WESTERLY — Controversy connected to moorings in the Watch Hill Cove Breakwater West area, which had quieted down over the summer, boiled up again Monday when the owners of four of the moorings addressed the Town Council.
The moorings were cited for removal in late May, but town officials relented and agreed to let the moorings stay for the 2019 boating season. On Monday, four of the mooring owners asked to be allowed to continue to use their moorings or for the ability to share two of the moorings in the area, which town officials have identified as an area for transient anchorage.
About five other moorings in the same general area are being allowed to stay until their current owners no longer need them, after which those moorings will also be used for the transient anchorage area.
Annette Headley, one of the mooring owners, said allowing the additional moorings would open up space in the adjacent established anchorage area since many of the boats that used the moorings that are set to expire are large boats. She also questioned how town officials decided which moorings in the Breakwater West area could stay and which had to be removed after the 2019 boating season.
“None have any more right to be there than any other,” Headley said.
Headley also noted that the decisions on the Breakwater West followed private meetings between town officials and only some of the mooring-holders. Headley and the three other mooring-holders who attended the Town Council’s meeting Monday were not involved in the private meetings with Town Manager J. Mark Rooney, Police Chief Shawn Lacey, who also serves as harbor master, and others.
Tom Krivickas, like Headley, said he placed his mooring in the Breakwater West area in the spring of 2016. Krivickas said he put his mooring in after being informed by the municipal Building Department that the town lacked a process for permitting moorings.
“I was never informed I couldn’t nor shouldn’t,” Krivickas said.
Town officials have used 2015, when a draft version of the Harbor Management Plan was submitted to the Town Council, as the cutoff date for moorings. Any moorings put in after that were subject to removal, but Headley and Krivickas argued that their moorings should be given equal consideration since they were established before the current version of the plan was adopted by the council last year.
Councilor William Aiello said that while most of the Town Council’s work on the harbor plan was very public, the Breakwater West area should have been discussed by the council during a public meeting rather than meetings between town staff and some of the mooring-holders.
The Town Council plans to return to the plan on Oct. 28 and could vote to approve a final version for submission to the state Coastal Resources Management Council at that time. Aiello said he would vote against approval of the plan if the council did not schedule an additional workshop to perform a more detailed review.
Councilor Sharon Ahern said the council intentionally gave Lacey, the harbor master, the authority to manage the plan and make decisions such as the ones regarding the Breakwater West area.
On Monday, Rooney reiterated points he made in June when the Breakwater West controversy first erupted. He said the area does not meet the Harbor Management Plan’s standard intent for mooring fields because it is used as a place for temporary visits rather than a permanent place for boat owners to secure their boats.