business: 

C. Discussion and Potential Action Regarding a Request from the Sachem Passage Association to Discuss the Possible Purchase of Map 5, Lot 95-5 (Oyster Drive).

In the back row of the Town Council Chamber, newly elected SPA president Ronald Areglado was sitting in a chair with his back up against the proverbial wall. He had been tasked by twenty-one of the twenty-two members present at the September 16th  SPA Annual Meeting to approach the Town Council to gauge interest in reopening discussions on the possible sale of Oyster Drive Lot 95-5. 

So approach he did, stepping to the podium when beckoned by Council President Deb Carney. 

“My name is Ron Areglado and I am the newly-elected Sachem Passage Association president, affectionately known as Spa, but not to be confused with massage therapy, facials or saunas...”
 Now it’s never a good idea to begin a presentation to the Charlestown Town Council with a joke about spas, massages and facials if you are a look-alike for New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft… 

...but he did it anyhow. The meeting attendees sat stone-faced with the exception of a duet of perfunctory chuckles provided by Planning Commissar Ruth Platner, seated in her first row forever seat, and Maureen Areglado, seated in the last row with her back up against the same wall as her husband, in solidarity with his mission. 

After introducing SPA Attorney Nicholas Gorham, Mr. Areglado launched a 60 second lightning round overview of the State of  SPA-Nation, transcribed below from the November 8, 2021 Town Council Meeting. 

The entire meeting video is archived here . It’s too bad that the SPA’s general membership was not given a heads-up that their association president would be preaching from the pulpit that evening. It’s too good that the video is available for all to see at their leisure. 

Spoiler Alert : If you really hate meetings, hear ye this: GrandSpa Areglado reveals what he knows the property is really worth starting at 2 hours:30 minutes, the quintessential “Gotcha” moment. 

The Oyster Drive discussion begins at 1 hour:24 minutes into the meeting. It runs about 70 minutes and demonstrates the “transparency” of Mr. Areglado’s argument, though not quite the way he intended: 

“The highlights of the events are, in early 2020 SPA initiated a grant application to DEM for the purpose of a potential sale of our property to the town. In June of 2020, the town council voted 5-0 to pursue the grant in the amount of $213,000 which was approved by DEM. Two appraisals were obtained, one by SPA as a building lot with the amount of $426,000 and a second appraisal by the town as a nonbuildable lot valued at $75,000.” 

Mr. Areglado withheld the same crucial tidbit from his presentation to the Town Council that his crony, Joseph Quadrato, CCA Steering Committee member and newly appointed SPA Resource Person for Finance and Real Estate, had omitted from his report to SPA membership three weeks earlier. 

That crucial detail: the SPA appraisal included a disclaimer stating that the $426,000 fair market value for Lot 95-5 was based on the “extraordinary assumption” that a house could be built there based on a “hypothetical condition” that was contrary to what Charlestown Tax Assessor Ken Swain had known about it for decades, i.e., the lot was unbuildable. Here is Wikipedia’s take on this questionable appraisal tool: 

“In the field of real estate appraisal, extraordinary assumptions and hypothetical conditions are two closely related types of assumptions which are made as predicating conditions of an appraisal problem. An extraordinary assumption is an assumption which if found to be false could alter the resulting opinion or conclusion.

A hypothetical condition is an assumption made contrary to fact, but which is assumed for the purpose of discussion, analysis, or formulation of opinions.”

No one can argue that Messrs. Areglado and Quadrato indeed had “an appraisal problem” on their hands. It had become evident to the handful of Oyster Drive believers that the free gift horse they had so gleefully accepted twenty-one years earlier was actually an albatross eating up over $5,000 per year in property taxes, liability insurance premiums, maintenance costs, attorney fees and a smattering of other expenses typically associated with operating a not-for-profit corporation. 

To make matters worse, only about half of Sachem Passage property owners were willing to pay association dues to support their “exclusive” playground. Virtually no one was interested in utilizing it. In addition, SPA By-laws provided no way to require mandatory dues assessments. 

It had become obvious to everyone that the time was way past due to pawn the Oyster Drive money pit off on someone else, by any means necessary. That task fell to SPA President Areglado and his long-time side kick, former SPA Treasurer Joseph Quadrato, newly-appointed “resource for real estate and finance” as of the February 18, 2021 Board of Directors Meeting. 

Mr. Quadrato, a member of the CCA Steering Committee and owner of Quad Products, a small home-based business specializing in office supplies, was now functioning in a quasi-official capacity as SPA’s realtor, financial advisor, and  investment counselor. Such an arrangement would be a dream scenario for any duly licensed and credentialed sales professional working on a commission basis. 

Unfortunately, Joseph Quadrato seemed to lack official credentials based on searches of databases listing  licensed and/or credentialed Rhode Islanders in those professions. 

Mr. Quadrato’s State of Rhode Island Ethics Commission 2020 filing when he was still a CCA-appointed member of the Zoning Board of Review also revealed no formal association with any legitimate real estate, financial planning, or investment banking  organizations. 

