2008-01-17 / News

Head's Beach rights controversy a non-issue

By Sam Bari

Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero settled the Head's Beach mooring field controversy at the Jan. 10 Harbor Management Commission meeting with a legal opinion. He said that deeded rights on shoreline property only apply to the landside of the mean high water line.

"There are two sides, the land side and the water side," Ruggiero said, "and deeded rights have nothing to do with the use of the water. The only area that could be somewhat gray is if the activities on the water side proved to interfere with the use of the land side, and a mooring field obviously does not do that."

Harbor Commission Chairman Michael de Angeli changed the date of the monthly meeting to accommodate Ruggiero's schedule so he could present his opinion in person to the commission and interested parties.

Charlotte Zarlengo, Jamestown Shores Association president, strongly opposed Ruggiero's opinion, insisting that the rights of Shore's residents were being violated. She went on to say that Shore's residents have "enjoyed that beach for over fifty years and declaring the area as a mooring field is going to create land side parking problems and interfere with beach access for local residents." She also said that the commission decided to make the decision without giving any consideration to the desires of the Shores community.

The controversy began when the Harbor Management Commission, at their June 4 meeting, deliberated the pros and cons of Park Dock, Cranston Cove, and Head's Beach as potential mooring areas. After lengthy discussion, the commissioners voted 6-0, with Chairman de Angeli abstaining, to draft a letter to the Town Council recommending Head's Beach as the only mooring area with potential for development.

Vice Chairman Andrew Kallfelz spearheaded the discussion of the mooring fields. He emphasized the importance of responding to the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) request for the completion of the harbor management plan and bringing the plan into compliance with their regulations.

Kallfelz said that the commission must discuss the potential mooring areas and make a decision concerning their status before the plan can be revised.

Chairman de Angeli agreed, and said that when the recommendation for the revised harbor plan is on the Town Council agenda, residents with concerns will have an opportunity to speak and be involved in the decision-making process.

During the discussion, the commissioners agreed that adequate shore-side facilities could not be developed that would support mooring fields at either Cranston Cove or Park Dock. However, they found the town-owned beach, locally called Head's Beach, in the Jamestown Shores, a good candidate for development.

Several months later, the commission was confronted by a contingent of more than a dozen Jamestown Shores Association members at its regular meeting on Aug. 8. Led by association president Charlotte Zarlengo, the group attended the meeting to oppose the commission's designation of the town-owned beach as a mooring field and recommending it to the Town Council.

Association member Kristin Kennedy said, "Unless something is wrong with the Press, I read that the Harbor Commission planned a pump-out facility and moorings are going to be added."

However, the only article in the Jamestown Press agreeing with her allegations was a July 26 Planning Commission report that referenced a statement made by Planning Commissioner Richard Ventrone. The report said, "As liaison to the Harbor Management Commission, Ventrone reported that the harbor commissioners discussed adding more moorings and a pump-out facility at the Jamestown Shores Beach." The statement made by Ventrone was verified in the Planning Commission minutes, but the minutes from the harbor commission meeting Ventrone attended did not agree with his report to planning.

At the beginning of the Aug. 8 harbor commission meeting, de Angeli, holding the clip from the Press, said he regretted that Ventrone was not present, because he wanted to ask him why, or if he did, in fact, say that.

The following week, Ventrone wrote a letter to the editor of the Jamestown Press that was published in the Aug. 23 edition, criticizing the Press for presenting a false impression of his involvement in the Head's Beach controversy.

Ventrone's letter said, "The June 21 issue of the Jamestown Press stated that Michael de Angeli, of the harbor commission, was drafting a letter to the Town Council recommending Head's Beach as "...the only mooring area with potential for development." Subsequent to the June 21 article, in conversation with Gary Girard, the Planning Commission chairman, he and I discussed the need to inform the harbor commission of existing restrictions to the Head's Beach deed that, in fact, precluded any usage at Head's Beach beyond "swimming and bathing."

The letter also said, "At the July 11 meeting of the harbor commission, as the Planning Commission liaison and at the behest of chairman Gary Girard, I reported that although I was absent from their June 4 meeting, it had come to the Planning Commission's attention that at their prior meeting the harbor commission had engaged in some discussion about the possibility of additional moorings, and related need for a pump-out, at Head's Beach. I reported to the harbor commission that there is a "Master Sub-Division" deed on file with the town that states that residents of the Shores have complete access to lots one through eight for "swimming and bathing purposes only." I told the commission that the deed could be found in the Jamestown Registry, Book 51, page 357.

"The purpose of providing this information was to assist the harbor commission in their discussions relating to Head's Beach that appeared to include possibilities for development, as quoted in the June 21 issue of the Press, that were expressly forbidden by the terms of the Shores deed."

The deed however, does not specify exclusivity, nor does it state or imply that the waters surrounding the beach cannot be used for a mooring field or any other purpose.

Nonetheless, Chairman de Angeli conferred with Town Administrator Bruce Keiser and they decided that it would be prudent to consult the town solicitor at taxpayer expense to make sure that the town was operating within the bounds of propriety and legality.

After researching the matter, the town solicitor verified that the provisions of the deed did not state or imply exclusivity or define usage of surrounding waters, making Ventrone's claim and those of the Shores Association, a non-issue.

The commission and de Angeli repeatedly assured Zarlengo and her supporters that declaration of a mooring field does not mean the field will be expanded. They emphasized that they had no intention of doing so. The chairman also assured them that all mooring fields must be supported by adequate shore side facilities to be in compliance with CRMC regulations. He continued to say that the harbor commission has no authority over land management issues, so anything to do with problems on land is not in their jurisdiction. However, that was not enough to allay the concerns of Zarlengo and the shores association.

In other harbor commission business:

Executive Director Thomas Tighe reported that Ribcraft of Marblehead, Mass., sent a letter verifying that they are willing to make the necessary repairs to the harbormaster's boat so it will be ready to go in the water for the upcoming season. "They agreed to discuss the cost of the repairs after the work is completed," Tighe said. Tighe also reported that the fire marshall said that 500-feet of pipe was required to deliver water to the wood pile pier in case of a fire. The steel pier is strong enough for the trucks to drive on it and fire hoses can reach the length of the Ft. Getty pier, so they are in compliance with regulations.

Facilities Chairman Robert Bowen reported that a DEM grant providing money for a pumpout station for the steel pier at East Ferry would not be used. The $25,000 was not adequate to install the facility, and the requirement for a contribution from the town to complete the installation would be substantial.

The commission is recommending to the Town Council that mooring permit stickers must be displayed on the hull of boats with mooring permits.

Harbor Management Ordinance and Comprehensive Harbor Management Plan Chairman de Angeli reported that an ordinance draft has been approved and that the committee needs one more meeting to complete the management plan.

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