7/15/2006

Taking back the Old Harbor

In the paper yesterday there was a call by some for the town to "take back control of the Old Harbor". Well it is a sentiment that I am in full accord with, but I think it is too late to happen now. It could be done using the eminent domain ploy but the court fight will go on for years 'til either Interstate et al, runs out of money or resolve, or the town does. I think the town will be the one that falters first. That is unless there are some really strong personalities that are in the wings who will come forward and shepard this thing to it's conclusion. To do that though, is going to take a long time commitment by those folks to get themselves elected on a recurring basis, and have the mental and physical wherewithal to finish it. That and the ability to convince the public at large that this is a good thing for the well being of the Island! And at the same time they should still persue the Port Authority concept with relentless vigor. Nevermind what the nay-sayers will counter with, ad nauseum. Maybe THAT, first! Then the town would have some teeth with which to grasp the eminent domain problem with some hope of resolving it fairly quickly. In case you haven't noticed there are now 22 boats a day coming into Old harbor hauling people and freight, and another about to descend on us from New Bedford.

I've been told by some of the people researching the property ownership of the land in front of the National that my family is one of those 19 part owners of said piece. If that is true, I'll state here and now, that in the interests of preserving some semblence of sanity in the down town area, I'll give up my right of ownership to the town provided it can demonstrate that it will in fact, use that right for the furtherance of a viable and well thought out plan for it's usage. It is NOT a piece of land that can be used for much of any kind of commercial venture what with 19 other "partners" to consider. That being the case, maybe an approach of the others by the town with a good "sales pitch", might elicit the same reaction from them.
Now if this is going to happen, it needs to get going soon, as after I'm out of the equation, family commitments and desires may change! TIFN

31 comments:

geewhiz said...

Twenty two (22) boats into Old Harbor!!!!! Since I rarely get to town or attempt to leave the island this figure dumfounds me. I did attempt to get a reservation off several weeks in advance for a weekend and was unable to secure a reservation for Fri. Sat. or Sun. Guess I'll sit here until the madness slows. Thanks Everett for reaching out with this abominable sprawl situation that seems unstoppable. Not a pretty picture--visually or emotionally--just think of the impact on the nature of the land and water. Guess the almighty $ is what matters to those who control our destiny here. I "ain't" anti tourism, I'm just pro-island.

Sam said...

I'm on a task force down here in Texas and one of the main thoughts we had was that the Town had no business running a marina. The liabilities were just too high. May I remind folks that a Town is not supposed to make a profit on its operations. Private enterprise should be the ones to run a marina, not a Town.

True, there are some sections of Old Harbor which have historically been "Town docks." You have title and permit to them, so why they never got fixed is beyond me, since unsafe docks means added liability.

I'd like to know how providing a marina for rich folks that have boats worth tens of thousands of dollars would serve "the public good." It (eminent domain) just sounds like a floozy argument to me - hey Everett, do have a big ole lobsterboat or something you want to park over there? I think your son has something, but that's an exception to the rule rather than the norm, and I think he has a commercial operation, not just pleasure.

There is a big difference between owning a beach and a marina. By the word "marina" I mean that you're intending to construct new retaining walls, head-wall docks, floating docks, pilings, markers, and provide security, fire, medical, and all kinds of liability coverage. It smacks of what Champlain's was proposing and yes, you will be in competition with other private marinas on the Island.

Umm, maybe a few too many Block Island Mud Slides went into this proposal?

Everett said...

