To the Editor:
Thank you for publicizing the January 29, 2021 Times article entitled “Narragansett Town Councilor accused of ethics violation.” While this article accurately reported my public comments, NPRA would like to clarify our reasons for opposing this project, as those reasons were not included in your coverage article. We also want to set the record straight with respect to Patrick Murray’s reported explanation of his actions.
Regarding the 83 Narragansett Avenue project itself, NPRA stated in our petition that we are NOT opposed to the use of the property as a real estate office, provided Ms. Lapides was able to convince the Town to allow either a Special Use Permit or a usage variance to do so. That said, our membership strenuously objected to her petition to change the comprehensive plan and zone map from residential to commercial for the 83 Narragansett Avenue parcel. Since its current use as an inn is already a grandfathered special use, the only other option is a usage variance that, according to the Planning Department, would be difficult for the Town to justify. As planning Chair Terry Fleming pointed out, “you have to consider worst case scenarios.” He further stated that “properties don’t remain what they were originally set out to be. It happens all the time.”
Over recent years the properties on Narragansett Avenue have been substantially improved. The PBS featured This Old House renovation at 80 Narragansett Ave highlights the value derived from inclusion of the entire central Pier into the Historic District. This, together with many other recent historic renovations, have substantially improved Pier values and lifestyle desirability. These projects celebrate the rich history of the Pier. Therefore, NPRA opposes a spot zoning change to Commercial status, for one property in the middle of blocks of residential properties, that would set a precedent for others as Terry Fleming stated.
Regarding the ethics complaint we filed with the town concerning Patrick Murray, his reported description of his door-to-door solicitation do not accurately reflect actions on his part that led to our complaint. Our Chair, Joe Notarantonio, emailed our members advising them to email their opposition to the requested zoning change to the Town Council. One member who followed his advice very quickly received a visit from Patrick Murray. To quote from her email back to our Chair, “He said he received my email but maybe I didn’t have all the facts and he wanted to share his facts with me. He also asked me if I was a member of the local Pier Association. He asked me to agree with him and put it in writing on a form he gave me.
Although he was polite, to me it was inappropriate for him to come to my home and in essence .... it is a form of intimidation. Was he paying visits to everyone who submitted a letter or email?”
Our complaint included the full text of her email back to Chairman Notarantonio. Specifically, it states that the only way Patrick Murray knew of this person’s opposition to the project is that he received her email as a member of the Town Council. Therefore, in contrast to his portrayal to Phil Cozzolino that he identifies himself as a realtor, his visit to the home of this member was the direct result of his position as a Town Council member.
So yes, contrary to Councilman Murray’s comment, I do believe his actions is this instance do constitute an ethic violation, as do our other Board Members. And when I described this event by phone to the state ethics commission before filing with Town, their advice was that it justifies a complaint.