WARWICK — The question of whether a 2.5-mile stretch of beach along Atlantic Avenue in Westerly should be open to the public will remain unanswered until the matter is heard during a Superior Court trial.
Rhode Island Superior Court Associate Justice Brian Stern declined this morning to make a ruling in the case, saying instead that a trial was necessary. Lawyers for the Rhode Island Office of the Attorney General, which filed the original lawsuit seeking declaration of the area as public, and lawyers for the 26 individuals and two companies that own the property in question, had asked the judge to issue a summary judgment in their respective favor, arguing that a trial was not necessary. Stern, who read his decision in Kent County Superior Court, disagreed, saying lawyers for both sides had raised questions that could only be settled by the analysis of additional evidence during a trial.
The state claims the original five owners of the land, roughly from Misquamicut State Beach to the Weekapaug Breachway, intended the entire beach area to be open to the public when they joined together in 1909 to subdivide and market the area as the Pleasant View Beach. The current property owners claim the original owners never intended for the beach area to be public and never designated it as such on maps of the area. The only public beach area, the property owners argue, is the one accepted to be public throughout the state — the area from the mean high tide mark to the water. Lawyers for the state claim a map of the area, which depicts how the original property owners divided the area into building lots, clearly shows the original owners intended the entire beach area to be open to the public.
A trial date was not set as of this morning.