Beavertail Lighthouse tenant refuses to leave
The tenant and caretaker of the Beavertail Lighthouse, Richard Shutt, has refused to vacate the rent-free apartment even though his lease has expired and has filed a claim against the town.
According to Town Administrator Bruce Keiser, Shutt was scheduled to leave on April 30 of this year. However, "he informed the town that he couldn't find reasonable housing during the summer because the cost of seasonal accommodations rose during tourist season. The Town Council voted to allow him an extension until Aug. 31 at which time Town Planner Lisa Bryer and I paid him a visit to see how he was progressing. At that point he informed me that he would not be leaving," Keiser said.
Since then, Shutt responded to the town's demand for eviction by filing a claim against the town in Newport District Court. A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23.
"Shutt seems to believe that because he's indigent and basically unemployed, he has every right to stay because the last tenant was there for 25 years. He thinks that because the rules were changed while he was living there they shouldn't apply to him," Keiser said.
"In 2005 the Town Council reviewed the availability policy of the caretaker's apartment at the Beavertail Lighthouse," Keiser continued.
"They determined that it was in the best interests of the community to achieve several objectives regarding the available housing. The primary objective was to assure that the person occupying the rent-free apartment adequately maintained the lighthouse grounds and facility. The second consideration was to try to offer it to a person or family that was eligible for affordable housing," he added.
"So they must qualify on two fronts," the administrator said. "First, they are required to prove that they have the needed skills and time to uphold a well-defined maintenance program and schedule, and they need to meet the requirements for affordable housing. The town also decided that the facility should only be made available as affordable housing for a limited amount of time, perhaps three to five years at the most. The idea is to give tenants a few years to save some cash from the rentfree housing, and apply their savings to buying or renting on their own, without assistance. In other words, the next step up. Then we can give the lighthouse accommodations to another deserving family, and give them an opportunity to do the same thing."
The U.S. Coast Guard owns the lighthouse at Beavertail State Park and leases it to the town to manage and maintain. According to Keiser, the town has every right to determine the rules under which they manage the facility as long as they are in compliance with the agreement with the Coast Guard.
When Shutt was called, he was polite, but refused to answer any questions about his position because "my attorney told me not to discuss the case until after the hearing on the 23rd," he said.
When asked to name his attorney, he said, "I'd rather not do that."
Keiser said that he had not been contacted by an attorney, nor had the town. "We've had tenants lined up to move in ever since April 30. "The situation has caused them tremendous inconvenience," Keiser said.
"If it wasn't for our patient and understanding landlord, John Kelly, I don't know what we'd do," said Cynthia Turillo, 29, the prospective tenant waiting to move in.
"My husband Mike, 45, and I have four kids ranging in age from two months to seven years old. Mike works two jobs as it is. He's in the Air Force Reserve and he's been a supervisor at the Newport Bridge for over eight years. We really need the apartment," she said. "We meet the criteria to maintain the grounds and lighthouse, and we are eligible for affordable housing. Mike has even taken courses from the state on working with lead and lead safety, which is necessary to properly care for a place as old as the lighthouse."