AG’s office getting involved in Champlin’s case

Mon, 02/08/2021 - 1:15pm
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February 8, 2021 – Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha’s office petitioned the R.I. Supreme Court today to intervene in the case between Champlin’s Realty Associates, the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council, and the Town of New Shoreham following the news that a deal was made between Champlin’s and the CRMC without the knowledge or participation of the town.

Neronha says: “This office has a constitutional and common law obligation to protect the public interest, our environment, and our shared natural resources. When it becomes apparent that the process designed to protect our resources is not being followed, it is our job to intervene in order to protect the public interest. While I understand the CRMC’s and Champlin’s desire for finality, that cannot come at the expense of an established, transparent, regulatory process – one that has been approved by the courts. To do that, agencies’ final decisions must be visible and accessible, and any facts the agency relied on to support its decisions must be clear.”

At a meeting of the full CRMC on Dec. 29, 2020, under executive session, a memo of understanding was agreed upon with Champlin’s attorney Robert Goldberg, that would grant Champlin’s the right to extend its marina dock by 156 feet into the Great Salt Pond, with lateral expansion of docks as well.

Champlin’s original application for an extension, made in 2003, was contested by the town and conservation groups, the Committee for the Great Salt Pond, The Block Island Conservancy, The Block Island Land Trust, and the Conservation Law Foundation, all of which banded together to fight the expansion, which the CRMC ultimately denied. They were not notified of the contents of the memo of understanding until January 8, 2021.

After many years of back and forth at the CRMC and in the courts, last February a Superior Court decision finally validated the CRMC’s decision to deny Champlin’s application for an expansion. This past fall, Goldberg petitioned the R.I. Supreme Court to hear an appeal of the case, and the court agreed to do so in November.

The mediation between Champlin’s and the CRMC came as a surprise to the town and the conservation groups, which were under the impression that if the town did not want to go to mediation (and it did not), there would be no mediation at all.

“This matter has a long and complex history, and its resolution will have a lasting impact on the natural resources of Block Island,” Neronha writes. “We are concerned that proper procedures are not being followed and we have made that concern known to the Court today.”