Ballard’s gets stay of suspension from DBR

Sun, 08/28/2022 - 11:45am

The Town of New Shoreham’s show cause hearing for Ballard’s Beach Resorts may have been all for naught.
The six-hour hearing on Monday, August 22, resulted in the Town Council, acting in its capacity as the Board of License Commissioners, unanimously approving a two-week liquor and outdoor entertainment license suspension that was to start immediately.
But, on the following day, Ballard’s appealed to the Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation, asking for an emergency hearing and a stay of execution of the town’s liquor license suspension. That request was granted, although DBR did not rule on the stay until Wednesday afternoon, granting Ballard’s the stay until such time
as a full hearing could be held.
Almost immediately, Ballard’s issued the following statement:
“Ballard’s formally filed an appeal yesterday with the R.I. Department of Business Regulation (DBR) regarding the New Shoreham Board of License Commissioner’s unfair decision to suspend our liquor
license. This afternoon, the DBR stayed the suspension until a full hearing on the merits, allowing Ballard’s to reopen immediately with a full food and bar menu. We take pride in being a longtime member of the Block Island community, and the safety of both our guests and neighbors is paramount. We will continue to collaborate with the Town and our fellow Islanders while we proudly serve our valued patrons.”
At the show cause hearing on Monday night, Ballard’s attorney, Brian LaPlante seemed to be setting up for an appeal from the very beginning. In his opening, he asked first if the Town Council was meeting as the Town Council or as the Board of License Commissioners. Then he said he would like to submit a motion asking for the members of the Town Council to recuse themselves from the matter because
they had shown prejudicial behavior by holding a meeting with the public about Ballard’s on August 11. He called that meeting a “hearing,” and he said it should not have occurred because his client had not been properly notified.
However, the agenda for the August 11 meeting does not use the word “hearing,” so no notice would have been needed.
LaPlante also said that at another meeting, on August 17, the Town Council adopted a resolution that showed its prejudice.
The resolution addresses “bad behavior” in general on the island and calls for the island to “rethink many of its existing regulatory and enforcement approaches, and more actively plan for its future as a
tourism destination.”
The resolution also calls for the town manager to convene a working group to, in part, work on “the development of recommendations for ways in which the town and licensees can work together to reduce
underage drinking, eliminate open container violations, reduce over-serving of alcoholic beverages and improve the quality of life for residents and the quality of the experience for visitors to the island.”
Those parts of the resolution do not specifically mention Ballard’s, but in another part of the resolution, the beach resort is referred to by plat and lot number:
“Be it further resolved that the Town Council directs the Town Manager to conduct an analysis of the current uses and structures on Plat 7, Lot 23 for conformity with the Town’s land use and building permit rules and ordinances; have conducted a licensed survey of Plat 7, Lot 23 to determine actual lot size; conduct an analysis of the conformity of the uses occurring and structures erected on Plat 7, Lot 23 with both CRMC and Federal rules; conduct an analysis regarding conformity of the current uses, including fences, with state and federal rules regarding public access to beaches; and conduct an analysis, with the Block
Island Fire and Rescue Company and the New Shoreham Police Department, of emergency access to Plat 7, Lot 23,”
Town Councilor Keith Stover, who drafted the resolution, which was adopted with a very slight modification on August 17 said that this part was included “in response to questions I get that I don’t know the
answers to.”
Many in the community are asking why Ballard’s has cabanas on land that, according to the town’s fire number map for plat 7, is beyond Ballard’s boundaries. Some of this “land” has been formed by
the accretion of sand along the breakwater that was built by, and is under the jurisdiction of the Army Corps of Engineers.
To develop or add any structures, erect fences, or even to perform maintenance along the shore, property owners need to obtain permission, called “an assent,” from the The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council. On that agency’s website is a permit database that is searchable by town, and various other fields, including plat and lot number.
Ballard’s, plat 7, lot 23, has only a few applications on the database. In the past few years, the only assents approved by the CRMC are for sand redistribution (September 2020) and grading (2014).
There was an application filed on June 18, 2015, though. That application was asking to “place portable trailers on beach during summer season.” The file was closed in January 2016 and no assent was granted. There are also no applications for the erection of snow-fencing.
On August 17 the Town Council did adopt the resolution by a vote of 4 to 1, with Councilor Martha Ball voting against it on the grounds that it was at the same time, too broad and encompassed too much.
“I would focus on the first part of that immediately,” she said. “We have liquor [license renewals] coming up in November. That to me is the over-riding issue,” she said at the beginning of the discussion. When it came to a vote, she said she supported it “conceptually,” but that it was “grossly unfair to throw it at the staff,” which would be responsible for much of the research.
First Warden André Boudreau felt that the resolution provided a “blueprint for the next six months. It shows leadership and we’re going to need that.”