Now that some Highland Beach residents have a stellar view of Narragansett Bay, they don’t want any of it obstructed, even to the slightest degree. And now that they have nearly a mile of shoreline in their backyard, they would just as soon not have cars parked on their narrow streets so outsiders can access it, too.
The city administration has been sympathetic to neighborhood concerns, going so far as scratching plans for a looped path at the northerly end of the Rocky Point park property and removing a tree that blocked the view of one homeowner. But when the Department of Public Works staked out a potential location for a 15-by-15-foot concrete block shed to house park maintenance equipment last week, a sign went up urging people to call Senator Jack Reed and the fireworks started to fly.
Highland Beach residents nearest to the park question why the shed can’t be located near the Rocky Point Avenue entrance to the park. Some consider a shed as the first step to other buildings, a place for city workers to congregate and a source for noise.
David Picozzi, acting DPW director, prefers the location because it is close to utilities and because it is close to residences, which he says will reduce the possibility of it being vandalized or broken into. Putting it at the entrance to the park, he feels, is as good as guaranteeing it will be broken into because of its remote location and lack of surveillance.
So far, the city is only exploring options as to where to house the Bobcat vehicle the city will acquire with a $13,000 grant from the Department of Environmental Management and Department of Transportation. The grant restricts use of the Bobcat to the park, says Picozzi. The shed would house it as well as mowers and tools, such as a grinder, for the sharpening of mower blades.
“They own one mile of shoreline,” says Steve Galuska. “My concern is that they are putting it here right next to the homes … with all the land, why there?”
A 13-year resident who built his waterfront home on Burnett Avenue, Galuska’s view would in no way be obstructed by the shed. He said his concern is for his neighbors and the possibility that the shed could become the first of other buildings.
He said he’s troubled by the city’s attitude that he characterized as, “we don’t really care what they [the residents] want and that’s how they’re going to behave.” He cites a meeting last week attended by Councilman John DelGiudice, Senator William Walaska and others at which the city said it would not take any steps without notification. Then the stakes appeared and the conclusion was that was where the shed was going to be.
Chief of staff Mark Carruolo understands their perspective, although he says the stakes were simply placed as a possible site for the shed.
Clearly irritated, especially after calls from Reed’s office, Mayor Scott Avedisian said Friday, “Let us make our decisions before calling Reed. It’s not an emergency and they need to calm down.”
DelGiudice said yesterday that he can understand why Picozzi wants to locate the shed at the Highland Beach end of the park and why residents would prefer it at another location.
“I would like to see them move it further along the property line,” he said. By the same token, however, he recognizes that could cost the city additional sums for utilities.
DelGiudice pointed out that he has sponsored legislation that should answer neighborhood concerns over parking. His measure would restrict parking to area residents.
There’s an irony to the situation that doesn’t escape members of the administration, or for that matter, Galuska and his neighbors. Since acquisition of the 41 acres of parkland with city, state and federal funds, the views of abutting homes have been vastly improved with the removal of abandoned Rocky Beach cottages, clearing of shrubbery and the regular cutting of grass. Now the city is looking to install a facility to maintain those conditions, while residents fear it will mar them.
“I want them out of my sight,” says Galuska. “I do too,” echoes Patricia Mackie, who bought her Burnett Road home in 2003. She says the city has “lots of options” but they don’t want the lights or the security alarm of the shed. Perhaps most vocal about the shed have been Lorraine and William Maloney whose home is situated across Burnett from Galuska. According to the administration, they have threatened legal action.
“We moved from East Greenwich to come up against this. It’s unrealistic,” Lorraine Maloney said Wednesday. If it went where the stakes are located, the shed would be closest to the Maloneys.
As for where the city might locate the shed, Galuska suggests if it has to go near the Burnett Road end of the park, that it go near a distant turn in the path. As for neighbors keeping an eye on the city property and that the shed has a better chance of not being vandalized near Burnett, he asks, “Since it’s going to be alarmed, why do they need the neighbors to watch it?”
Later in the course of discussion he said, “Put it at the bend [next to the tree line] and if it burns, I’ll call the fire department.”
He added, as a group of fishermen entered the park from Burnett Road, “It’s not like we want our stuff and nobody else to enjoy it.”