2006-05-25 / News

Lighthouse opposed for affordable housing

By Sam Bari

At its May 17 semi-annual meeting, the Beavertail State Park Advisory Committee voted to oppose the town using the lighthouse property to fulfill a state mandate for affordable housing. Committe Chairman Gary Galkin instructed acting secretary Felicia Celeberto to write a letter to the Town Council stating the committee's position.

After committee member Larry Mouradjian, representing the state Department of Environmental Management, asked if the new tenants were informed of the job description and responsibilities to be performed at the park, the committee discussed the matter in depth. Committee members felt that restricting the property only to tenants qualifying for affordable housing limited the choices of the most qualified tenants for the job of lighthouse caretaker. Whoever rents the lighthouse living quarters is responsible for maintenance of the buildings and grounds.

The property was recently rented to a family with three young children. They are scheduled to take occupancy sometime this summer. The committee was also concerned about the liabilities to the town concerning the safety issues of children living on the town-managed property that presents many dangers, particularly during inclement weather.

In other business, Mouradjian volunteered to see that signs were made to warn park visitors of the tick problem in the area. Regional Manager of Parks and Recreation Bob Paquette said he would post tick warning posters on the outside front of the lighthouse, by the entrance, where they would be most visible.

Paquette was also responsible for installing a new electrical service for the state-maintained aquarium, with new additional lighting to enhance the displays. Mouradjian recognized both Paquette and Park Supervisor Brian Gallagher for the good job they have done.

On a lighter note, Paquette pointed out that an anonymous donor planted a weeping willow tree near the entrance to the parking lot. "Although it was a kind gesture, planting of trees or any other flora is against park regulations and can only be allowed with permission from the park management," he said.

Chairman of the Site Acquisition Committee Varoujan Karentz, who also sits on the lighthouse board of directors, noted that a preservationist has been contracted to document the erosion of the 1749 lighthouse foundation stone. The preservationist will also make recommendations to restore and preserve the old foundation. The stone has been falling and washing away as a result of the heavy wave action that often occurs at the southern point of the island.

Karentz also said that the National Trust for the Preservation of Historic Places is studying the value of the entire Beavertail Lighthouse site to initiate a grant for its restoration and preservation.

Jamestown Chamber of Commerce President Charlie Petit, a guest at the meeting, proposed holding a fund-raiser sponsored by the chamber to raise money for the aquarium. He offered to split the proceeds with the aquarium if the chamber could hold the event on the lighthouse grounds. In past years the island chamber has hosted fundraiser evenings at Watson Farm and at the lighthouse. The evenings have included cocktails, dinner, and dancing. However, when he was told that alcohol would not be allowed on state park property and could not be offered, he said that the chamber would probably not be interested.

Committee member Frank Meyer made a motion to request that the DEM or parks department stop citing visitors to state parks after hours, noting one case where a woman was fined $100 for an infraction of the ordinance. Mouradjian, the DEM representative, asked Meyer to put the motion in writing and he would look into the matter and respond accordingly. Mouradjian noted that the judge trying the case made the decision according to the law. The sunset rule is consistent throughout the state, sunrise to sunset, he said. All parks follow this rule. Fishing is the only exception, and camping is not allowed, he added.

Despite Mouradjian's efforts to satisfy Meyer's concerns, Meyer continued to press his case to put the motion before the committee for a vote. Galkin asked for a second and committee member Hazel Turley responded so the committee could vote on the issue. Mouradjian abstained from voting and the motion failed with

vote of 2-2. Mouradjian said that he never heard of complaints of dramatic actions of enforcement in any state park. Meyer spent 40 minutes of the hour-anda half meeting discussing the matter of the single case of enforcement.

The next meeting of the Beavertail State Park Advisory Committee is scheduled for Oct. 18 at 3 p.m.

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