I didn't realize a town was not supposed to turn a profit! Is that a State or Federal law? Or just a tradition? Anyway, if "profit" is meant to say that at the end of the year, we are not allowed to have any excess money in the till, generated from those operations, then we have no problem there! We manage to spend ourselves into the red every year of our existence. What about all the money generated in the New Harbor by the mooring permits? That entity has almost always "turned a profit"! It is the only reason the Harbors Dept is not totally without funds every year. And whatever they can't get spent is snapped up by the town mismanager and spent elsewhere other than on the infrastructure needed to keep generating that money. It pays for the patrolling of the harbors and the pump out boats etc. The Old Harbor has also been generating money by charging "docking" fees for many, many years. These "marina" fees just extend the reach of the harbor master across the inner and outer basin. I don't think the new, harbor plan for the pilings along the breakwater included docks or electricty or other amenities other than a way to get to shore without getting your feet wet.
Nope, I don't own a boat bigger than two canoes and a 12' alum. jon boat up in Fresh pond. Yes #1 son does have a commercial operation run out of two "Charter designated" spots on the south dock for which he pays too the town "x" amount of dollars per year. I don't know the number but is public record if anyone cares to look it up.
If the town and it's resident year round taxpayers don't get a grip on just what is going on, and what is going to happen eventually, then there is going to be a bigger mess in the making down there. And it will NOT be what we would all like to see. At least if the town owned the rest of the available property, hopefully, only what was in keeping with the Comp. Plan would be allowed to be built there. I can just imagine something like what was built down at crescent beach hanging out over the beach on the front street and obliterating all that you see now when approaching on a boat!
And one more thing, much as I may hate to say it, if we didn't cater too those, with big-assed million dollar boats and houses here on the Island, we may as well pack our bags and move to the hinterlands as the economy as we know it today would be gone in a heartbeat or two!

Sam said...

As to municipal funding, I have to admit I'm a complete moron! You can have sinking funds (like your money-losing marina ventures), operating funds, or excess money that goes into General Revenue, which I suppose can be spent for anything from condoms to neckties (just don't get them confused!). Please excuse my ignorance but what was intended was "line item accounting" where depending on the town charter, applicable laws, and accounting method, fees should not be set such as to create a "profit."

This would be different from having a "rainy day fund" which is promoted and desired such as for emergencies and hurricanes, which has pretty narrow funding methods (e.g., bonds, bank investments, CD's - you might be surprised how much money is on the "float"!).

Back to the "marina," don't get me wrong. Many communities have rallied to save their waterside resources, such as purchasing docks, retrofitting them, and creating beautiful downtown facilities. I was just in Camden ME and they have a really nice set-up with a dingy dock and a charter dock. The charter dock is only used to pick up and drop off customers (they have about 8 day-tripper commercial schooners and 3 excursion boats). The facility is maybe a thousand seet long and is especially impressive because the tides can go 10 feet up and down.

But they (Town of Camden) don't "rent" to people with private motorboats. It's an anchorage for them. The state and Fed "owns" the water but you pay for the service of having an anchor and mooring ball.

I'd just advise the Town to consider the liabilities of running a marina-like operation before taking the "plunge."

P.S. One I saw was establishing floating "docks" in the harbor that could accomodate two big boats. It's a really nice deal. Boats can raft for maybe an hour but after that, any more than two boats on such a raft is something like a $500 fine.

-Sam

Anonymous said...

The town should not be in any further business until it can demonstrate that it is even remotely competent.

The town beach pavilion, the old harbor docks and the restrooms are a discrase...and should make any advocate of bigger government quite apprehensive.

not-a-rich-boater said...

Speaking of the town losing/spending money, has anyone calculated the amount of lost revenue due to restricting the number of boats in Old Harbor? I wonder how many boats turned around and left (maybe never to return) when they were not allowed to raft?

Sam said...

I was wondering when somebody would ask that, Not-So-Rich. Technically, the Town doesn't own the water or the submerged land and since you're not using a dock or mooring you can do whatever you want, as long as you don't park in the ship channels. There's a reason why it's called a "harbor a refuge."

We wonder why nobody has sued. The Town doesn't have a port authority and only has a morring plan submitted to the Corps, which seems in various stages of approval. Heck, the Town even tried to "zone" the water like it owned it, which is the biggest crock I have ever heard. Basically, the Town can't control anything below the mean high water mark, and that's a fact.

If you look at the ulterior motives, the Town doesn't care a jot about people like you or me. Their sole pursuit is MONEY. One could make a case, as you hint, that all the plans are biased towards LESS boaters and less access. It's unconstitutional, my friends, and really shows that 'Block Island spirit' in a very negative way.

Just follow the money, my friends, since that tells 99% of the story.

puzzled said...

Sam,
It's comforting to know that you have such a keen analysis of the Town of New Shoreham's motives in all of this, especially considering that you don't live on the island.

