Objections to Ballard’s CRMC application
Responses are rolling in to the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council regarding Ballard’s Inn Realty’s application for an outdoor stage and four tiki bars, which the applicant deems are “temporary mobile structures.” The application also asks to establish a perimeter on the beach adjacent to Ballard’s where the bars would be allowed.
On the basis of the types of responses submitted to the CRMC, it appears that the application is bound to be a “contested case,” and therefore subject to a subcommittee meeting at the very least.
Ballard’s application for an assent was made in early December after a notice of violation was issued to them by the CRMC in September that ordered the venue to remove “all unauthorized temporary structures” at the site, including the stage and tiki bars.
The application states that the tiki bars, or “temporary mobile structures,” are eight feet wide, 20 feet long, and have a “standard truck hitch. Each mobile structure houses a self-contained bar. The mobile stage may vary in size but in no instance be larger than 1,000 square feet. ”Schematics of the bars do not show any provisions for wiring or plumbing, although storms in the past year have revealed an under-the-sand network of conduits and wiring encased in PVC pipes on Ballard’s Beach.
One of the items on the checklist for an application to the CRMC is to have the local building official sign off on whether or not a building permit is needed, and if so, if it will be issued after other various requirements are met.
Acting on behalf of the town, Chuck Phelps signed a form on October 6, 2022 stating that no building permit was required, but he also declined to fill in the applicable section of the building code. This was picked up by the CRMC, and questioned by CRMC Senior Environmental Scientist Anthony Sawaia who sent a letter to Tom Risom, dated January 4, saying “I have a question for the New Shoreham building official.”
One of the points Sawaia wanted to clarify was why no building permit was required.
Another concern was whether the CRMC and the Town of New Shoreham were looking at the same plans. “I want to be sure that the same info has been reviewed and we are all on the same page,” wrote Sawaia. “It is my understanding that previous structures on the beach were not able to get building permits which contributed to the violation issued by our CRMC Enforcement section.”
As of mid-morning, January 13, there was no response in the file the CRMC sent to The Block Island Times. There were plenty of other documents, however. Most importantly, two “entries of appearance,” which are essentially giving the CRMC notice that they will be representing an interested party in the matter, have been filed on behalf of the Town of New Shoreham. Those attorneys are Town Solicitor James Callaghan and R. Daniel Prentiss, who was the lead attorney in the Champlin’s Marina case that went on for almost 20 years.
Callaghan also sent a letter, addressed to both Sawaia and CRMC Executive Director Jeffrey Willis, dated January 10, stating: “Please be advised that the Town of New Shoreham herewith states its substantive objection to Coastal Resources Management Council Application 2022-12-023 – Ballard’s Inn Realty, LLC, pursuant to section 1.1.6.G of the Coastal Management Program and section 1.5.1.F of the CRMC Management Procedures.”
Here, “substantive objection” is the operative phrase. CRMC Management Procedures state that: “A proceeding before the Council shall be considered contested when a substantive formal written objection and/or request for hearing is received by the Council from any interested party.”
Callaghan raises three main points in this initial letter. The first one is that “The activity that is proposed in this application is on land whose ownership status is at best uncertain… The lot has not increased in size to incorporate any ‘accretion’ of land as described in the application.”
The application, in a portion written by Scott Rabideau of Natural Resource Services, Inc. says “this section of beach has experienced accretion over time at a rate of 0.8-1.0 feet per year.”
The second objection raised by Callaghan deals with the CRMC’s own regulations regarding the classification of water types. Per his letter, Ballard’s is adjacent to Type I waters, which are classified as conservation areas. (Waters approved for commercial purposes such as marinas are classified as Type III.) “The Activities Matrix at section 1.1.5.A for Type I Waters permits only three activities on Beaches and Dunes upland of such waters: Point Discharges-Runoff; Non-Structural Shoreline Protection; and Beach Nourishment.”
Callaghan goes on to state that the structures Ballard’s is applying for are “‘Commercial/Industrial Structures’ and/or ‘Recreational Structures’ within the meaning of the Activities Matrix.” And later he writes, again citing the CRMC’s Coastal Management Program: “‘Alterations to beaches adjacent to Type 1 and Type 2 waters are prohibited except where the primary purpose of the project is to preserve or enhance the area as a natural habitat for native plants and wildlife.’ There is no qualification on this prohibition for structures that have wheels built on them, or that are called ‘mobile’ or ‘portable.’”
Callaghan’s last point is that the structures are also in violation of the town’s zoning regulations, which “prohibits the use of ‘trailers, shipping containers and similar temporary and/or mobile facilities for any commercial or industrial activity…’ Further, section 314 of the zoning ordinance limits the use of land within 100 feet of the mean high water line of environmentally vulnerable coastal features to ‘pedestrian paths and travelways for recreational and/or educational use, and town roads or pathways or public launch or rescue access ways to the water.’”
At its meeting last week on January 12, the Block Island Land Trust also decided to intervene in the application, although their specific objections were discussed in closed session. The BILT owns the adjacent property to the south of Ballard’s.
Scenic Block Island has also weighed in with the CRMC, writing that: “The Board of Governors of Scenic Block Island would hereby respectfully request a public hearingon the matter…” The letter, dated January 12, was signed by Nancy Pike.
As far as a timeline for the proceedings, Sawaia wrote, in a response to Callaghan: “Generally, once an application is accepted for review it can take between eight to ten weeks to review, process, and make a decision on the application, although this timeline may vary. The Assent Application 2022-12- 023 was accepted for review on December 19, 2022.”