State holds off decision on controversial CRMC plan — for now

The Kickemuit River at sunrise. The Kickemuit River at sunrise.

The Kickemuit River at sunrise.

The Kickemuit River at sunrise.

A plan that opponents fear would cut the public out of important decisions about the waterfront is on hold as state officials who proposed it review their options.

Local groups including the Kickemuit River Council (KRC), Save Bristol Harbor and the Warren and Bristol town councils, have all come out against a plan by the state Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) to add to the list of projects that can be approved by administrative assent, or without lengthy public review.

While CRMC officials say the changes were proposed simply to streamline routine matters, one of the categories affected includes marinas of fewer than 25 boats. That has drawn the ire of local groups who say marina operators could set up shop in otherwise quiet places with little or no public input.

“This proposal from (CRMC) will make it more difficult for groups like KRC and also ordinary citizens to stress their objections,” Warren Town Solicitor Tony Desisto told the Warren Town Council Tuesday night.

The river council’s Ann Morrill wrote to the CRMC several weeks ago and asked that a public hearing on the matter — scheduled for this past Tuesday, Jan. 14 at East Providence City Hall — be rescheduled until a later date so residents who head south for the winter could attend and voice their concerns. Though CRMC officials rejected that request, the hearing was never held. CRMC officials only had the hall for an hour, and after seeing a large number of objectors file in at the start, chose to postpone the meeting and “reconsider” their options, said an opponent who was there. A CRMC spokeswoman could not be reached to comment on what the next step for the proposed regulations is.

Regardless, moves to fight it are still being made on other fronts.

At Tuesday night’s Warren Town Council meeting, councilors voted to send a resolution to the CRMC asking that the agency not enact the proposed changes. Also, they voted to send a resolution to the General Assembly asking that, if they are ultimately enacted, that legislation be introduced “to countermand them, and make it so there’s transparency in the process as well as full public participation,” Mr. DeSisto said.

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