2017-01-05 / Around Town

Hearing Scheduled for Controversial Fence

By Olga Enger

A Bellevue Avenue family has dogmatically maintained their decision about a private fence they erected into the newly repaired Cliff Walk, despite local and statewide media reports of riled residents and officials. The matter will be heard before the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) on Jan. 10.

In the spring, Ann and Lee Warner, of 734 Bellevue Ave., constructed the fence without a CRMC permit, violating the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Program in that it is within 200 feet of a coastal feature. Communications went back and forth between CRMC and the Warners, yet the fence remained in the public right-of-way. Although they were asked to move the fence back to the location of the older fence it replaced, the homeowners applied for an as-built permit instead.

City records indicate that the Warners, who use a Maryland mailing address, purchased the home in 1999. Their home is worth approximately $4 million, according to Zillow.

“We are looking forward to the public meeting in front of CRMC,” said Dave McLaughlin, Clean Ocean Access (COA) executive director, who also sits on the Cliff Walk Commission. “This isn’t a complicated issue. It is a question about replacing the fence.”

McLaughlin encouraged residents to attend the meeting and voice their opinions.

The fence construction may break more than just state law as defined by CRMC policy, as the Cliff Walk is a city-owned public easement over private property. After a unanimous vote by Newport councilors directing the city staff to object to the fence, City Manager Joseph Nicholson sent a letter to the CRMC on Nov. 10.

“The city is requesting that the CRMC require the replacement fence to be moved back to the original location so as not to constitute an encroachment of the public space and shoreline access and Cliff Walk,” he wrote in the letter.

Intensifying frustrations for officials, the fence was installed into the recently paved walk, which was restored as part of a $4 million federally funded project to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“This new fence not only encroached on the public right-of-way, but it damaged the walk after public money was spent to repair the area,” said Cliff Walk Commission Chair Peter Janaros, who also submitted a formal objection to the CRMC.

Residents have vociferously expressed concerns about the fence.

A Nov. 3 Newport This Week article, “Private Cliff Walk Fence Riles Officials,” was shared hundreds of times on social media and generated over 100 comments on Facebook, all objecting to the intrusion into the walk.

The CRMC has received six formal objection letters to the application, according to spokeswoman Laura Dwyer.

The fence cuts approximately 15- 18 inches into Cliff Walk, removing roughly 284 square feet of public space, according to COA’s measurements. That adds up to a nearly 16 percent loss of public space from the area, which is located near the walk’s southeast entrance.

The CRMC is expected to accept, deny, or modify the application at the hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at 6 p.m. in conference room A at the Administrative Building, One Capitol Hill, Providence.

For more information on the hearing, visit crmc.ri.gov or call 401- 783-3370.

Return to top