2008-02-28 / Front Page

Coast Guard denies lighthouse lease

By Sam Bari

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser announced in his report at the Monday Town Council meeting that the U. S. Coast Guard rejected the town's request to lease the Beavertail Lighthouse to a lighthouse keeper as a residence. The Coast Guard presently owns the property and the town is licensed to maintain the facility.

The Feb. 21 letter from G. E. Bockstael, real property team leader for the U. S. Coast Guard said, "The use of this property for residential purposes is outside the terms of the license." The letter went on to say that the license is currently in a holdover status and must be signed within thirty days of receipt of the letter in accordance with the terms as stated in the license agreement or the Coast Guard must consider terminating the license.

Keiser said, "We must determine our long term interests in the lighthouse." He added, if we cannot use it as an affordable housing unit for maintenance personnel, we must decide what part the town wants to play in the future of the asset.

Town Council President Julio DiGiando said that it appears that the Coast Guard considers mainte- nance and licensing as two separate issues.

Councilman Robert Sutton said he talked to Department of Environmental Management Acting Director Larry Mouradjian who said, "The problem is calling the caretaker a resident." He added that Mouradjian told him, "The Coast Guard is willing to enter into discussions about a single caretaker." The caretaker would be allowed to stay overnight at the facility as needed, but it cannot be his primary residence and he cannot have his family living there.

Sutton suggested to the council that the DEM would own the property when it was released from the General Services Administration and the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association would take the responsibility of putting a caretaker in the building. This is acceptable to the DEM and the Coast Guard is willing to entertain discussions on the matter, he said.

He also said that the town involvement would be to arrange an agreement with the DEM and BLMA. If DEM ever ceases to be involved, the town could step back in and be responsible for the maintenance of the facility. Keiser suggested that instead of a lease, an employment agreement could be arranged.

The council directed Keiser to arrange discussions with the DEM, Coast Guard and BLMA to see if an agreement could be worked out.

In other business, Keiser reported that Hogan and Associates of Middletown were handling the appraisal of the old town offices at 44 Southwest Ave., on the town's behalf. He said that the appraisal would not be completed until next week.

Church Community Housing appraised the property at $425,000 and made an offer to the town to build a nine-unit facility on the site. The buyer's appraiser performed the appraisal and Keiser felt that the town should have their own appraisal in the interest of accuracy.

Sutton said that besides the appraisal, the town had to address the archeological considerations on the property. He said that moving the building and erecting additional structures could involve significant risk. He also said that the Department of Transportation had to stop a project not 50-feet from the Southwest Avenue property because of archeological findings by the Narragansett Tribe.

Keiser said that meeting with the Narragansett Tribe sooner rather than later to discuss the matter was important. Sutton emphasized that the chances of finding remains "were pretty good," and that a study would have to be conducted. Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero said that the town could spend the money on a study or put the responsibility on the buyer. Sutton said that he thought an alternative plan for the property was in the town's best interests.

DiGiando said the matter would be an agenda item at the March council meeting.

In an unrelated matter, Town Clerk Arlene Petit announced that Jamestown architect William Burgin won an honorary award for outstanding achievement in architectural design for the new Town Hall.

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