2018-01-04 / Front Page

Disputes ranged from guns to golf

2017: A LOOK BACK


East Shore Road resident Chris Cannon displays .50-caliber bullets at the April public hearing on whether to ban target shooting. While Cannon was trying to demonstrate the weapons currently permitted, gun owners in the audience mocked the idea anyone would use those size bullets for recreation. East Shore Road resident Chris Cannon displays .50-caliber bullets at the April public hearing on whether to ban target shooting. While Cannon was trying to demonstrate the weapons currently permitted, gun owners in the audience mocked the idea anyone would use those size bullets for recreation. Editor’s note: This is the second article in a two-part series outlining the biggest stories of 2017. This week takes a look at some of the controversial issues in town this past year.

Despite being 10 square miles with fewer than 6,000 residents, Jamestown has never been a community void of neighborly disagreements.

There was the Deb Ruggiero- Rebecca Schiff election in 2016, the Holy Ghost referendum in 2015 and Kevin Pacios’ bumpy tenure as town administrator in 2014. This year was no different. Here are five stories that divided Jamestown.


A rendering of the proposed clubhouse unveiled by architect Bill Burgin in January through a simulated 3-D tour. The $2 million base cost for this design does not include the cart garage that is in the forefront with the lattice walls. A rendering of the proposed clubhouse unveiled by architect Bill Burgin in January through a simulated 3-D tour. The $2 million base cost for this design does not include the cart garage that is in the forefront with the lattice walls. In the crosshairs

It wasn’t necessarily a clash regarding the Second Amendment, but the debate on whether target shooting should be outlawed in town brought a similar range of emotion and contention.

It was, by a landslide, the most controversial issue to plague the town in 2017. It ended in April with a 3-2 decision to prohibit the pastime, a rare vote in which a Democrat had broken from party lines. The incivility was best exhibited by the usually subdued Mike White, a majority council member who voted against the measure.

“Both sides have started to piss me off,” he said following comment during the April public hearing.


Although reconfiguring the parking lot and altering the traffic pattern was shrouded by contention, the primary purpose of the Ferry Wharf project was to repair the damaged pavement and curbs. Although reconfiguring the parking lot and altering the traffic pattern was shrouded by contention, the primary purpose of the Ferry Wharf project was to repair the damaged pavement and curbs. The debate surfaced in September 2014 after an East Shore neighbor complained about a shooting range on Wildflower Lane. Although that gripe centered on noise pollution, townspeople with safety concerns weren’t far behind. Those activists quickly and staunchly were confronted by gun advocates, often pitting neighbor against neighbor and longtime residents against recent island arrivals.

“The trap shooter, the skeet shooter and the target shooter are not your enemy,” said Nick Robertson, a range owner and former councilman. “He’s your neighbor. He practices his sport, on his property, with his own expenses. He deserves the same rights, the same consideration and the same dignity as golfers and soccer players. He doesn’t deserve to be a second-class citizen.”

In the end, however, the council banned all recreational shooting in backyards with a caveat that air rifles, blank pistols and BB guns be permitted.

Island of asylum

“This is a time to find out what we, as a democracy, are made of. Is it just Fourth of July slogans? Or do we believe all of us are born with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

This excerpt, written by Reservoir Circle resident Mark Baker, was in a letter to the editor following the presidential election of Donald Trump. It got the ball rolling on a resolution that would ultimately characterize Jamestown as a sanctuary city.

At a February meeting, the Democratic councilors unanimously voted to pass a resolution drafted by Councilwoman Mary Meagher. The lone Republican, Blake Dickinson, abstained from the vote. He had been an outspoken opponent of the town sticking its nose in federal law.

Meagher’s draft referenced Roger Williams, the Puritan who fled Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1636 for fear of being deported as a religious radical. Williams eventually purchased land from Narragansett sachem Canonicus and founded the state of Rhode Island.

“Jamestown has a tradition of promoting tolerance, hospitality and fellowship in its secular, religious and governmental institutions, welcoming people of all religions, races and ethnicities to live here, work here or simply visit and enjoy our parks, beaches and the bounty that Narragansett Bay provides,” the resolution said.

The document essentially protects illegal aliens from being deported by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement if they are detained in town.

Solar opposites

Is a solar array still green if it requires an acre of forest to be destroyed?

That’s the question posed to the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority by environmentalists in town, including Quentin Anthony, president of the Conanicut Island Land Trust.

“This island’s passion for open space and rural character screams out in every survey,” he told bridge officials in January. “There’s overwhelming support for all land measures. On every occasion, when islanders have been asked to open their wallets to purchase property, they have responded resoundingly.”

The 267-watt solar farm was proposed on private land just north of the police station and Conanicut Marine’s Taylor Point boat yard.

According to the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission, the lot was exempt from local zoning regulations because it was determined to be state owned, even though the bridge agency is quasi public.

The town, however, disagreed with that ruling. Executive sessions between the town’s legal team and lawyers from the bridge authority ensued, which led to an alternative site being proposed at the Dutra Farm.

However, in May, the bridge authority’s project partner, Altus Power, said it was not feasible to collaborate with the town on a solar farm near the farm.

No public update has been made since that meeting, and the issue remains in limbo.

Teed off

The Conanicus Avenue golf course was purchased by taxpayers, but a deed restriction stipulates the land be used for passive recreation.

So, when the subject of renovating the former clubhouse arose, golfers let it be known where their allegiance lay.

“Golfers only seek simple solutions that modernize and meet the basic requirements of both golfers and the course’s excellent management,” wrote Mike Montoya, former vice president of the golf club, in a letter to the editor.

The majority of taxpayers, however, don’t play golf. Therefore, they argued, there should be space set aside for them on the 75-acre property, which is assessed at $3.2 million.

The councilors, to an extent, have agreed.

“It’s a town asset, not just a golf asset,” Kristine Trocki, president, said at a January meeting. “There has to be some balance.”

The latest design, estimated to cost $2 million, includes a 1,000-square-foot community room that can be used by the non-golfing public for lunch dates and meetings. Republican Councilman Blake Dickinson, however, warned the town not to price out future tenants. The pricier the building, the less likely the town will be able to attract operators to lease the course, he said.

The current clubhouse, which will be razed, has a base structure that was built more than 100 years ago. Fire and zoning officials closed the dilapidated top floor permanently in winter 2013 because of safety concerns. That space was used by the non-golfing public, including yoga classes and chorus rehearsals.

Traffic jam

Despite approval from the town council to redesign the East Ferry parking lot, strong opposition from longtime residents and businessmen was able to turn the tide.

The councilors listened to their constituents, electing in July to keep the triangular park against the road, opposed to moving it closer to the waterfront. That grassy area is best known for hosting the village Christmas tree during the holidays.

The vote in February to redesign the lot was met with disgust by Donald Richardson, a former harbor commissioner who has lived in town since 1928.

“I see nothing wrong with the parking lot the way it is now,” he said.

Businessmen from East Ferry Wharf agreed with Richardson, although they had a vested interest aside from nostalgia. By redesigning the lot, Conanicut Marine owner Bill Munger said, the town would be altering a traffic pattern that had taken decades to develop.

“Today’s footprint works,” he told the planning commissioners. “We’ve been tweaking this for years to get the parking right.”

In the end, the town agreed to a hybrid plan that will retain traffic circulation and the triangular park while renovating the seawall walkway to be more visitor-friendly.

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