This was the first meeting of the new Charlestown Town Council composed of four candidates endorsed by CRU (Deb Carney, "Rippy" Serra, Grace Klinger, and Stephen Stokes) plus re-elected member Susan Cooper.
The agenda did not look too onerous, until the Beverage Licensing Board section consumed over an hour and a half.
N.O. Bar Clam Shack
N.O. Bar Clam Shack is the small restaurant between the marina and the bridge on Charlestown Beach Road. It's been a long-time take-out joint with a bit of seating that has been making some improvements and expansion. The request for renewal of N.O. Bar Clam Shack licenses for alcohol and entertainment, usually a fairly routine item, drew a large crowd and lots of comments in opposition. This was accentuated by recent construction of an outside counter/bar that was stopped by the town for lack of proper permitting. A permit for that construction is now being brought to the Zoning Board of Review.
The people in opposition mainly pushed against expected expansion of the restaurant to something much more than a daytime “clam shack” during beach hours. The alcohol license was renewed but extension to serving alcohol at other than the window would require coming to the Council to another license. The entertainment license was approved for acoustic non-amplified music only on three dates only.
More information is provided in this article in The Westerly Sun.
Charter Revision Advisory Commission
Prior to 2019, Charter Revision was a standing Commission that would meet at least once each year to consider Charter changes. In 2019 it was changed to be active only when the Council requested it. Many viewed that as a way the Council could suppress public suggestions for changes.
On Monday night, the Council voted to start the process to change back to the pre-2019 standing Commission. The January 9 Council meeting will include a hearing on the proposed change. The current draft of the ordinance change can be viewed here.
Each new Council discusses their rules for getting things done.
At this meeting the Council voted to allow every Councilor to submit agenda items to be on the agenda. Several times in the past, requested agenda items were denied by vote of the CCA majority in the agenda setting meeting. The wording of that rule can be read here.
Stephen Stokes then proposed a more automated agenda-setting process to eliminate the formal public agenda-setting meeting in most cases. This was assisted by the prior decision eliminating Council votes on agenda items. This was approved for a 3-month trial period, so it will come up for discussion again at the March 2023 meeting.
Most Boards and Commissions have an assigned liaison from the Town Council. Notable assignments made at this meeting were
Affordable Housing Commission: Carney
Budget Commission: Cooper Climate Resiliency Commission: Cooper Coastal Pond Management Commission: Carney
Conservation Commission: Klinger Economic Improvement Commission: Carney Parks & Recreation Commission: Cooper Planning Commission: Serra
Senior Citizens Commission: Serra
Wastewater Management Commission: Klinger
Zoning Board of Review: Stokes
Northeast Corridor Commission
Two Council members have the assignment to communicate with the RI DOT Director about possible AMTRAK changes in Charlestown. Stephen Stokes and Deb Carney volunteered for that duty. Some background on this decision can be read here.
The Council voted unanimously to change back to minutes format used prior to 2019. This will more thoroughly document the Council proceedings. The background of this agenda item, along with examples, can be read here.
Other Agenda Topics
Because of the meeting length (approaching 11 pm), three agenda items were tabled until the January 9 meeting:
Consideration of an Ordinance Revision Committee
Consideration of whether to retain attorney Larisa to monitor "Indian Affairs."
Setting a special Council meeting for discussion of potential litigation
The steps taken in the meeting show a new commitment to openness and transparency:
Agreeing that agenda items cannot be blocked by a vote
Proposing to reinstate Charter review
Changing the format of Council minutes
The entire (four hour!) meeting can be watched here.