Charter Commission formed

Council appoints seven members
Thu, 08/22/2019 - 6:00pm

A new seven-member Charter Review Commission has been formed, which will be charged with reviewing the town’s Charter and recommending any amendments or changes to the document to the Town Council. The last time the Charter was reviewed and revised was in 2010, and that document became effective on January 3 of 2011. The town’s Home Rule Charter was established in October of 1672. It is the governing document for the Town of New Shoreham.

The New Shoreham Town Council voted unanimously to appoint the seven member committee during its meeting on Wednesday night. Those members are: Keith Stover, Chelsea Redd, Corrie Heinz, Kim Gaffett, Molly O’Neill, Lisa Robb and Rob Closter. Second Warden André Boudreau was absent from the meeting.

The council compared their lists of possible appointees before determining who should be appointed.

Prior to making the appointments, the council discussed whether or not a town employee could be appointed to the commission. Councilor Sven Risom asked if one of the town’s clerks could be placed on the commission. 

Town Manager Ed Roberge said, “I’m not aware of any limitations in the Charter that specifically discounts town employees. And I’m not aware of any limitations in the law.”

“The only conflict would be if the Charter Commission was working on something that involved the clerk’s office,” said First Warden Ken Lacoste.

“I’m happy to give my opinion,” said Roberge, which the council welcomed. “My opinion is that they should not be on it.”

Councilor Chris Willi said he had “concerns with the town council considering changes to the charter” that can impact the councilors directly.

“The Charter Commission can take that up.” said Lacoste, noting that the newly appointed commission will have to address that concern. Lacoste encouraged people who were not appointed to the commission to attend the public meetings to weigh in on the Charter review process. “They’re open meetings,” he said.

The Charter will be voted upon by registered Town of New Shoreham voters during the Nov. 3, 2020 election. Any proposed amendments and revisions to the charter will be posted 30 days prior to the election and a public hearing will be scheduled no less than one week prior to the election, currently slated by the town as Oct. 27 of 2020. The council will receive the commission’s recommendation on June 17, 2020.   

Sun Farm Oysters modification request approved

The town council voted unanimously (3-0), with Lacoste recused, to send an advisory supporting Chris Warfel’s application requesting to change equipment and shift the location of his Sun Farm Oyster farm to the south on Harbor Pond. The application is under review by the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, which holds a public input period involving applications. Warfel is seeking to add Permafloats, dark colored floating hard shell docks, to his farm to protect it from the harsh marine environment during the winter months.

Councilor Risom noted that Warfel’s application received two positive advisories: from the Planning Board and Conservation Commission; and one negative advisory from the Shellfish Commission. 

Willi took issue with the fact that the Shellfish Commission did not have information to support its negative advisory. The Shellfish Commission believes Warfel is not currently in compliance due to a shift outsides its boundary markers; that he is using non-permissible floating equipment; and that  gear from his farm is littering the pond. 

Ball, who was chairing the hearing in Lacoste’s recused absence, said the council should focus on information pertaining solely to the application, and not the “peripheral issues.”  

Willi made the motion to send a favorable advisory to the CRMC, which was seconded by Risom, and approval was granted by the council. Lacoste told The Times he “recused because one of my employees had a dispute with Chris Warfel and I didn’t want to have my judgement jaded by that or have it appear so.”

The next town council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 7 p.m.