In his letter titled “Charlestown closer to fulfilling a dream” (The Westerly Sun, Jan. 19, 2019) Mr. Bill Wilson doesn’t explain whose dream he’s writing about regarding a “state-funded” bike path.”
As a lifelong resident of Charlestown with more then 40 years’ involvement in politics and local government I cannot recall anyone ever disclosing “dreaming” about a bike path in town.
The only group that I know of which is supporting a bike path is the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA) through its spokesperson Ms. Faith LaBossiere.
After the taxpayers approved a $1 million taxpayer initiative petition to fund improvements at Ninigret Park outlined in the town’s master plan, which the town paid $50,000 for, the then-CCA controlled town council pirated $340,000 to build a bike path inside the park. They did that even though another bike track at the park was not included in the Ninigret Park Master Plan. That money was spent over the objection of the taxpayers who supported the $1 million petition. One of the reason was because the Criterion bicycle track already existed in Ninigret Park. Now the CCA bike path just sits there without any significant activity that was supposed to support its intended use.
Adding insult to injury, last year the town council, without taxpayer approval at the Financial Town Referendum, expended approximately $27,500.00 to hire a consultant. The consultant was charged with conducting a feasibility study to determine the cost of constructing a bike path (allegedly in cooperation with the state) through Charlestown along Route 1(Old Post Road) into South Kingstown. Its report came back with a preliminary cost estimate of between $5 and $10 million. If that’s a dream, I wonder what Mr. Wilson considers to be a nightmare?
Anyone who follows government and politics should know that the state of Rhode Island is currently suffering with a $200 million budget deficit, so it’s unlikely that it will be getting involved in any joint venture with Charlestown to build a bike path.
Notwithstanding that, and the obscene costs, the convoluted plans include the “taking” by eminent domain of private property in the way of the proposed route of the bike path. The town’s legal standing to do that is about as good as a snowball freezing in hell! That’s because a bike path is not in the interest of public safety and welfare. The alternative would be for the town to buy the land in the way of the bike path if the owners were willing to sell. Either way it will create problems with the Comprehensive Town Plan, “Village District” and the Zoning Ordinance. Any property reduced in size will require an amendment to the zoning ordinance and a rezoning of the land involved.
There is no doubt that a financial issue of this magnitude needs to be laid to rest at this year’s Financial Town Referendum. It will only require the names of 200 qualified electors on an initiative petition to have a question included on the ballot of the 2019 Financial Town Referendum.