2012-10-11 / Front Page

Conservation panel weighs in on enforcement for ‘tax lots’

Letter to neighbors will list potential violations
BY MARGO SULLIVAN

People who live next to the 86 vacant “tax lots” in Jamestown Shores will soon receive informational letters explaining how to be a good neighbor to these properties, the Conservation Commission decided Tuesday.

Chairwoman Carol Trocki suggested that sending a letter to neighbors might avoid later problems. Many people don’t know the conservation laws, and this letter would explain in advance what’s allowed and would list the potential violations.

“A lot of the enforcement issues are not malicious,” said Trocki.

But, she said, these lots are now town-owned conservation land, and the commission bears stewardship responsibility.

In the future, Commissioner Michael Brown said, the panel could send similar letters to abutters of the town’s other conservation lands. He said the Jamestown Shores could be setting a precedent for other conservation lands.

Trocki agreed. Admittedly, the tax lots are “a little more straightforward” than some of the other conservation properties, she said, but added this might be the time for the commissioners to step up their stewardship efforts townwide.

“We might be ready to raise the bar on ourselves,” she said.

“This could be the harbinger,” added Commissioner Kate Smith.

Regarding Jamestown Shores, Trocki said that the commission signed on to a management plan.

Trocki said the 86 lots were acquired by the town’s water committee, and most of the lots were taken for unpaid property taxes.

“Most are extremely wet,” she said. According to Trocki, although the lots aren’t buildable, the land is valuable as wildlife habitat, wetlands buffer, and for water quality protection.

In August, the Town Council granted a conservation easement to the Conanicut Island Land Trust. Trocki explained that the trust has authority to require the town to make sure it is being managed and used appropriately.

Meanwhile, members of the Jamestown Shores Association have volunteered to help the land trust by keeping an eye on the lots and make sure no one is encroaching.

Ann Gagnon, co-president of the association, and Tim Yentsch, treasurer, attended the conservation meeting. Gagnon said they wanted to introduce themselves to the commissioners because they will work together on the conservation lots.

The association’s members have been organizing to take on the monitoring duties since the land trust asked for help. The original plan was to have residents monitor lots near their homes, Yentsch said, but the plan has changed to assign the annual visit to a resident who is “out of their immediate neighborhood” to avoid potential conflicts of interest.

Yentsch also said he would appreciate “collaboration” on data and procedures.

Trocki said the first potential violation is already being investigated. Quentin Anthony, president of the land trust, has referred a problem to town officials.

In other business, the commissioners heard an update from Ed McGuirl of the Harbor Commission about a plan to install a floating dock by the Fort Getty boat ramp.

The conservation panel has in the past cautioned the harbor board against installing the floating dock at Fort Getty because of the environmentally sensitive waters. Commissioners indicated the panel would stick to its guns about opposing the floating dock and would provide the harbor board with a letter to that effect.

Harbormaster Sam Paterson also attended the meeting and said he did not favor adding a floating dock because of the Coastal Resources Management Council rules about Type-I waters.

McGuirl added another concern: the hazards posed by weather conditions in that area. Of course, Mc- Guirl said, boaters would like the floating dock, and so would some commercial fishermen, but too many things could go wrong with a dock in that location.

“Anything that went down in that corner would be destroyed,” he said, even a floating dock that could ground itself.

McGuirl also proposed looking into the possibility of designating a CRMC management site. He would like to see “restoration of more shellfish in Dutch Harbor,” and mentioned successes at Warwick Cove, which could serve as a model.

In other matters, after an unknown person widened the trail through the Hull Cove right-ofway and whacked trees and shrubs, the CRMC charged the town with restoring the area to its previous condition.

Now, Brown says, he may have found a grant that will pay for the damage plus the costs of erecting a raised boardwalk over the wetlands and down to the cove.

Brown told the commissioners that he discovered the $100,000 grant opportunity while researching ways to pay for printing new trail guides.

Trocki said the grant opportunity might be worth investigating. As a first step, she volunteered to contact Town Administrator Bruce Keiser and Town Solicitor Peter Ruggiero to sound out their opinions.

If they like the concept, she said, commissioners could poll the neighbors and see how the idea strikes them.

The deadline for the grant application is Nov. 30. According to Trocki, that would give the commissioners ample time to make the proposal to the new Town Council.

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