Champlin’s Marina hearings continue before CRMCChamplin’s presses why Payne’s Dock was approved
An attorney for Champlin’s Marina argued before the Coastal Management Resources Council on Tuesday that “people were tripping over themselves to approve” Payne’s expansion yet Champlin’s application was “out-of-hand rejected.”
This was the crux of the argument made by Robert Goldberg, a lawyer for Champlin’s, as the hearings on the project continued.
The CMRC hearings will determine if there were disparities in the way the Town Council ruled on expansion applications for the marina and Payne’s Dock. Champlin’s contends it received unfair treatment when the council did not approve a 4-acre expansion on Great Salt Pond in May of 2011, while Payne’s half-acre expansion plan was later approved. Testimony continued Tuesday, Feb. 26.
Champlin’s is seeking space for an additional 140 boats and more than 29,000 feet of fixed pier. The council’s decision was appealed to Superior Court, where Judge Kristen Rodgers ordered that hearings be held on whether the CRMC acted unfairly by approving the smaller expansion for Payne’s Dock three months later.
Testimony picked up where the Feb. 12 hearing left off, with CRMC supervising civil engineer Kenneth Anderson discussing his decision-making process about how the boat mooring field in Great Salt Pond would be affected by the marina expansion. Prior testimony by New Shoreham Harbormaster Stephen Land and Anderson noted that 20 to 40 boat moorings in an area called Mooring Field-E would be eliminated if Champlin’s expansion was approved.
Attorney Goldberg asked Anderson to examine several aerial photographs of Champlin’s Marina. “Where are the 20 to 40 [moorings] that would have to be removed?” he asked.
Anderson said that all of the moorings are not in place and that the number was an estimate. “Some of those were virtual or potential moorings that the town would have had a right to in Mooring Field-E,” he said.
Goldberg also asked Anderson about prior testimony regarding the size of boats at Payne’s Dock. Anderson testified that Payne’s application stated that the largest vessels using their facilities would be between 50 feet and 55 feet long. Goldberg said that he was unable to find any such notation of boat length in Payne’s application.
Anderson explained that the boat size was determined by a graphic with the application and that he couldn’t recall if it was written anywhere in the application.
Goldberg noted that the application was made five years prior to a hearing on the Payne’s expansion and that no one at CRMC asked for updated information on boat length. “Nobody at the hearing asked what the maximum boat length was?” Goldberg asked.
Paul E. Lemont, CRMC’s vice chair, who is leading the hearings because Chair Anne Maxwell Livingston recently recused herself after being asked by Goldberg to step down, told Goldberg that Anderson would not be asked such questions during a hearing.
“Size is what is used to determine capacity correct?” Goldberg asked Anderson.
“That’s a matter to be argued before the council,” Anderson said. “It’s not the duty of the staff to incorporate that.”
Goldberg also asked Anderson why he stated that Champlin’s expansion was an “inefficient marina design” and if the number of boats at the marina played a role in his conclusion. Anderson explained it was one of many factors and said that boat capacity was determined through aerial photographs of the marinas.
Goldberg also asked if Anderson had a personal relationship with the owners of Payne’s Dock and if that played any factor in his decision. Anderson said that he has known the owners for 25 years.
“Perhaps that’s why all these regulations were overlooked?” Goldberg asked, after lawyers representing the town objected to his line of questioning.
Goldberg also asked about CRMC requirements for public access, parking and pump-out stations at each of the marinas and asked why the requirements were different for each application. Anderson said that Payne’s expansion was much smaller and therefore its impact on the Great Salt Pond much less. “[Champlin’s] expansion was excessive and inefficient and causing impact,” Anderson said.
Under re-direct questioning from Daniel Prentiss, counsel for New Shoreham and the Committee for the Great Salt Pond, Anderson was asked if Champlin’s application had an “excessive impact on public uses” of the waterway.
“Most definitely,” Anderson said.
Councilor Tony Affigne asked Anderson if he believed that in any way the two applications were decided with bias or different standards.
“As I testified, staff applied the same process, the same analysis … to both applications,” Anderson said.
Two Block Island residents who are also members of the Committee for the Great Salt Pond, were called by town counsel to testify during Tuesday’s hearing. Henry G. duPont provided the council with four aerial photographs of Great Salt Pond taken on July 4, 2011. The photographs were taken by summer resident Eric Elwell from an airplane that duPont piloted.
A Block Island resident for 35 years, duPont testified that the photographs showed boat traffic on Great Salt Pond during one of the busiest days of the summer season.
“I observed that Payne’s Dock has less boats in the fairway,” duPont said about the channel area in the pond. “Most dockage and the fuel pumps are along the side of the marina. Champlin’s, on the other hand, has a large head at the dock and more boats are under way there in the fairway.”
He noted that the photographs were taken when there was a westerly wind blowing, which he said results in fewer moored boats being pushed into or near the fairway. But Goldberg objected to such testimony, noting that duPont was not an expert on the wind or its effect on moored boats.
One photograph showed how the Montauk ferry was coming out of a dock and that a boat was waiting off the dock for fuel or service, duPont said.
“Let’s be clear — this is what you call congestion?” Goldberg asked as he pointed the area in the photograph out to the council.
“Yes,” duPont replied. “I would not sail in front of Champlin’s to get out of the harbor because more often than not boats are waiting and sitting off dock. It’s not as safe a place to sail.”
Resident Sven Risom, who serves as president of the Committee for the Great Salt Pond, also testified that “there is significant boat congestion” around the marinas and in the recreation areas. He said that boat traffic at Payne’s Dock and Champlin’s Marina is “very different.” At Payne’s the traffic is along the east side of the dock where the fuel pumps are, while at Champlin’s the traffic is at the head of the dock, he added.
“We rarely sail over by Champlin’s,” Risom said. “We go over to get fuel, but many times three or four boats are waiting.”
Goldberg asked both residents about the mission of the Committee for the Great Salt Pond and asked how much they had spent in opposing Champlin’s expansion. Town lawyers objected to his questioning and the council ruled that such information was not relevant.
Goldberg noted that at one time the committee opposed Payne’s expansion but later did not fight against it. Risom explained that the environmental group seeks a voice in any proposals that would affect the pond.
“We do decide on which cases [to pursue],” Risom said. “We pushed forward, got answers and made decisions.”
CRMC Executive Director Grover J. Fugate also testified Tuesday about department policies and said that he believes that standards were applied fairly to both proposals. He said that because both projects were of different scale, requirements were different for each expansion application.
“[Payne’s] was minor…they don’t need to meet provisions a full expansion would need to,” Fugate said.
Goldberg raised questions about a CRMC staff proposal to allow expansion at Champlin’s, a plan that the council did not approve, and asked why there were different requirements for each marina for distance from the dock to the mooring field. Payne’s expansion was approved with 200 feet between the dock and mooring field and later the council mandated that all marinas have 300 feet of distance between the dock and mooring field.
“The mooring field was never officially configured by the council and we did not have a regulation change,’ Fugate said.
Goldberg also asked about why boat size is not addressed by the CRMC.
“We have a gap in the regulations that does not address that issue,” Fugate said.
After four hours of testimony, Lemont decided to continue the hearing to March 12 at 6 p.m. Goldberg said that testimony will be given from one rebuttal witness. The hearing will be held at the R.I. Department of Administration, 1 Capitol Hill, Providence.