2008-02-14 / Letters to the Editor

Island fleeced in land deals

As stated in the Press of Feb. 7, 2008, Jamestown stands to lose $31,000 in state aid as part of Governor Carcieri's plan to reduce Rhode Island's budget defi- cit. To avoid an increase in our taxes, we must look for other sources of revenue. Luckily, unlike many other towns, we own several income producing properties that third parties would like to lease such as West Ferry, East Ferry and the golf course. Two weeks ago, West Ferry was leased for $12,500 annually, which can be used to offset the reduction in state aid.

But suppose that the town administrator had decided to lease that property for zero dollars, after all it's less than one acre. Would citizens demand an inquiry? A ridiculous supposition you say, no one would ever squander the town's assets in such a manner. If you thought that, then you would be wrong. On Jan. 14, 1980, the town council signed a lease with the state's Department of Environmental Management for the town's 20 acres on Beavertail for 80 years for zero dollars based on the remote possibility that Jamestown would receive part of the gate receipts should there ever be an admission fee to the park. Jamestown had owned those beautiful 20 acres of water front property since 1973, seven years before there ever was a state park.

See the lease on page 611 Vol. 75 of the land evidence records.

Is such a lease even legal, where the lessee gets everything and the lessor gets nothing, not even the symbolic $1? Sounds more like extortion to me. Have we given up, de facto, sovereignty and ownership of those 20 acres like we have the 1.62 acres, aka. Newport Street, that defined the boundary between the federal, later state, property at the northwestern border of Fort Wetherill? There the state didn't even bother to draw up a worthless lease. In an inter-office memo of Aug. 25, 1988, the DEM ordered the removal of that part of Newport Street. This confiscation was without any compensation to the taxpayers of Jamestown. Only a couple of Jamestowners, who used to bicycle down that street, questioned this destruction which gives a new meaning to the term highway robbery.

That part of Newport Street can be seen on Plat Map 10. The map was recently changed to depict that street as a paper road, but still the property of Jamestown. When I made a copy, it was still shown as a normal road. Most of it is still shown on Google Earth.

The survey points that define the exact boundaries of Fort Wetherill are listed in the Quit Claim Deed, Vol. 66, page 821 of the land evidence records and depicted on the survey map from the National Park Service on fiel at the tax collector's office.

Will the council or any appointed member of a commission or a manager charged with the responsibility of overseeing the proper or improper use of town-owned land stand up for the taxpayers and get us adequate compensation, fair market value, for those lost lands and stop the fleecing of Jamestown?

I doubt it, for after all, the symbol of Jamestown is a sheep.

Frank Meyer


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