Maybe we should hire you as a consultant?

Sam said...

I am sorry, Puzzled, and will back off. Gosh, it seemed like not too long ago, Mr. Willi decided to propose his own marina plans, which he quickly withdrew. If there was not a lot of money on the line, he would not have even tried. But you are right ... not my balliwick. I am more than glad to blast the crap out of my local officials down here in Texas.

The interesting thing is that half the time I end up supporting them. Sometimes folks just twist off and go nuts without being just.

If you'd like an analysis of all those ferry emissions and their impact on local air quality, why I'm your man! My rates are very low compared to the Northeast for similar engineering, about $125 per hour. New York companies run about $300.

Hey, let's see if we can have an OK summer, right? /Sam

Good Listener said...

Yup, it's good to have a plan - at least it's fodder for discussion since almost everyone has his/her own idea about how things should be done. The bottom line right now is the economy and everyone needs to open their eyes and realize that the boom is coming to a screeching halt! 22 boats a day - I was on one yesterday that had 5 cars on it! (Not that that is a bad thing...)Everyone is singing the blues (the Manisses did 40 dinners the other night - that's unheard of in the past few years)The taxis are bumping into each other and there are several unrented houses. Other than the 4th of July, the boating traffic is way down - $5.00 / gal for gas could be the tipping point. Change is in the wind - it's going to be an interesting ride.

Sam said...

Hey Good Listener the same thing is happening down here in TX on our Island. Between the price of gas and the rising cost of airline tickets, we're seeing less folks.

Notice I'm commenting abut "my" island here! Strange, they're building a new Municipal Center and found 20-30% cost over-runs since they passed the bond election two years ago ... hmm, imagine that!

Sound familiar? Maybe we could talk Everett into becoming Mayor because there's going to be a recall election over this ... hey we don't mind foreigners down here, near as bad as y'all don't like them up there. I've been teaching Everett dirty words in Spanish so he ought to fit in right good!

Pandejo Puto Sam

Everett said...

Ooooh, I think I know what the "puto",is, but the "pandejo" is beyond my ken! whasit?

Sam said...

Crazy!

Anonymous said...

Everett, as a conservative, don't you believe in small government? Why should the town be in business? At most they should develop the marina and then lease it out...and certainly not steal peoples' property to do so.

Anyways, I believe the town has a very difficult battle ahead of them if they want to build a marina. Their own arguments in the Champlin's case will be used against them. Don't forget that the individuals who use the free anchorage in OH are Rhode Islanders...who will likely fight tooth and nail. The town wants to replace them with persons from CT, NJ and NY.

Sam said...

Yeah Everett, perhaps you could address the last comment? I think he or she has a good point.

As to that land in question, with the 19 title holders, I have read from historian Mr. Downie that there is quite a story there - and maybe even some litigation. If there ever was a chip of land that could be a candidate for "common use" that's a great one (notice I did not use the word "conservancy").

My understanding is that most of that land was never there until the breakwater was constructed and it filled in. Over the years it has been a place where people walked and launched their dingies and so forth. It would be a shame to commercialize that proprty, even with a boardwalk or "marina" access.

To me it serves the community much better in a wild state. /Sam

Everett said...

To Anonymous and Sam, No I don't think the town should be running ANY business! As of right now they have shown absolutely no apptitude for doing that, and yes if they did decide to let a marina be built, it should be put in by , and run by a private concern but where the the town maintains ownership of the land and what ever riparian rights we are entitled too! Plus they would pay to the town big bucks for that use. Whew! All the "land" where the parking lot is now, is ALL filled land. The original beach inside the two large breakwater, came right up to the bottom of the hill in front of the National and ran unbroken right over too where Finns sits now. There were fish markets and another big assed building where Phillipi's bike and scooter rental is now.
No, we wouldn't be "stealing" the land from anyone if the town took it all back as it was "given" to the Wronoski's back in the very early 60's I believe. There was NOTHING going on out here then abd it was an unthoughtful gift in hopes that the W's could help revive the tourist industry out here which it has done to a fare-thee-well! Bulkheads were pounded into the harbor and all the sand was then dredged and pumped up behind the bulkheads to form the present parking land. "Indian Givers" maybe but not thieves! SO there!

