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Champlin's decision heads back to CRMC

The state Supreme Court turns the Block Island marina's bid for expansion back for a vote

Champlin's Marina's Great Salt Pond expansion proposal in Block Island, R.I., is still undergoing scrutiny by the public and the state Coastal Resources Management Council after seven years.

Champlin's wants to extend its piers another 225 feet into the pond, giving the marina nearly 3,000 more linear feet of fixed dock and 755 feet of floating dock, which would total 140 extra slips, according to manager John Winson.
The marina currently has between 225 to 250 slips (depending on the size of the vessels). The property also includes a hotel, swimming pool, tennis courts, restaurant, bars and marina amenities including water, ice, electricity, gas and diesel fuel, a marine pumpout station, a Laundromat and launch service.
Opponents of the project say the expansion would hurt the environment.
"Our position is that we oppose any pending CRMC approval to expand the marina," says Jerry Elmer, staff attorney for the Conservation Law Foundation's Rhode Island chapter. "We believe the expansion will have a negative effect on water quality and marine life in the Great Salt Pond."
An increase of 140 or more boats would cause a negative effect on the water quality in the pond and, in turn, affect wildlife and shellfish beds, says Elmer.
The case has already been reviewed by the state's Superior Court and Supreme Court, which ordered the case be sent back to the Coastal Resources Management Council for additional hearings.
The project was first proposed to the council on May 30, 2003. In February 2006 in a 5-5 tie vote, the council declined to approve the application. The decision was appealed to the state Superior Court by Champlin's, stating the council had following improper procedures regarding the permit process.
In February 2009, the Superior Court ruled in favor of Champlin's, approving its application.
The Conservation Law Foundation's Rhode Island chapter, along with other local opposing parties from the area, appealed to the state Supreme Court, which overturned the decision and in February put the process back in the hands of the Coastal Resources Management Council. The council will have to vote again on the permit application.
The next hearing, which was scheduled for June 25, will focus specifically on the first proposed 100-foot expansion of the marina's piers.
"We plan to be there," says Elmer. "There will be inevitable environmental consequences as a result of this project [if approved]."
Champlin's Winson says the expansion of the marina would be a boon to the area, enhancing the value of Block Island and adding the extra convenience of docking to more vessels, rather than motoring into shore from a mooring.
"We're not sure how much longer this will go on," says Winson. "It's been seven years, but the owner [Joseph Grillo] is locked into this because we know it will enhance the value of the area."

This article originally appeared in the New England Home Waters section of the August 2010 issue.