After almost 20 years, Champlin’s Marina denied
After almost two decades of litigation, Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Kristin Rodgers issued a ruling on Tuesday, Feb. 11, against an expansion of Champlin’s Marina that was first proposed in 2003.
The ruling by Judge Rodgers stated that “There is legally sufficient evidence in the record to support the [Coastal Resources Management Council]’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.”
The decision was hailed by those who have been waiting for this decision since 2003.
Don Packer was town solicitor at the time, and he attended all 23 subcommittee hearings, as well as many others, and, in his words, “did all the heavy lifting.” Because of that, he said he wished the ruling “had come out while I was still there. Judge Rodgers wrote an extensive and thoughtful decision. Of course, Champlin’s might appeal to the [state] Supreme Court, but it seems to me a pretty solid decision. I don’t see them sticking their toe in that water, but you never know.” As for the decision, Packer said, “I’m thrilled to death.”
Resident Claire Costello was a founder of the Committee for the Great Salt Pond and said she has been waiting 17 years for this decision.
"Perseverance paid off! This was a proving ground for this community — a demonstration of how the town, conservation groups and, more broadly, the community can work together to protect this special place,” said Costello. “Hearty thanks to the many who showed up at the endless CRMC hearings and who otherwise supported this effort. And of course, thanks for the skill and dedication of our attorney, Dan Prentiss."
Prentiss said, “I have read through the entire decision, though briefly. The judge did a really thorough job. In an administrative appeal, the appellant (Champlin’s) must show that the agency decision was made without any support in the evidence, or was otherwise ‘arbitrary and capricious’ or contrary to accepted law. Judge Rodgers applied those standards and found without equivocation that there was an abundance of evidence to support all of the CRMC’s findings and conclusions. She discussed the evidence at length, including reference to testimony of Sven Risom and Henry duPont. She also relied substantially on the testimony of Harbormaster Steve Land (and former harbormaster Chris Willi), and CRMC staff. Her decision follows pretty closely with the arguments that the CGSP made in its briefs. There is no question that the intervenors brought about this decision, both at the CRMC and in the superior court. There turned out to be some pretty complicated issues of fact and legal issues. In my view, the CGSP, Block Island Land Trust, and the Town of New Shoreham made the difference. Their advocacy and interest brought out the best in the members of the CRMC in truly protecting public trust resources.”
According to the case history included in the ruling, Champlin’s originally applied to the CRMC for a permit to expand its marina into the pond. At the time, according to the ruling, Champlin’s had fixed and floating docks measuring approximately 6,000 feet of docking space with the capacity to accommodate 225 to 250 vessels.
According to the ruling, “Champlin’s 2003 application requested approval to expand its marina by an additional 2,990 feet of dock space, including 775 feet of floating docks.” This would accommodate an additional 140 vessels. “All told, the fixed docks would extend an additional 240 feet into Great Salt Pond, and the entire marina would expand by approximately four acres into Great Salt Pond, for a total of 13 acres.”
The Great Salt Pond consists of 611 acres, 360 of which are unavailable for any commercial use or moorings.
Champlin’s proposal was opposed by the town, the Conservation Law Foundation, the Committee for the Great Salt Pond, and the Block Island Land Truct.
The ruling details various changes and uses in the area of the Pond of the proposed expansion and notes that in 2006 (and after 23 public hearings) a compromise plan was voted down by the CRMC.
After appeals by Champlin’s, the CRMC issued another decision “denying Champlin’s proposed expansion plan in Great Salt Pond” on May 6, 2011. This decision, according to the court’s ruling, contained “ninety-one separately numbered findings of fact, ten conclusions of law…”
Subsequent legal challenges are contained in 44 pages of the 56 page ruling, leading to the decision issued on Feb. 11.
In the end, the court ruled that “there is legally sufficient evidence in the record to support 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 rights have not been prejudiced by any constitutional violations, error of law, or arbitrary or capricious conduct on the part of CRMC.”
“Champlin’s appeals are denied and dismissed.”