To the Editor:
The Beacon published a story in April on the Buttonwood Beach Association battle over no-trespassing signs. The Rhode Island Supreme Court had just ruled that a resident does not …
To the Editor:
The Beacon published a story in April on the Buttonwood Beach Association battle over no-trespassing signs. The Rhode Island Supreme Court had just ruled that a resident does not own part of a public highway, Promenade Avenue. John Howell interviewed several key figures involved in the suit.
The Court’s decision was clear that the resident did not own the street and her claim that Promenade Avenue is a private street did not hold up. Justice Suttell wrote:
“As the trial justice noted in his decision, the deed … refers to the 1882 plat. The eighty-foot public width represented on the 1882 plat is undisputed.”
So, Promenade Avenue is public!
Not so fast: The Buttonwoods Fire District is meeting Tuesday night to discuss its taxpayers’ opinions on no trespassing signs being posted at the Buttonwoods pillars. My concern is that the findings of the Supreme Court will be ignored and that residents will vote to erect the no-trespassing signs.
These public highways are maintained with city highway illumination funds of $36,000 per year, and Fire District “special” taxes of around $30,000 per year. There is also the federal FEMA project funding grant of $100,000 for the public protection of Promenade Avenue from storm damage.
Considering that the city pays more to maintain these roads than the Fire District itself, while the Fire District contributes almost as much and the federal government has chipped in $100,000 with restricted Stafford Public Project Funding for the construction of a seawall, residents of Buttonwoods Beach should think twice before attempting to close off this lovely area.
Doing so could damage the Fire District in several ways. FEMA could claw back its $100,000. The city could demand payments for past illumination services and refuse to maintain the streetlights just as they are being converted to smart LED devices. For the Fire District to join into this conversion would cost tens if not hundreds of thousands. And then the Fire District would be stuck with a whopping electric bill for streetlights. What recourse would the Fire District have, given Justice Suttell’s decision that the streets are public?
We may not know for weeks what the Buttonwoods Fire District will do about the no-trespassing signs at the Buttonwoods gates. I have been tested for COVID and am awaiting results and will miss the annual Fire District meeting that is planned for tonight. At this meeting, a longtime summer resident will share the mood of the taxpayers on this matter. It is my expectation that the Buttonwoods campers and all other neighbors will continue to feel free to enjoy the taxpayer-supported streets of Buttonwoods Beach.