It remains to be seen if Mr. Quadrato’s consultancy comes with a price tag for the SPA. It may or may not be significant that the SPA By-Laws were amended to give the association president, with a simple majority of the Board of Directors, the discretion to toss money around at $5,000 a clip, a 300% increase over the previous spending limit, for “...any single contract, instrument, or expense...” 

Speaking of money clips, here’s a scan of that proposed by-law change to Section 8.01, approved by the membership at the September 16, 2021 SPA Annual Meeting, a mere seven months after Joseph Quadrato, CCA Steering Committee member and former SPA Treasurer, was appointed to his new position as SPA money wizard:

The SPA’s self-inflicted conundrum being what it is, the November 8th Town Council’s Oyster Drive discussion had the feel of a World Cup early-round qualifying  match, wherein one hopelessly outclassed soccer team spends the entire game straddling its own end line, running around furtively banging into one another. 

On this night, the Sachem Passage Oyster Crackers were overwhelmed for the entire match courtesy of the Charlestown Autopilots. To make matters worse for the Crackers, even the spectators piled on to register their displeasure with the quality of play offered by the visitors. 

One fan walked out halfway through the lopsided match; another stayed for the duration but wanted her dues returned. No one could blame her. 

So back to the Town Council meeting. Beyond the blanket absurdity of the Oyster Drive $426,000 sticker price, neither the Town Councilors nor Planning Commissar Ruth Platner were happy to learn what the SPA appraisal advertised, 4.1 acres of pristine waterfront property, fully equipped with a CRMC-approved boat launch that also serves as an egress to shellfishing opportunities. was not what Messrs. Areglado and Quadrato intended to sell them. 

The SPA Sales Team wanted to hold onto the boat launch, kayak rack and picnic area, even though the SPA appraisal contained twenty-one full color pictures of the property with all those amenities. You can scroll down through the full document here.

President Areglado and Attorney Gorham went on to spend the rest of the opening first forty-five minutes tag-teaming each other on the way to the podium, explaining why WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) doesn’t apply in Bait & Switch Oyster World. 

The Town Council was resolute in letting the SPA know that the primary value to the town in acquiring the Oyster Drive property would be accessibility to Ninigret Pond via the boat launch area CRMC had approved about the time the SPA acquired the property from Randall Associates. 

Mr. Areglado was equally resolute in letting the Town Council know that his charge from the SPA membership was to dispense with Lot 95-5 while retaining SPA’s exclusive rights to their deeded right-of-way on Oyster Drive. 

Both Attorney Gorham and Mr. Areglado tried to convince the Town Council that if given the chance to meet and work through the sticking points of the divergent proposals, a mutually beneficial settlement could be reached. 

The Town Council responded by giving former one-year-only (1998-99) Charlestown Elementary School Principal Ronald J. SPAreglado, EdD, a four-part homework assignment, one question representing each leg of the Trojan Horse the SPA is seeking to unload: 

1) Does the boat launch parcel require all Sachem Passage Association members to sign off on the sale, relinquishing their exclusive access to the boat launch area as well as their deeded right-of-way, and, if so, is every property owner in Sachem Passage willing to do so. 

2) What does the Sachem Passage Association plan to with the money it might realize as a result of a land sale. (Editor’s note: great question!) 

3) Does the existing CRMC assent (Coastal Resource Management Council) pertain to both the parking area leading to the boat launch area as well as Lot 95-5 and is there is any stipulation as to how much the existing Oyster Drive access road can be widened? 

4) The Council needs  to establish costs associated with acquiring the land in terms of road improvements, accessibility requirements, liability issues, etc. in order to make an informed decision about acquiring the land. If the associated costs were so high that the acquisition could not be justified from a taxpayer perspective, would the SPA consider donating the property to the town? 

One of the best comments of the night came near the end of the meeting from Mr. William Coulter of Stoney Hill Cattle Farm on Shumunkanuc Hill Road, source of the best real food in all of South County. 

Bill summed up all he had heard about the SPA’s second attempt to dump their Oyster Drive property on the town like this: 

"I have come into this conversation by chance, just by being here tonight. I have serious concerns why the town would even want to enter into a negotiation to buy a piece of property that is unbuildable and with no access to the pond. So there is no enhancement to the taxpayers and residents of this town. You have a value of $60,000, they have a value of $450,000. I don’t know why they came to the town. We’re going to pony up $213,000? DEM’s going to come up with the rest? It’s all taxpayers’ money. Put it on the open market for $450,000 if  it’s a buildable lot. It’s not going to enhance anything for the residents of Charlestown to buy a mosquito trap...”  

– Bill Coulter

So let’s leave it right there as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday and be grateful for the humble words from a man who knows how to make a living from the land beneath his feet, who knows the value of a dollar, and, most importantly, the immeasurable worth of common sense. 

The last time a handful of money changers in Sachem Passage ignored the advice of an acknowledged expert living among us, a neighbor who earned his living from the salt pond we call Ninigret, we all wound up with mud in our eyes.

I need a drink with that. We all do.