Hull Pond purchased for conservation

Thu, 03/21/2019 - 6:00pm

Although the Block Island Conservancy made the announcement of their intent to purchase, in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy and the Block Island Land Trust, “Hull Pond” back in January, the Land Trust is generally moot on the subject of acquisitions until the deal is done, with all related discussions taking place in closed session.

But on Monday, March 18, during the Treasurer’s report section of the Land Trust’s meeting, it was announced that the Land Trust had spent $215,000 for its share in the purchase of the 4.5-acre property, located off Center Road near Isaac’s Corner. According to records at Town Hall, The Nature Conservancy purchased the property for $500,000 on Feb. 28 and then granted a conservation easement on the land for $215,000 to the Land Trust. The Block Island Conservancy paid The Nature Conservancy $50,000 for “enforcement rights” of the easement.

The conservancies have stated that they would like to open the property to the public for low-impact recreational activities.

“It’s been 22 years in the making,” said Scott Comings, Associate State Director of The Nature Conservancy Rhode Island.

The BIC’s announcement two months ago was part of a fundraising appeal for the purchase, whereas the Land Trust obtains the majority of its funds from a three percent transfer fee on real estate purchases. During February the Land Trust collected $339,934 in transfer fees on real estate sales of $11.3 million.

The majority of the fees came from three major sales: The Gables Inn ($1.8 million), The Surf ($5.33 million), and the Missbrenner residence on Dorry’s Cove Road ($4.2 million).

The buyer, not the seller, pays the fee, and may request an exemption for personal property included in a purchase. Although it doesn’t happen often, the purchasers of The Surf requested an exemption of $670,000 for personal property.

Personal property, Land Trust attorney Joe Priestley explained, was any type of property not considered “real property.” That includes such things as furnishings, artwork, business equipment, even goodwill.

Valuating such items can be subjective, and so the Land Trust is drafting a new policy to “clarify” the existing policy. Part of the new policy will be the requirement that the buyer provide an appraisal by a certified appraiser.

Once the policy is finalized it will be posted on the Land Trust’s page of the town’s website, and will be disseminated to the local real estate agents.

Parking for Harbors Department

In other news, the Land Trust gave the go ahead to Harbormaster Steve Land to utilize the K&H Property on West Side Road, next to the New Harbor Boat Basin, for Harbors Department employees to park their cars during their work hours. Land estimates there will be five to seven cars parked there, which will relieve, somewhat, the congested parking at the Boat Basin and The Oar.

While for this year Harbors will return to its office, commonly called “the shack,” at the Boat Basin, Land said there was a need for a more permanent solution and he has proposed utilizing K&H as a “conduit” to and from the shore for visiting boaters. The conduit would utilize an educational boardwalk over a marsh, which Land describes as “spectacular” and a potential destination for all. Off the beach would be a fixed pier with an office and two floating dinghy docks – one for transient boaters, and one for residential mooring holders.

Land still has a lot of research to do and his overall plan will not take place immediately. “We’re looking at a couple years out for the boardwalk and shack,” he said.

At the previous month’s meeting Land was encouraged to consult with Comings on the construction of boardwalks.

Comings said that The Nature Conservancy had installed a boardwalk at Dundery Brook in Little Compton that was over a mile long and ADA compliant. He recommended consulting with engineers that were familiar with more modern concepts of doing things “in a more natural way with less impact” environmentally, particularly for parking areas.

Trustee Keith Lang said of Dundery Brook: “It’s a beautiful walk” adding that it would be a useful model as it was “permitted in Rhode Island.”

Although, as Land Trust Chair Barbara MacMullan pointed out, visiting boaters wouldn’t need parking, but resident boaters utilizing the dinghy dock would.

Land said that the town no longer permitted parking along the road and he had an idea of where parking could be included in the plan with little impact to the views of neighbors. He said: “People went bonkers about parking” in the area of the new dinghy dock installed last year by Dead Eye Dick’s, but “it was never a problem.”

Members of the Land Trust floated the idea of expanded parking at Ball O’Brien Park within walking distance of K&H. It’s an idea that will need a bit of research and possibly amendments to the existing easements at the park, but an idea worth exploring never the less.

“Putting our heads together, we can do something really neat,” said Land.