What a week for local news. From excavators on the beach at Taylor Swift’s house in Watch Hill to the impending dissolution of the Bradford fire district and, in the made for TV category, yet another bizarre twist in the continuing saga of the neighbors vs. Copar Quarries.
Imagine how their imaginations ran wild when winter beach strollers and diehard surfers came upon an excavator and other heavy equipment on the East Beach side of our superstar resident’s home last week. Workers were moving boulders around at the base of the steep embankment that faces Block Island sound below the grand white mansion that sits on a promontory over our beloved East Beach.
One local man took to Facebook with a most unpleasant and unneighborly two letter phrase for our young phenom and further suggested that she leave our community. He railed that she had no right to mess with “our beach.” Another Westerly ex-pat who follows his hometown news from afar on our site contacted the publisher, demanding to know why nothing bad been written about this affront to our environment. He wanted to be sure that whatever was being done was at least being done with the blessings of the proper authorities.
We jumped on the story and leaned that Swift, a legal, taxpaying resident of Westerly, was having some repairs made to the seawall between East Beach and her property. State bureaucrats told us they had visited the site and blessed the work. All the equipment was on her property; no plans for a helipad or beachfront recording studio slipped in under the regulatory radar. Mystery solved, though with a rather boring answer.
It’s been far from boring in the Bradford end of town, where taxpayers have been battling for nearly three years about whether they can afford to have their own fire department. They are well on their way toward joining with the Dunn’s Corners department, but it’s taken many meetings and just about all of them have been heated. That includes Thursday night’s meeting when one man was escorted out by police.
It doesn’t get much more sensitive than the local fire department when it comes to small town identities and especially when it comes to sections of towns, where the identity is linked only to the fire department by way of the fire district. Bradford taxpayers were between a rock and a hard place, coping with the highest fire district tax rate in town and the worst fire facility in town. With virtually no tax base other than residential, and significant opposition to funding a new fire station there weren’t many alternatives but to consolidate with another company. With the deal between the two fire districts well on the way to being sealed, the 65 year history of the Bradford Fire Department appears to be drawing to a close.
Quite the contrary with the Copar Quarries battle with the neighbors.
Comments by members of the Westerly Zoning Board of Appeals that were made as a contentious meeting drew to a close without a formal adjournment were caught on tape and they indicated that some decisions had been made. The company immediately filed a complaint in court, claiming the board was prejudging the company’s appeal of two cease and desist orders before completing the hearing process. A judge stopped the proceedings and the Town Council has asked the court to take over the case. It seems the neighbors will be dealing with dynamite blasts, quarry dust, well water problems and heavy truck traffic for some time to come.
David Tranchida is the editor of The Westerly Sun.