Champlin’s and CRMC mediate court case without town

Thu, 01/21/2021 - 5:30pm

Much of the island is reeling from the news that Champlin’s Marina and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Council may have done a run-around of the Town of New Shoreham and local conservation groups in working out a compromise on a marina expansion.

Champlin’s first applied to the CRMC back in 2003 to expand its marina on the Great Salt Pond by some three-to-four acres, including into areas that are considered “part of the public trust” and have town moorings, adding enough docks to accommodate 140 more boats. The town, joined by the Committee for the Great Salt Pond, the Block Island Land Trust, the Block Island Conservancy and the Conservation Law Foundation opposed the application, and the CRMC ultimately turned it down. What ensued was years of legal wrangling, with a decision finally handed down by the R.I. Superior Court in Feb. 2020, affirming the denial of the expansion by the CRMC.

Then, suddenly in October, Champlin’s appealed the decision to the R.I. Supreme Court, which agreed to take on the case. Evidently the town was asked if it would like to enter into mediation on the case, and chose not to – preferring to see it play out in court.

In a statement sent to The Block Island Times by lead attorney R. Daniel Prentiss on behalf of the opposition groups, and published in last week’s issue: “The town was apparently misled, having been told that CRMC would only ‘mediate’ if the town agreed to join the process, which it did not.”

The matter appeared on the agenda for the CRMC’s semi-monthly meeting of the full Council on Tuesday, Dec. 29 as a “Request for Executive Session.” The meeting was at 6 p.m., and by 1 p.m. the next day, The Times already had received two angry telephone calls about the matter.

The Times obtained a copy of the Joint Memorandum of Understanding that resulted from this mediation, which was overseen by retired Chief Justice Frank J. Williams. Language in it, and also in a “Joint Motion of Champlin’s Realty Associates and Coastal Resources Management Council” from Champlin’s attorney Robert Goldberg indicates that the results of the mediation are not to be taken as a final ruling, but rather should be “incorporated by reference and merged in an Order and/or Consent Decree of the Rhode Island Supreme Court.”

The memo states that “There is sufficient room between Champlin’s existing docks and the Town’s Mooring field to permit some expansion of Champlin’s existing docks, accommodate the moorings historically located within the Town’s Mooring field, and maintain navigational safety.”

If the CRMC’s memo is accepted, as written, by the court, it would grant Champlin’s the right to extend its fuel dock to approximately 314 feet by adding up to 65 feet on the western edge, and up to 20 feet on the eastern edge, “so that both the western edge and the eastern edge approximate the east/ west width of the dock immediately landward thereof.”

Then, Champlin’s may extend piers off of the revised fuel dock seaward by up to 156 feet, and construct another dock laterally to the same length – 314 feet, at the end, referred to as the “Face Dock.”

The memo also states that “Champlin’s Marina Perimeter Limit shall be extended 10 feet beyond the outer edge of all new docks, provided however that Champlin’s is permitted without restriction to dock boats with a beam of 25 feet ‘side-to’ along the seaward side of the new face dock.” The memo goes on to say that this is an approximately 1.5-acre expansion.

Conditions set by the memo include no “med-mooring seaward of the 156-foot dock extensions.” (Med-mooring is short for “Mediterranean mooring,” whereby boats are tied up perpendicularly to a dock.) They also stipulate that in-slip pump-out shall be provided on any new finger docks and that “current standards of fire protection shall be incorporated into all additional dockage constructed pursuant to this Memorandum of Understanding.”

Champlin’s website currently says it “can comfortably accommodate 250 boats including deep draft ocean going yachts up to 300 feet.” Despite all the new docks, the CRMC Memorandum of Understanding maintains that “Champlin’s boat count shall be limited to its current 250 boat maximum,” to comply with its R.I. Department of Environmental Management Water Quality Certificate.