Letters to the Editor
Opposition groups not notified of discussions about Champlin’s deal
To the Editor:
The lead article in this paper last week was about the sale of Champlin’s Marina. Apparently, receiving a $25 million sum was not enough for Mr. Grillo and his partners in that they chose, on their way out of this community, to make a last-ditch and unlawful effort to obtain an expansion of the marina that they have been pursuing — without success — for nearly two decades.
As most are likely aware, the town, The Committee for the Great Salt Pond, Block Island Land Trust, Block Island Conservancy, and Conservation Law Foundation have been engaged in a 17-year legal opposition to a proposed 4-acre expansion of Champlin’s – a proposed private taking of public land that would disrupt existing navigation channels, eliminate portions of the public mooring fields, and negatively impact the hard-won environmental health of the pond for their own profit.
The opposition parties were advised late Friday afternoon that Champlin’s entered into a “deal” with the Coastal Resources Management Council the terms of which grant Champlin’s approximately two-thirds of their original expansion proposal. None of the opposition groups was included in the deal-making. Indeed, they were not even properly notified that discussions were taking place.
This community has attended countless hours of hearings and generously donated countless dollars in support of the fight. This latest maneuver by Champlin’s is its most egregious to date. It will require continued vigilance and steadfastness by this community to defend against the greed and impropriety that resulted in the illegitimate deal.
Claire M. Costello
Save the Great Salt Pond
The following was sent to The Block Island Times on behalf of the Committee for the Great Salt Pond, the Block Island Conservancy, the Block Island Land Trust and the Town of New Shoreham:
Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021
The future of Great Salt Pond, the premier natural asset of Block Island, is in jeopardy – again.
• For almost two decades the Town of New Shoreham, The Committee for the Great Salt Pond, The Block Island Land Trust and the Block Island Conservancy successfully prevented a massive and destructive expansion of the marina by Champlin’s Realty Associates.
• We are enthusiastically supported in our opposition to this expansion by an overwhelming number of Block Island part- and full-time residents and joined in our legal action by the Conservation Law Foundation, a prominent pro-environment organization.
• The expansion, originally proposed in 2003 and repeatedly denied both administratively and in the courts since then, would have added almost 3,000 feet of dock space to the existing 6,000 feet and expanding capacity for vessels from 250 to almost 400. In addition to the significant size of the proposed expansion, the expansion would interfere with the navigational channels and public moorings.
• The expansion was denied by the CRMC in 2011. Champlin’s appealed to the Superior Court in 2013, and in February 2020 the Superior Court upheld the CRMC decision. The Superior Court ruling said in a forceful decision it is clear the CRMC decision to deny the expansion was based on the facts and the law.
• Recent developments indicate to us that Champlin’s Marina, and apparently the Rhode Island state Coastal Resources Management Council, are trying to make an end run around the Superior Court’s affirmation of the denial of the marina expansion application.
• In October 2020 the Rhode Island Supreme Court agreed to hear Champlin’s appeal of the Superior Court decision that unequivocally upheld the CRMC’s previous repeated denials of marina expansion.
• On November 30, 2020 the Town of New Shoreham was informed by counsel for the CRMC that CRMC had agreed to engage in “mediation” with Champlin’s. The other three parties to the case inexplicably were not informed of any “mediation.” The Town was apparently misled, having been told that the CRMC would only “mediate” if the Town agreed to join the process, which it did not.
* After years of denying the expansion CRMC suddenly and inexplicably announced on December 29, 2020 that it had entered “mediation” with representatives of Champlin’s. CRMC then shockingly, and we believe unlawfully, reversed its opposition to the marina’s expansion.
• Worse, the CRMC took the shocking unilateral action of reversing itself without the knowledge of The Town of New Shoreham, The Committee for the Great Salt Pond, The Block Island Land Trust and the Block Island Conservancy. Not even our legal counsel, Dan Prentiss, was informed.
• None of the opponents of marina expansion had any obligation nor desire to join CMRC in “mediation,” and the Town declined in part because other parties deeply involved in the litigation were excluded.
• The coalition of opponents has consistently prevailed in the courts and had no reason to do anything that would weaken the Superior Court’s decision confirming the denial of the Champlin’s application.
• We believe that, in an attempt to avoid the difficult challenge of succeeding in an appeal of the Superior Court’s thoughtful decision, Champlin’s has, with the apparent approval of the CRMC and out of the public view, now asked the Supreme Court to approve a vast expansion of the marina, denying the public an opportunity for comment or protest.
• The coalition of opponents opposes the marina expansion proposal based on evidence that it would inflict permanent environmental and other damage on Great Salt Pond and reduce the use and enjoyment that residents and visitors derive from it.
• The Town of New Shoreham, the Committee for the Great Salt Pond, the Block Island Land Trust, and the Block Island Conservancy reject this attempt to bypass the legitimate judicial process.
For more information, please contact the lead attorney for the parties in opposition:
R. Daniel Prentiss, Esq
56 Pine Street
Providence RI 02903