Oh, what a tangled web: Who owns the parking lot?

Thu, 05/30/2019 - 6:15pm

Operation and ownership of a section of the parking area located near the Harbormaster’s office in Old Harbor created a stir on Memorial Day, leading to pushback from local fishermen that required police intervention, and questions by the Town of New Shoreham as to how the situation can be addressed. It has been a long standing debate as to who has the rights and ownership over the property.

Building Official Marc Tillson told The Times he will be “issuing a notice of violation by week’s end to the property owner,” which is Blake Filippi and Paul Filippi of T&C Holdings. The brothers, who purchased the property from their mother, Marion, last year, created two makeshift parking areas on the property on Memorial Day by stringing off sections of the property and posting a sign for advertising parking fees.

Tillson said that is a violation of the town’s zoning ordinance. “The zoning ordinance does not provide for any lot to be used exclusively for parking without a zoning special use permit. The violation is issued to the property owner.” Tillson said the property owner has 10 days to comply with the notice of violation, and 20 days to appeal. If the violation is appealed the matter would be brought before the Zoning Board of Review.

Blake Filippi, an attorney, said the topic of dispute with the Town of New Shoreham centers around the Highway Act. “The town is saying that the property is a road. The court has said we own the land. So it comes down to whether there is a town road over it or not.” Blake said he and his brother were working with the town “in an amicable way to see if there is a resolution” to the issue.

“Importantly, the fishermen’s parking area hasn’t been affected, and they are allowed to use the area,” he said. Block Island-based fishermen host charter fishing businesses at the dock on the property. 

The parking lots are situated in roped off areas in the “disputed triangle parcel” near the Harbormaster’s shack at the inner basin on Water Street. The triangle consists of two parcels: parcel A and parcel B. The parking area that was created, consisting of two areas on parcel A, is located between Interstate Navigation’s parking lot and Ballard’s Wharf on the property.

Town Manager Ed Roberge agreed that what complicates governance of the area is the 1897 Highway Act, which granted the town an easement on the property, and rights to parcel B per a consent order rendered by Washington County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Lanphear in May of 2004. The consent order states that parcel A is the private, taxable property owned by Blake and Paul Filippi, while the abutting parcel B is to be treated as the property of the town. The parking lot in question resides close to the property line of parcel B. Beyond that, Roberge would not comment, but he did say the town is seeking more information and was evaluating the matter. 

As for why the new parking lots were created, Blake Filippi said, “We have a right to use the property to make money. Just like the town is renting slips out on the dock. We’re taxed a lot” on the property. “If the town thinks there’s a zoning violation they can come talk to us.”

Blake Filippi also said the dispute has nothing to do with his brother Paul’s interest in securing dockage for Rhode Island Fast Ferry for operating a seasonal high-speed ferry from Quonset to Block Island. “This has nothing to do with Paul’s fast ferry project,” he said.

“The litigation could go on for a long time,” said Blake Filippi, who noted that the dispute over the property goes back to 2004.