NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The town of Narragansett could take a closer look at waterfront public access points on five Narragansett roads in an effort to ensure that the popular right-of-ways to the ocean remain viable.
On a 4-1 vote, the Town Council directed Town Manager James Tierney to ask for quotes for a professional survey of the roads – Pilgrim Avenue, Conant Street, Hazard and Newton Avenues and Bass Rock Road.
Councilors Patrick Murray and Ewa Dzwierzynski introduced the measure.
“This issue has been out there for quite some time,” Murray said. Murray asked several months ago for surveys of Pilgrim and Conant. The new request includes the three additional streets.
Murray argues the access points are under-used, and that a professional survey would determine if abutting property owners have encroached on them.
The survey also would help the town provide safe and practical parking options for the areas and improve unrestricted access, Murray said.
The request for a survey originates from the town’s newly-formed Coastal Access Improvement Committee.
“As the town body that reviews the status of all coastal (right-of-ways) in Narragansett a majority of the CAIC has agreed that there is a critical need for current land surveys given the effects of climate change, sea level rise, and coastal development,” the group wrote in a report to the council.
The committee said a survey would help to establish property lines and allow for an evaluation of the parking schemes, position of signage, foot paths and potential effects on public safety.
The group’s observations of the right-of-ways note several parking schemes and narrow roadways that could lead to problems with public safety vehicles like rescue trucks getting through. Also, some pathways suffer from problems such as overgrowth, muddy foot paths and poor drainage.
“At all these points there have been parking issues,” Murray said. “This would hopefully ease some of the contention in those areas.”
Voting against was Council President Pro Tem Susan Cicilline Buonanno. She said she could not see the benefit to a survey of the areas.
“I think we’ve done a lot down there and I know this council has improved coastal access,” she said. “I just think it’s poking the bear; I’m just not sure why we’re going down there to do that.”
Murray characterized it as the town’s duty to manage the state access points.
“There hasn’t been a survey since I think 1980. They need to be updated. In some cases property owners have encroached 20 feet,” he said. “We’re not managing it very well. When we leave I want my kid’s kid to be able to go there and go fishing, or surfing or scuba diving.”
Narragansett has been sued by residents on Pilgrim and Conant Avenues over the parking along those roads. The residents claim the town did not perform due diligence when it modified parking on the roads, Council President Jesse Pugh said.
Pugh said if the town is going to do a survey, it should include the entire roadway for all five.
“Let’s know whose property it is,” he said. “Let’s get the surveys done so we know where we stand. I don’t see how you can go wrong having updated records and knowing the lines.”
The town will ask for potential surveyors to submit separate quotes for surveys of just the right-of-ways and for the whole road. The council would need to vote again to approve any proposal, as well as a funding source for it.