Portsmouth council OKs purchase of Teddi’s Beach, bridge abutment

Town buys property from RIDOT for $150K

By Jim McGaw
Posted 3/1/23

PORTSMOUTH — The town is the proud owner of another beach, as the Town Council Monday night unanimously approved a purchase-and-sales agreement with the state for Teddi’s Beach in …

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Portsmouth council OKs purchase of Teddi’s Beach, bridge abutment

Town buys property from RIDOT for $150K


PORTSMOUTH — The town is the proud owner of another beach, as the Town Council Monday night unanimously approved a purchase-and-sales agreement with the state for Teddi’s Beach in Island Park.

The agreement between the Town of Portsmouth and the R.I. Division of Transportation (RIDOT), for the sale price of $150,000, includes the Stone Bridge abutment, a section of which partially collapsed in 2019 and broke off into the Sakonnet River.

“If you agree, the sale will be for the property as is and the closing will be on or before June 3,” Town Administrator Richard Rainer, Jr. told the council before the vote.

The council has been keen on repairing the abutment and cleaning up the beach, similar to what the Town of Tiverton did with its side of the long-defunct bridge, now a handsome waterfront park.

After the partial collapse of the pier, RIDOT spent $850,000 on repairs and turned the north side into a riprap wall, but closed the abutment to the public for safety’s sake. Residents and local officials call it an eyesore, and Teddi’s Beach — also known as “Teddy’s” — is also in rough shape and a target of litterbugs.

To go forth with improvements, however, the town first needed to take ownership of the property, located adjacent to 701 Park Ave. In July 2022, the council voted unanimously to pursue an offer by RIDOT to purchase both the abutment and beach for $300,000. 

“I was authorized to go up to $300K,” Rainer stated in an e-mail Friday to The Portsmouth Times. “However, through negotiation and assessment, we were able to get the price down to $150K for both.” The town’s American Rescue Plan Act funds would be used for the purchase.

Rainer’s staff is seeking quotes for an engineering survey and inspection of the property, which would take place before the town takes ownership. Such a survey typically costs about $20,000, he said. 

While the town could make renovations on the abutment, it would not be allowed to place any structures or facilities on the property, Rainer said.“They don’t want us to turn this into commercial property. Any plan we have to build something on this property would be subject to their approval,” he said.

Council member Leonard Katzman noted that according to language in the agreement, the beach must be used in “perpetuity as a public beach,” otherwise it immediately reverts back to the state. (The town also can’t charge a fee of either residents or non-residents to access the beach.) Katzman said he was concerned that someone at the state could find a reason to claim the beach again.

“I’ll be honest,” Rainer responded. “They don’t want the property.”

There are still many unknowns on what the town would like to see happen with the property, as well as the availability of grants to help offset the costs of major improvements. It would cost several million dollars to duplicate the project in Tiverton, which already had the advantage of owning its pier, making the job of seeking grants easier, officials said. The town could also choose to simply make the abutment pedestrian-safe, a far-cheaper option.

Liability issue raised

Local resident John Vitkevich, who’s pushed for improvements to the pier and beach and led a walking tour of the property one year ago, nevertheless criticized the deal.

“You’re going to spend $150,000 in ARPA money that could possibly go somewhere else,” Vitkevich said, adding that RIDOT doesn’t have another buyer for the property. “It’s not a $150,000 property.”

He also pointed to the liability the town will now take over, noting that a storm could easily knock over the abutment’s south-facing wall. “Who’s going to pay for that?” Vitkevich asked.

Rainer acknowledged earlier in the meeting that once the beach and abutment become town property, “I’m sure it will affect our premium.” 

Vitkevich said the town needs a solid plan on what it wants to do with the property before taking ownership. “I think we’re putting the cart way before the horse,” he said. “I’m also concerned about keeping that beach clean. How are we going to keep the fishermen off it? It’s a public beach.” 

Town Historian Jim Garman said he wasn’t opposed to the town paying $150,000 to take the property over, but that something needs to be done immediately to make improvements to the abutment.

“That pier is a nightmare,” Garman said. “If that goes, Teddi’s Beach is going to go as well. The Sakonnet River is not a river; it’s a tidal estuary. The speed of the water through there is between 6 and 8 knots. It’s an embarrassment, but more than that it’s a safety issue.”

Several council members said once the town takes title of the property, it will have more control over what happens to the area — including making the needed improvements. 

“RIDOT thinks they’re done. They put up a chainlink fence and they’re done with it,” said Katzman. 

“It’s there. If it’s a hazard, it’s a hazard,” said council member Charles Levesque, adding the state isn’t going to make any further improvements. “I think this is an opportunity and I’m afraid if we pass up this opportunity, something else will happen that will be out of our control.”

Most of the road leading down to the area from Park Avenue is not part of the offer, and would still be owned and maintained by RIDOT. The nearby boat ramp is owned and serviced by the R.I. Department of Environmental Management.

The Town of Portsmouth currently owns Sandy Point Beach and McCorrie Beach. 

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Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.