Misrepresenting a Good Land Deal for Charlestown

The following letter appeared in the Westerly Sun and is shared with us here by the author George C. Tremblay. Mr. Tremblay is a member of the Charlestown Town Council.

George C. Tremblay
George Tremblay

When the smoke clears and the dust and debris are swept away from Jim Mageau’s latest huff and puff to blow the house down (“Charlestown land giveaway is plain wrong,” Westerly Sun, May 1), here’s what’s left: The Town of Charlestown now owns 75 of the 81 acres of the former Whalerock property, which it named the Charlestown Moraine Preserve. The property was purchased to prevent development on this iconic stretch of scenic U.S. Route 1 through Charlestown. Hiking trails and a parking area are in the planning stages, to make the Preserve accessible to the public.

Mr. Mageau calls the purchase price of $2.1 million “outrageous.” Compared to what? Certainly not compared to the price offered by his political playmates.

In 2004, Deborah Carney, president of the Charlestown Town Council, signed a purchase and sales agreement committing the town to paying $3.6 million for the Whalerock property, or $41,975 per acre. The deal was contingent upon voter approval to withdraw from Chariho, which failed.

In 2013, the current Town Council paid $2,114,415 for 75 of those same acres, or $28,192 per acre. Most folks would consider a council that manages to get a one-third discount on a land deal to be a pretty smart bunch.

A conservation easement is proposed on the June 1 referendum, as a no-cost insurance policy that authorizes an independent trustee to police preservation of the land.

Essentially, the easement holder partners with the town to preserve the land. The easement holder is equally responsible for compliance with the management plan governing use of the property.

The award of a conservation easement is a willful act that protects the land from future use for other purposes, without the mutual consent of the town and the easement holder. It does reduce the appraised value of the land, which the town has no intention of selling, but it does not change ownership of the land.

I urge voters to support the conservation easement. It protects your purchase from abuse.