Two Block Island property owners that were cited by the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council for improper mowing on their property have been fined $2,500 each. Shannon E. Chandley and Christopher Gorayeb, the two property owners, are in the process of making restitution, but could incur an additional $500 per diem fine from the CRMC if their violations continue.
Chandley and Gorayeb were issued cease and desist orders by the CRMC on April 23, 2018 for clear-cutting of vegetation that was in close proximity to the shoreline. Gorayeb was cited for four violations of clear-cutting and burning brush on his property off Champlin Road on March 28. Chandley was cited for two violations for mowing a 700-foot long, 20-foot wide path across her property, and three other properties near Skipper’s Island Pond off Corn Neck Road in early April. The Town of New Shoreham owns one property, while The Nature Conservancy, and The Block Island Conservancy own the other two.
Chandley’s violations included: undertaking installation of a wetland walkover structure; and clearing of vegetation within 200 feet of a coastal feature. Gorayeb’s violations were clearing of buffer zone vegetation; altering an area subject to storm flow; altering freshwater wetland vegetation; and clearing of perimeter wetland vegetation.
As noted in the CRMC’s cease and desists order “any construction, grading, or filling activities, or other alterations within 200 feet of a coastal feature associated with tidal waters or coastal ponds — requires plans for the proposed work to be submitted to the CRMC.”
Laura Dwyer, a spokesperson for the CRMC, said that Chandley and Gorayeb contacted the CRMC within 10 days of receipt of their notices of violation. Dwyer noted that, “Gorayeb is contesting the fine, which is (the property owner’s) right.”
Dwyer said that The Nature Conservancy and Block Island Conservancy “are working on a restoration plan. The parties would submit that to us, and we would work with them to come up with some sort of plan that satisfies our program and the violations.” (Even though the two conservancies had no knowledge of improper mowing conducted on their properties they were cited, but not fined, by the CRMC for a clear cutting violation.)
In response to the fines, Building Official Marc Tillson said, “$2,500 is no small amount. It is my proposal for the town to send a friendly notice to all our local mowing and excavating businesses reminding them of the importance of making sure all approvals, assents and permits are in place prior to mowing on the island’s coastal features or around regulated freshwater wetlands.”
“I have also met with the Executive Director of the Block Island Conservancy, Clair Stover, and we will work on the advisory letter together highlighting the necessity of doing the right thing by obtaining permission first to avoid the cost of fines and restoration,” added Tillson, who noted that the restoration plan has been “approved by the CRMC, and CRMC will monitor the restoration to ensure compliance.”
Tillson said he will be discussing public outreach regarding the topic with Town Manager Ed Roberge.
“I bet he will agree that public outreach may be helpful in deterring future destruction of environmentally sensitive areas,” Tillson said.