Land trust asks for help from Jamestown Shores residents
On foot or online, armed with smartphones, tablets and digital navigation systems, Jamestown Shores residents are gearing up to monitor 88 tax lots, which have been placed under a conservation easement.
Fifteen members of the Jamestown Shores Association met Sept. 26 at the Jamestown Philomenian Library to hear Quentin Anthony, president of the Conanicut Island Land Trust, describe the task and go over the history of the conservation easement.
Originally, the town bought some of the 88 lots and acquired the others for unpaid property taxes. Negotiations started three or four years ago to protect the socalled tax lots by a conservation easement, Anthony said. The lots total about 400 acres and are mostly wetlands near Head’s Beach. They’re considered important to protecting the island’s water quality. The Town Council granted the conservation easement to ensure the lots can never be developed.
“The town is still the owner of the lots,” Anthony said. He explained that the town could someday even sell the lots. Nonetheless, a new owner can not build on the them. The easement would give the land trust the perpetual “right to prohibit any construction on those properties,” and to stipulate additional conditions, such as no mining or tree removal.
The easement, which was filed in the recorder of deeds office in Town Hall, spells out all the restrictions.
The council appeared ready to grant the easement last year, but the vote was delayed until the management plan was written. The council ultimately did approve the conservation easement and management plan on Aug. 6 by unanimous vote.
However, Anthony said, the trust has the duty to keep an eye on the property and make sure prohibited activities are not happening.
“And they do occur if you don’t have eyes and ears out there watching and listening for this stuff,” he said. The Conanicut Island Land Trust does not have the personnel to monitor the Jamestown Shores. The group has only 15 people, and they supervise some 500 acres in Jamestown. They are already working to capacity, he said, and are not able to check on an additional 88 lots.
“We need the help of the Shores to monitor these lots to make sure they remain in a natural state and neighbors don’t use them to dispose of crankcase oil and put chicken coops on them.”
He added, “We really can’t do it. We need help once a year.”
Anthony asked the volunteer stewards to look at the lots, take pictures and make a report, which should say, for example, that the inspection discovered a neighbor has put a clothesline on the lot or that someone is storing used oil there. He said the goal is to keep the lots in pristine condition for the future.
However, Anthony added, the stewards should only report on the lots and not attempt to correct problems. If they see a potential encroachment or a violation, the residents should contact his organization.
But Maureen Coleman, member of the Conservation Commission, spoke up to say reports should go to her panel, and not the land trust, per the management plan.
Coleman said the conservation lots in Jamestown Shores are “different” than the land trust’s other properties.
“The land trust folks are responsible for easement monitoring,” she said, “and we’re responsible for the management plan, which clearly indicates what’s allowed and what’s not.”
Jim Turenne, a state soil scientist, gave tips on how to monitor the lots by computer. He started by asking the audience how many people owned a smartphone.