The Block Island Times

Council moves to limit private homes hosting weddings

By Stephanie Turaj | Feb 20, 2014

The Town Council discussed amending two town ordinances at its Wednesday, Feb. 12, work session.

First, councilors discussed special event licenses. This issue came up at previous meetings after some island residents complained their neighbors were renting private residential homes for weddings and other functions.

The council discussed amending the town ordinance to fine homeowners who host a party of more than 75 people without receiving a special event license from the town. The council hopes requiring and enforcing these special event licenses will limit those having private wedding businesses.

"I don't think it's right to have homes in the residential zone setting up as commercial businesses," said Town Councilor Norris Pike.

The council discussed various ways to enforce this ordinance. Town Solicitor Katherine Merolla will draft changes to the ordinance, and the council will then hold a public hearing on the proposed changes.

"The problem is, how do you differentiate between someone having a wedding on their property and somebody running a business of weddings and the effects it has on neighborhoods," said First Warden Kim Gaffett.

Also at the meeting, the council discussed how to enforce island businesses displaying banners and "illegal" signs that are installed without the approval of the Historic District Commission (HDC).

Town Manager Nancy Dodge explained the current ordinance requires the Town Building Official, who is responsible for enforcing signage, to send out multiple notices of violation, which slows down the enforcement process. Dodge proposed changes that would allow a ticket to be issued immediately.

Merolla will also draft changes to this ordinance, and the council will hold a public hearing on the changes.

The council finished its meeting in closed session to discuss two issues related to litigation: Waste Haulers BI vs. Block Island Recycling Management and Champlin's Realty Associates vs. Paul El Lemont, et al.

One motion was made in closed session regarding the Champlin's case. Town Manager Nancy Dodge explained that the town was previously appealing a decision by the Coastal Marine Resources Management Council (CRMC) that would require a 300-foot buffer around all marinas in the Great Salt Pond. However, the council voted at the Wednesday meeting to withdraw this appeal, said Dodge.

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