Supreme Court denies Champlin’s expansion deal with CRMC

Sat, 03/27/2021 - 9:45am

The Rhode Island Supreme Court issued an order late Friday, March 26, denying the motion to “incorporate and merge” the Memo of Understanding crafted by Champlin’s Realty Associates and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council that would have granted the right of the marina to expand 156 feet into the waters of the Great Salt Pond.

The MOU was approved in an executive session of the CRMC’s meeting on December 29, 2020 with no parties representing, and without the knowledge of the Town of New Shoreham, the Committee for the Great Salt Pond, the Block Island Land Trust, the Block Island Conservancy and the Conservation Law Foundation – the intervenors in the case that has stretched out for over 17 years and is now in the Supreme Court under appeal by Champlin’s.

The news of the December deal caused the intervenors to jump into action, filing additional motions before the court objecting to the MOU and the process by which it was arrived. R.I. Attorney General Peter Neronha, also objecting to the process, quickly filed his own motion to the court to be accepted as an intervenor. Curiously, in a footnote to the court’s order, it says: “The MOU is dated December 29, 2020. The proposed consent order document that the movants seek to have entered has never been filed with this Court.”

Neronha, in a press release issued Friday, said: “I am pleased with the Court’s decision to refuse to ratify and enter as an order of the Court an agreement resulting from a private mediation outside the view and without the participation of concerned stakeholders who had long been parties to the underlying litigation. My Office intervened because the process utilized here by CRMC and Champlin’s was non-transparent, excluded these important additional stakeholders, and resulted in an agreement that failed to contain the environmental findings necessary to protect one of Rhode Island’s great natural resources – Block Island’s Great Salt Pond.”

In defense of the meditation that took place without the intervenors, Champlin’s attorney, Robert Goldberg has attempted to dismiss the role of the intervenors, but the court, in its written order, reaffirms their role. “This matter is not new to the Court,” the order states. “In Champlin’s Realty Associates v. Tikoian…we held, among other things, ‘that Tikoian, the CRMC, and the intervenors are all aggrieved parties within the statute and, therefore, properly are before this Court.’”

The main reason however for the denial is that: “The papers filed in this Court as to the instant motion raise issues of fact not previously raised in the Superior Court. Such questions of fact are appropriately addressed in the Superior Court.”

“It is not the function of this Court to ‘rehear’ a case or consider new evidence not presented in the Superior Court.” Rather, the order states: “When a case comes before this Court on certiorari, our task is clear: We ‘examine the record for judicial error, [and] we inspect the record to discern if there is any legally competent evidence to support the findings of the hearing justice below.’”

“I am grateful that the Supreme Court agreed with our position,” said Neronha, “and that this matter will now proceed as it always should have – with the court’s review of the Superior Court’s well-reasoned decision denying Champlin’s Marina expansion.”