Anonymous said...

Check your facts Everett. At one point a Ball used to own the property and then it was SOLD to the Wronowskis. No one gave the land to them...it was purchased with the same type of warranty deed your house probably was.

Sam said...

My understanding is that to create fast land on wetlands or submerged lands you have to have a Corps of Engineer permit, and then have the land platted and titled by the CRMC. This is fairly straightforward because the land is bulkheaded and listed with defined "metes and bounds" that do not change, such as by erosion or accretion.

Now the Town may have "given" the submerged lands if they thought they owned it, or at least the riparian rights. Of course, anything could have happened back in the good ole boy days!

So much for BS-ing from 1,600 miles away ... but one thing that would be cool is if the Ferry Terminal area got some sprucing up, like with some grants and Town money for planters and benches and stuff like that. At some ferry terminals in Maine they have flowers, benches, a designated smoking area, a designated dog crap area with a real fire plug ... hey, how about a nice heated place to sit in the winter or cool off in the summer, with lots of rest rooms? A porch in case it rained?

NAAAAWWWWWW ...

and so it goes said...

This has nothing to do with old harbor:however,it does say something about our town and our priorities. Case in point; THE KILLER GARDEN at lilac cottage on the westside! How dare someone create a beautiful garden which is a hazard to tourists/walkers!!!!!! Nowhere else on the island are we forced onto the road to be crushed by cars.(check this out --a short ride will reveal real obstacles that are not esthetically pleasing) Having walked that stretch of road many times I find that I have to cross over to this house for safe passage as the guard rail on the other side allows no room for me and my pals or dogs. At least two people can safely walk,side by side, by that beautiful spot. Having read in the BIT last spring that the last item on the tourism council's list of priorities was "tourist saefty"(check me on this) I am not amused by the state, the owner of the Tea House or the tourism council. If tourists can and do repair their bikes, chat, walk in the middle of the driving lanes creating hazards for everyone else then I cannot understand why this woman whom I personally have never met should be TORTURED for providing an oasis of beauty. I shall contact her to lend any support that she may need. I needed to vent. Thank you.

Sam said...

Hey c'mon, Everett, a nice sidewinder message like that can't be ignored. I must confess I haven't been out on that stretch of road in a while ... but man-eating gardens sounds like a fun summer reading. Giant venus fly-traps? Yikes!

I can just see the signs ... duck crossing ... turtle crossing ... Extreme Garden Ahead, Proceed with Caution! :)

Thanks for the message, so-it-goes.

attack of the killer tomatoes said...

Sam..you have a way with words! I too believe this murderous,attack- patch of verdant colorful eye-candy bears a comment from our exhaulted leader;unless the state and the feds know something that links said parcel to a national security issue. If that be the case then let's have the whole island asphalted over in order to provide escape routes for those who fly up and down our dirt roads on mopeds, unregistered golf type carts, walk 5 across in our roads(backs to traffic), talk on cells while peddling--and if we have the audacity to suggest safty issues in their behaviors, go on to note their IQs using their finger(s)! This issue does merit its own blog forum. "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts" of our exhasulted leaders. Thanks Sam! The little people(think pecking order) (think "Animal Farm") need back-up now and then. Do not know the "perp" but I shall call to support her also!

Sam said...

I appreciate the nice words - usually my mouth gets me in the compost pile! Just remember, roses bloom from thorny old bushes.

Something just isn't right, though. Lots of people maintain nice stuff in the right-of-way and nobody bothers unless it is a real hazard. There's always the prospect that if major construction like for drainage is needed, they can make a big mess in the right-of-way, but we all understand that.

But to pick on a nice person for having a beautiful garden seems ... oh, you know what I mean. SAVE THE POISON IVY AND PLOW DOWN ALL THE ROADSIDE GARDENS. /sam

Everett said...

