Just outside of Quitos’ Restaurant next to Independence Park, taking licks from the waters of Bristol Harbor, sits a small, wooden dock.
The 5-by-15-foot structure is affixed to four pilings. There’s about enough space for two good-sized commercial fishing boats to tie up and unload their catch.
After all, that’s the use approved in the Coastal Resources Management Council’s (CRMC) assent, dated Feb. 11, 2004.
Yet, one local fisherman has been ticketed by Bristol Harbor Patrol almost $1,000 for having docked there over the course of a winter and into this summer.
“I don’t know where to go with this,” said the Bristol fisherman, Robert Morris, who has presented a petition to Bristol Town Council members, asking them to look into it.
“Coastal better investigate this thing.”
Grandfathering of a dock
Long before Albert Quito returned to Bristol from Maine to run the Thames Street-restaurant, his mother Josephine Anne Quito was operating a quahog business.
Back then, there were no rules or regulations to the water and who could do what, she said. Ms. Quito had several pilings driven into the harbor, and then constructed the small dock in the 50s. The dock was used by quahog fishermen, who would tie up, unload their catch and return to sea.
When Mr. Quito moved back to Bristol over a decade ago to run the converted restaurant, he saw that the dock was in a state of disrepair.
As he began to fix it, officials from the CRMC issued a cease-and-desist order, dated Aug. 27, 2003. The order cited Mr. Quito for constructing a dock in state-owned property (Independence Park), despite it having been in existence long before the CRMC developed its rules and regulations.
The order simply required Mr. Quito to submit a complete application for the dock rebuild, including plans stamped by a professional engineer.
The dock was grandfathered-in, and Mr. Quito was granted rights to maintain and access the dock.
Private dock on public property
Where it gets muddy is here: If the state owns the dock, constructed with Mr. Quito’s lumber, and managed by the Town of Bristol, is it open to the public?
That’s the question Mr. Morris is trying to find the answer to.
When Mr. Quito sought the town’s help in removing Mr. Morris’ dilapidated fishing boat Jarrod Seth, the town obliged, ordering the harbor patrol to ticket it.
“He said he was going to to tie up for a couple of days,” Mr. Quito said. “He didn’t move until July. He stayed all this time with winds and storms we had.
“He left the boat here for eight months.”
The boat was obstructing the restaurant’s view of the water, Mr. Quito said.
“If we’re trying to conduct business here, it’s a common courtesy,” said Mr. Quito, adding that he asked Mr. Morris several times to remove his boat.
“You can tie up at the town dock, but he has to pay there,” he said. “He just wants to come here for nothing and use our pilings. It blocks our whole view here.”
Mr. Morris went to town officials, asking for permission to drive in more pilings to extend the dock. He would bear the cost.
But the town, and Mr. Quito, said no.
“I don’t understand why we can’t dock here,” Mr. Morris said. “It’s in state-owned property. (Mr. Quito) shouldn’t be allowed to say who can dock here and who can’t.”
Because the dock is alongside Independence Park, the town does have managerial rights. Until the matter can be settled, Town Administrator Tony Teixeira has asked that no one utilize the dock.
“Unfortunately, this dock is in conformance with the consent and the (CRMC) program,” said Laura Dwyer, public educator and information coordinator at the CRMC. “As it stands right now, it may be a case of property line dispute. The CRMC cannot resolve that. Mr. Quito is the owner of record on that dock.”
Mr. Teixeira referred the issue to the town’s legal counsel, Mike Ursillo.
“We’re not sure if (Mr. Quito) is paying the taxes for that property,” Mr. Teixeira said. “But (Mr. Morris’) tickets do stand. He will end up having to pay them.”