New Shoreham police lawsuit dismissed
On Wednesday, Feb. 19 at Town Hall, First Warden Ken Lacoste announced in open session that a lawsuit brought by members of the New Shoreham Police Department against various town officials, including members of the Planning Board, the Town Council and former Town Manager Ed Roberge, had been dismissed. The suit claimed that the town had not followed through on a bequest left in the will of the late Violette Connelly that was to provide housing for town police officers on her Spring Street property.
“This case was dismissed this afternoon,” stated Lacoste.
Champlin’s Marina case
Lacoste also announced a decision had been made on the Champlin’s Marina case which began 17 years ago. Champlin’s had filed an application to increase its dockage in the Great Salt Pond, an application that was denied by the Coastal Resources Management Council. After years of legal maneuvering, the ruling stating there was sufficient legal evidence to deny the proposal.
The ruling was issued on Feb. 11, 2020. The ruling concluded, “[T]his Court affirms in all respects the May 6, 2011 and the September 7, 2013 decision of the CRMC. There is legally sufficient evidence in the record to support the CRMC’s denial of Champlin’s application to expand its marina. CRMC acted within its authority to deny Champlin’s application, and that decision was rational, logical, and supported by substantial evidence . . . Champlin’s appeals are denied and dismissed.”
“Good news for people fighting all along, and good for the Great Salt Pond,” said Lacoste.
Deer Task Force
The Deer Task Force brought forth its recommendations to the Council to ask the Department of Environmental Management for a policy change allowing the issuance of unlimited buck permits during hunting season on Block Island. The current limit is two bucks, which went into effect about four years ago. The DTF also forwarded its hunting schedule for the next two years. The DTF asked that archery hunting be allowed on Saturdays throughout the season.
According to DTF Chair Dora Burak, the number of deer taken reported to the New Shoreham Police Department is a total of 83 so far this season.
In order to help combat this low number, the DTFC has proposed archery hunting be allowed throughout the season, and one weekend in February allowing muzzleloading, shotgun and archery hunting.
“I don’t know how to handle this, but I am not in favor of Saturday hunting. Walking safely with my dogs is pretty important to me, and I am not for Saturday hunting just to start,” said Councilor Sven Risom.
Burak said a recent Land Trust survey indicated “48 percent of respondents were for weekend hunting, 42 percent against weekend hunting.”
Councilor Martha Ball was concerned about the low number of deer taken. “Why are the numbers so far down this year?” asked Ball. “It seems like something is really wrong with the numbers, given what it used to be.”
Island resident and hunter Chris Blane was present during the meeting, and shared his thoughts on the deer population and Deer Task Force.
“I have been around here quite a while. There are less deer on the island... There’s a lot of things the Deer Task Force can be doing that they are not doing. There’s no way the numbers were down that far. There are people hunting.”
Land Trust Chair Barbara MacMullan had a different take, She said “The number has dropped from the last year for hunting on the weekend,” adding “the number of people in favor of weekend hunting has dropped. It hardly seems that weekend hunting will change or reduce the deer herd.”
Council members expressed some concern that the number of deer taken so far was somewhat unreliable, and also discussed holding a managed hunt to reduce the deer population.
Town Clerk Molly Fitzpatrick noted the hunters who took the most deer in the past had curtailed their activities. Evalene Deane, Paul Deane and Kirk Littlefield were the most prolific hunters, said Fitzpatrick, but she added that Evaleane Deane does not currently live on the island, and “Paul and Kirk aren’t hunting as much. We have a small handful of people who take deer.”
Boudreau said that maybe some new ideas were needed. “You come here every year for Saturday hunts, we need to come up with something different,” he said to Burak.
“I suggest we send this back to DTF to re-evaulate all the options and have a public meeting again,” said Risom.
The council approved both sets of deer hunting dates for 2020-2021 and 2021-2022, which will be forwarded to the Department of Environmental Management for final approval.
The council did not act on the buck tags. A decision was made to hold a joint meeting with the DTF in March to continue a conversation on options to reduce the island deer population.
Developable land amendments
A public hearing has been set for a discussion on proposed zoning ordinance amendments that will exclude conservation easements from land that can de developed. The date for the public hearing is Monday, April 6 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
In a memo submitted from the Planning Board to the council: “The Block Island Conservancy, The Block Island Land Trust, and The Nature Conservancy have proposed amending the definition of developable land within the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations to ensure that land held under conservation easements are excluded in the calculation of development density (unless those rights have been specifically enumerated and reserved”. The changed definition reads: “All land area of land subject to a Conservation Easement, unless the Grantor in the Conservation Easement specifically reserves the right to include the land subject to the Conservation Easement in the calculation of development density.”
Lacoste opened up the floor for discussion, Land Trust Chair Barbara MacMullan referenced the number of parcels that could possibly be affected if conservation easements were allowed to be developed.
Councilor Ball asked for some specifics. “Are we going to see that specific information?” she asked.
“By specific what do you mean?” asked Barbara.
“What lots are you actually talking about?” asked Ball
“We will and have explained in detail how we came up with that confirmation, we can explain in greater detail” at the public hearing, said MacMullan.