Public Health & Recreation

CRMC Fines Ballard’s on Block Island for Illegal Construction


NEW SHOREHAM, R.I. — Ballard’s Beach Resort found itself in hot water again earlier this year when the state’s coastal regulator cited it for building “unauthorized” structures on the beach.

In a notice of violation (NOV) dated Sept. 27 sent to Ballard’s owner Steven Filippi, the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) said the popular seaside resort had illegally built tiki bars, canopies, a stage and pergola, and a fence on the nearby beach. The agency gave Ballard’s until Nov. 9 to remove all of the structures cited.

“Failure to comply with this order shall be a violation of a duly adopted Council regulation, and shall be followed by the issuance of a Cease and Desist Order which shall be registered in the land evidence records for the above property,” wrote CRMC acting deputy director Laura Miguel.

A prior agency inspection in June found no violations at Ballard’s.

For the resort, the citation will be minimal. Ballard’s closed for the summer season Sept. 25, two days before the NOV was mailed. The Block Island Times reported later that week the outdoor stage had already been dismantled, and trenches had been dug between the tiki bars, revealing underground pipes and conduits for the bars.

The CRMC citation capped off a summer of controversy for Ballard’s. The Block Island resort came under local and statewide scrutiny when thousands of people attended a reggae music festival held at the venue on Victory Day weekend, overwhelming security at the venue, according to State Police. The reggae festival saw several fights, one of which spilled onto the outgoing Block Island Ferry later that evening.

The New Shoreham licensing board temporarily suspended Ballard’s entertainment license for two weeks, a move that was overturned Aug. 26 by Rhode Island Supreme Court. The resort regained its license by mid-September.

This year’s citation was not Ballard’s first brush with the state’s coastal regulator. A CRMC enforcement summary dated May 18 of this year shows the resort has been cited by the agency four times over the past 16 years.

Three of those citations are from 2006, when the agency found Ballard’s was not conforming with the terms of its CRMC assent. Agency enforcement slapped the resort with a $2,500 administrative fine for every violation. Those citations were resolved via a consent agreement the following year.

A fourth citation from CRMC was issued to Ballard’s in October 2016, after the coastal agency had received a complaint that the vessels being berthed in the resort’s marina exceeded the terms of the assent.

Ballard’s has also found itself the center of several written complaints from an abutting neighbor, the Interstate Navigation Co., more commonly known as the Block Island Ferry. Attorneys for Interstate Navigation have submitted written complaints and photographs arguing that the number of vessels berthed in Ballard’s slips exceeds the amount they are legally allowed by CRMC, and asked the agency to take action.

“These actions interfere with and restrict my clients’ ferry service. Ballard’s complete indifference to my clients’ vested rights to the Old Harbor area, which also extend to all individuals, ferry passengers and entities who use the Old Harbor, has created a nuisance and safety concerns,” wrote Matthew Oliverio, attorney for Interstate Navigation, in a complaint dated Sept. 13, 2009.

Earlier this year, the owner of Ballard’s appeared before CRMC, petitioning the council for a dredging permit for its marina. Agency staff told council members they overall approved of the application if it came with strict stipulations regarding the execution of the final work plan.

Staff also noted CRMC received complaints from the town of New Shoreham and Interstate Navigation regarding the operation and number of boats in Ballard’s marina, with Interstate Navigation asking the council to deny the dredging permit until such time as the alleged violations are resolved.

“There is no current CRMC enforcement action currently against [Ballard’s marina], therefore the council may proceed with the dredging application,” wrote marine infrastructure coordinator Dan Goulet.

New Shoreham harbormaster Kathleen McConville originally sent CRMC an objecting letter over the dredging project in January 2021, noting Ballard’s repeated violations every season by exceeding its vessel count or berthed vessels exceeding their maximum length.

“As you know, Old Harbor is a small harbor with a lot of activity, Ballard’s repeated violations of the Assent create navigational hazards and threaten the safety of vessels in Old Harbor,” McConville wrote.

McConville walked back her objection in May, noting that in her two years as harbormaster she had not received any complaints about Ballard’s, and wanted to make sure they were compliant moving forward.

“My predecessor told me there had been many complaints from Interstate Navigation regarding Ballard’s Marina not being compliant with their assent. Going on his word, I wrote that letter,” McConville wrote.

Ballard’s received its dredging permit from the CRMC by unanimous vote. A spokesperson for the resort declined to comment for this article.

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  1. The blatant disregard of laws by Ballards is astounding. What? Laws don’t apply to the rich and the well-connected? Enough. Keep them under surveillance and also any governing body whose regulations they must follow.

    Let’s see if McKee and the legislature restores funding for the full CRMC regulatory staff. Reform cannot come soon enough for the CRMC Council and its lax administration.

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