If you want to pick out the MOST DANGEROUS spot on the Island, to walkers that is, it is located right outside and in front of the town hall!! People still continue to walk on the wrong side of the road with not a care in their head. I'm refering to that stone wall that is tight up against the road surface. If some one is walking toward town and I come upon them from behind just a a big assed truck is coming the other way, and we all were to meet at the same time, well the walker is going to be ground into hamburger along that wall as i don't think I would want to take on the truck in a head on collision! If the walkers would face in the right direction, they MIGHT have enough time to jump up on the wall. Although I haven't seen too many 60 and 70 year olds agile enough to do that trick. Check it out next time you go by that way gentle readers and try to figure out who you would rather come into contact with in that scenario!

talk about hazards said...

There is another spot on Old town Rd. that is dangerous. That is right at the corner of Old Town Rd. and Connecitcut Ave. The hedge has grown to over 7' high since the Stinsons owned that house and you can't see walkers or traffic coming around the corner.I am surprised that the town hasn't done something about that hazard.

mom said "always walk..." said...

.....facing oncoming traffic." Believe it or not the stretch from Champlins to Smugs is one of the worst stretches when traveling west. There is a wide path of grass on which to plant one's feet;however, folks seem to prefer walking 4-5 abreast in the road and- BELIEVE IT OR NOT -do not move out of the road when cars approach! I've seen many,many walkers, backs to traffic, hold their positions in the road. Guess you cannot get hurt while on vacation according to some rulebook I have yet to read. I could go on and on about locations where strollers are either forced to cross the road or snug up to an obstacle in order in order to preserve life and/or limb. Me thinks something is rotten on the isle of B. I. Why is this woman being singled out? I think I shall take an island "spin" with camera in hand (hope I have enough film and patience) to compile a directory of "death spots". Of course we should probably post signs every 20 feet to remind walkers that the roads are for vehicles as so few seem to realize that fact. Perhaps they think that we are populated by "happy-go-lucky" islanders who have nothing else to do but insure their safety during their stays. aaaarrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh!

Anonymous said...

the most dangerous spot on the island is the town dock in Old Harbor.

Sam said...

So, can we "save the Lilac house garden?" It sound like there are quite a few more serious traffic hazards that DO require immediate attention.

Then as to the Town Docks, aren't there already like 15 bazillion plans and we just need to fix things up a little every year, using some common sense? I suppose if you Block Islanders wanted you could do a million or two note at a discounted rate like 4.10% (wow, we just got one like that in South Padre).

But hey, lets not forget the Lilac matters, OK?

Anonymous said...

The Town dock is a joke. The town is a joke. Everything they do turns to shit except the roads.

That is what happens when there is no accountability. If we as voters do not hold our elected officials accountable, why the hell will they hold people who work in town government accountable?

Everett said...

The answer above says it ALL! There IS NO ACCOUNTABILITY by virtually anyone in this towns govt.!!! Sewer and water excepted. It is to damn hot to say more right now. Maybe later, but for sure, don't let the flower garden lady slide in to anononimity(sp)!!

Robert Frost did not mean.... said...

"tear them down" when he wrote "something there is that doesn't love a wall". He refered to those natural elements---wind, rain, ground heaves after a freeze. But he did say "good fences make good neighbors"--refering to defining property lines by rebuilding those walls together. Where the heck are the GOOD NEIGHBORS? Sorry that you are going through this Rita(will introduce myself as we have never met but have waved on occasion). There are real issuses that the town should address that have far more bearing on public safety issues than the greenery at Lilac Cottage. Can not wait for election day although the kiss of death for candidates seems to be my thinking them worthy and voting for them.

Sam said...

Golly folks, if I was in New Shoreham government anywhere I'd be running for cover like a cockroach! Do other Island folks read this blog?

Now when I say "government" you know there are elected officials and the Town Manager is (or should be) evaluated each year by the board or wardens or whatever you call it. So let's not get down on accountability of individual salaried and hourly staff until you can figure out what is going on at the top.

And remember, the Wardens set the budget every year, right? That means "x" amount of money is available for each department. Don't blame the workers for not having any resources.

Gosh, you have elections, recalls, referendums, and all kinds of things if you really are all that mad. My kaleidoscope sees some changes for BLock Island but not being there, you really need to put down your foot and say what you want. Keep it simple and put it on a bumper sticker!

If you don't, well, it is business as usual. Just my take,
Sammy