Supreme Court Blocks Marina Expansion Agreement
March 27, 2021
Earlier this month Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Neronha asked the state Supreme Court to reject the agreement to expand Champlin’s Marina & Resort on Block Island.
The court responded March 26, rejecting, in an unsigned order, the proposed settlement to the controversial expansion that had been reached by the marina and the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC). The agreement was brokered by retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Frank J. Williams last December during an executive session of the CRMC board. CRMC has declined to comment on the action, and there is no public record of what occurred during the closed-door deliberations.
The surprise mediated settlement granted approval to build 170 feet into Great Salt Pond — a sensitive tidal lagoon under pressure from summer boaters in need of dock space in the crowded 800-acre body of water. The 1.5-acre expansion also called for extending the fuel dock 85 feet to a length of 314 feet, building a parallel 314-foot-long dock that would connect to the fuel dock with a 156-foot-long dock, and creating additional space for parking.
Neronha said he was pleased with the court’s decision “to refuse to ratify and enter as an order of the Court an agreement resulting from a private mediation outside the view and without the participation of concerned stakeholders who had long been parties to the underlying litigation.”
“My Office intervened because the process utilized here by the CRMC and Champlain’s was non-transparent, excluded these important additional stakeholders, and resulted in an agreement that failed to contain the environmental findings necessary to protect one of Rhode Island’s great natural resources — Block Island’s Great Salt Pond,” he wrote in a press release soon after the court’s decision.
In asking the Supreme Court to reject the agreement, Neronha accused CRMC of abandoning the environmental protections it set a decade ago when it denied the marina’s expansion.
The legal fight between CRMC, Champlin’s Marina, the town of New Shoreham, and environmental groups began in 2003, when a proposal to nearly double the marina’s size was announced. CRMC denied the application in 2006. Champlin’s appealed to Superior Court, where the decision was reversed. Opponents appealed to Supreme Court, which asked Superior Court and CRMC to review the decision. In 2013, CRMC denied the expansion again. Champlin’s appealed. Last February the Supreme Court upheld CRMC’s decision.
Dyana Koelsch, spokesperson for Champlin’s attorney, Robert Goldberg, noted that while the court declined to issue the consent order, “saying the Supreme Court was not the appropriate place for the requested action,” it’s important to note the court didn’t dispute the legitimacy of the settlement.
“This case has been languishing in litigation for 17 years, and Champlin’s along with CRMC are committed to finally settling it,” Koelsch wrote in a press release. “The mediated settlement involves significant concessions from Champlin’s that resulted in an expansion plan that is one third of what was originally proposed.”
The marina was sold Dec. 23, 2020, less than a week before the mediation agreement was signed. Champlin’s Realty Associates Limited Partnership’s general partner, Champlin’s Realty Associates, Inc., sold the marina and adjacent properties for $25 million to Great Salt Pond Marina Property LLC, a unit of Cranston-based Procaccianti Companies.
The new owner of the marina has said the previous owner, Joseph Grillo, is representing himself in the litigation. The Procaccianti Companies operates the marina as a new subsidiary, TPG Marinas.
The March 26 decision means Champlin’s appeal will likely be heard by the full court in the coming months.
Imagine that, a former Supreme Court Justice colluding to overturn the mission of CMRC to protect an eco-sensitive body of water, that is already overused and abused. And to do it in secret without public or federal representation. I would have every case that judge sat on reviewed for impropriety. Show me the money.