A resolution asking the Rhode Island Attorney General to look into “irregularities” with Copar, Westerly Granite and the Town of Westerly is a rather bold move by the Charlestown Town Council.
But we can’t say that we blame them.
It seems Charlestown officials have as much patience with the pace of what is happening as the people in Westerly affected by the dust, traffic and noise.
But to sit on one side of the fence and make comments about your neighbor is not, perhaps, a neighborly thing to do.
Westerly officials have vigorously opposed the Charlestown resolution. They consider the request to the attorney general without basis in fact, and without accurate information.
“We find such statements outrageous and reckless,” Acting Town Manager Michelle Buck wrote.
We are not sure Charlestown’s statements reach the stature of reckless. Perhaps this situation needs a set of fresh eyes to take a look and perhaps move things along. The problem is, we don’t think that will happen. A representative from the Department of Environmental Management recently attended a hearing and had little to say because, as he noted, it is a town issue. None of the alleged violations fall under his purview.
The attorney general might take a similar view.
The DEM issued a notice of violation to the company on Aug. 21, after an inspector determined that dust had traveled beyond the quarry’s property line and that measures to control it had been inadequate. The notice carries a $1,500 fine. The finding was based on observations that were made in May.
Charlestown Town Council President Thomas Gentz is charging that the Westerly Zoning Board of Review has repeatedly failed to act on Copar and Westerly Granite Co. appeals of the town of Westerly’s cease-and-desist orders. The latest postponement, approved last week, could push consideration of the cases to the end of October. The first cease-and-desist order was issued in August 2012, but Copar has continued operations while the citations are under appeal.
We do have to concur with Gentz’s incredulity that hearings were postponed due to summer vacations. It seems at some point that town of Westerly business needs to take priority, even if it means appointing new members.
Charlestown’s frustration with the matter comes from the fact that the quarries are located in Westerly, but its nearby residents are being adversely affected. That leaves Charlestown frustrated and without a voice, and it seems they believe the only way they are going to be heard is to ask the attorney general to intercede.
In the meantime, the hearings will drag on and officials from both towns will be trading comments, just like feuding neighbors yelling at each other over the fence. We can only hope it doesn’t deter from the real issue at hand — a resolution in this case.
Charlestown residents have said the resolution and a recently enacted moratorium on future quarry operations in their town is a promising start.
But if confrontation, instead of diplomacy, is your idea of a good start, there is not much room left for cooperation. And we doubt the resolution will accomplish what they hoped ... a hasty end to a saga that has dragged on far longer than it should have.