The Block Island Times

Champlin's case for expansion gets a new lease on life

CRMC hearings next month
By Pippa Jack | Oct 14, 2012

It’s been nine years since Champlin’s Marina first applied to the state Coastal Resources Management Council to expand its acreage in Block Island’s Great Salt Pond, and although the marina has yet to win a solid victory, its ambitions are not dead.

Another island marina, Payne’s Dock, was given permission for a 80-foot, third-of-an-acre expansion in June 2011, in an application that was first made in 2005 and put on hold while the original Champlin’s application, which asked for 4 acres in 2003, played out. Champlin’s was denied, and the marina, which is owned by Joseph Grillo and is the largest on Block Island, then argued that it had unfairly been treated differently from Payne’s. The case has pingponged back and forth between the state agency and the courts this year, and in the latest development, Superior Court Judge Kristen Rogers ruled that the case will go back before CRMC — and, this time, Champlin’s will be able to introduce new evidence that wasn’t considered during the Payne’s application and approval process.

“I was pleased with the judge’s order, but it’s unfortunate that we had to go to her again and ask her to issue such an order,” said Champlin’s attorney Robert Goldberg. “Certainly we’re going to set forth for the council the identical nature of the two applications and the arbitrary and capricious end result for Champlin’s.”

Goldberg said the marina would be happy with a compromise expansion, like the roughly 2-acre one that a CRMC subcommittee suggested but that was later voted down by the full council. “Champlin’s has indicated to coastal they’re willing to sit down and reach an amicable conclusion,” he said.

The conservation groups that, along with the Town of New Shoreham, have opposed Champlin’s expansion, see the latest move as a step back for their cause. Hearings will likely now stretch through the fall, demanding more time, and money, from both sides.

“We did not believe that the judge’s order remanding the case to the CRMC permitted that kind of open-ended hearing,” said attorney Daniel Prentiss, who has argued against the expansion for the town and the Committee for the Great Salt Pond, in an email to the Times.

Champlin’s argues that it was held to stricter standards than Payne’s, including a requirement for 300 feet between the marina and an existing mooring field. In contrast, Payne’s was allowed to come within 120 feet, and CRMC cut into a mooring field for the smaller marina, Goldberg says.

Opposition will focus on the idea “that the marinas are very different,” said Prentiss. “We will present evidence of the differences in the navigation/traffic, competing uses, proximity to mooring fields, and impacts on biological resources between the two marinas, showing that there are valid and persuasive reasons why the one application should have been rejected, and the other approved as modified.”

The first CRMC hearing will probably occur in mid November, said CRMC spokesperson Laura Dwyer. Prentiss says he expects there to be, at the least, a second hearing at which opponents can present evidence. After a CRMC vote, “the whole case will go back to the Superior Court for additional briefing and decision on the pending appeal,” said Prentiss.


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