2005-09-15 / News

Beavertail Lighthouse group plans for preservation

By Michaela Kennedy

Thirty seconds over Jamestown The Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association hopes to assume management of the property. Photo by Don Bousquet Thirty seconds over Jamestown The Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association hopes to assume management of the property. Photo by Don Bousquet The Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association got a nod of approval from the Planning Commission last week to pursue plans to take over management of the lighthouse property.

At the commission’s Sept. 7 meeting, the lighthouse association outlined a goal to put together a partnership with the state of Rhode Island and the local government.

The planning board also approved an amendment to the Zoning Ordinance related to excavation within a public highway. Solicitor Lauriston Parks was on hand to answer questions about the proposed change.

Varoujan Karentz, a director of the lighthouse association and chairman of the Beavertail Lighthouse Acquisition Committee, gave a presentation of a management plan for the light station.

“We as an organization are interested in taking over the lighthouse,” Karentz said. He stressed that his association had two priorities: to preserve the site and to keep the site open to the public.

Karentz noted that preliminary talks had begun with the state Department of Environmental Management and the town “aimed at developing a mutual agreement regarding the site’s future operations and preservation.”

The proposed concept would set up a partnership between the state as the potential transferee of the property, the town as an administrative partner, and the lighthouse association as the operational manager, according to Karentz..

Karentz mentioned that the town was currently under a license agreement with the U. S. Coast Guard, and that the tower was an active navigational aid. But he also noted that except for emergencies, the Coast Guard puts aside no maintenance funds for the lighthouse.

The National Historic Preservation Act of 2000, Karentz said, calls on communities to preserve national lighthouses. “We hope to be able to undertake some restoration of the tower,” he added.

Karentz admitted that the condition of the light tower “is not very good” and primary maintenance is already left to the local lighthouse association.

Karentz went on to say that in the past three years, about 23 lighthouses a year have been declared excess government property ready for transfer. “We have every reason to believe that the lighthouse may be coming down the road to the excess market in the next couple of years,” he said.

“Over a three month period, 15,000 visitors came through the park,” said George Warner, the new president of the lighthouse association. Warner spoke of a strategic-use plan that would include extension of the museum and a visitor interpretation center.

Planning Commissioner Andrew Kallfelz asked about security at the lighthouse.

Warner said that the custodian was the acting security agent there, and that the police made routine rounds. He noted that since the keeper was living there, vandalism had dropped off significantly.

Kallfelz also asked what the fate of the lighthouse property would be if the plan were not approved.

Warner answered that if no one stepped forward to properly care for the property, then the government would auction it off.

Town Planner Bryer praised the plan, but warned that funding for the lighthouse would be competitive. She pointed out that it would be “a change in policy” for the town, referring to the administrative responsibilities that would be taken on by the local government.

“Our comprehensive (community) plan has looked at our historic area in a more holistic way up till now,” Bryer added.

In other business, Town Solicitor Parks provided the commission with an ordinance concerning excavations in town roads and road rights-of-way based on comments from the commission. He said he took the North Kingstown ordinance and changed it so it would apply to Jamestown.

Parks also said that he spoke with the public works director and the town engineer. Parks noted that both municipal workers were in favor of the ordinance because it would give them the ability to regulate things like people planting trees in a public way. He advised that the town should at least have an ordinance in place that requires permitting.

“When you give a permit of this type, it specifies when the work is going to be done, and a copy goes to the police and fire chief,” Parks pointed out.

Barry Holland, planning commissioner and tree committee liaison, noted that that the town tree warden often planted tress in rights-of-way, so he should be exempt.

In an unrelated matter, the commission unanimously voted in favor of recommending a development plan on Mizzen Avenue to the Zoning Board of Review. Jay Bilow returned for a continued review of his application to construct a two-bedroom house on Mizzen Avenue.The plan reflected revisions made since the first review in May.

The site plan showed reduced fill around the house, relocation of the well, and relocation of the house 4 feet to the north, farther away from the neighbor’s house.

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