Letter: It’s high noon for high stakes vineyard fight
To the editor:
It is High Noon in Little Compton this week! The time of a decisive confrontation between the undermanned and under-gunned Town Council and LCACT against the deeply resourced, aggressively intimidating high-powered legal teams representing the owner of Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard (CSV), has arrived.
As town officials, you have been sympathetic to the supportive efforts from the citizens, who are concerned that the character and quality of life in Little Compton be maintained for today, tomorrow and the future. The community thanks you for your efforts, and appreciates that it has not been easy. At its core, this situation is not legal, but political. The critical consideration is deciding how land can be used in Little Compton. The will and best interests of the community, as expressed through elected and appointed Town officials, are the determining factors in land use issues with zoning and licensing reflecting community values.
CSV and its several legal teams are determined to intimidate town government into meeting their demands that CSV be turned into a major concert, entertainment and event venue under the transparent guise that all this commercialization is necessary to support the growing and selling of grapes. Town officials have seen through this with positive effect so far, and recognize that the town’s zoning rules do not permit such a use of land without both a permitting variance and a constraining entertainment license. CSV and its expensive top-level legal teams are attempting to intimidate town officials into acquiescing to their demands by explicit threats of future litigation if the town does not cave in to give CSV what it wants.
There is a broad and deep body of support from the community for town officials to continue to stand up to this big time commercial and legal bullying by CSV. This community support includes encouraging town officials to be ready, willing and able to face possible commercial litigation and the un-budgeted expenses it would involve. Considerable private funding has already been generated for private legal defense in opposition to CSV’s plans to create a major entertainment center at the vineyard, but private funds are not feasible for use in public litigation. The town‘s normal mode of legal representation is not designed to deal with such complex issues and such extensive lawyering up as CSV has put into this matter to try to overwhelm the capacity of the town to defend itself.
It is a common tactic of aggressive, well-funded companies to use litigation as a commercial tactic to wear down and overwhelm opponents. We are clearly seeing this from CVS against the Town Council and LCACT, and therefore, against the whole Little Compton community. We strongly support our town officials in remaining strong in the face of this attack on the town. Please know that you have our full support for making the political decisions that are in the best interests of the town, and for budgeting the funds necessary to legally defend our way of life and the character of the town. Whatever legal expenses may be involved to preserve the town for the future must be seen as an investment for the future, which will pay dividends to our children, our grandchildren and us.
CSV legal tactics include the obtaining of three consecutive monthly continuances of scheduled hearings under essentially false pretexts, all leading up to a 300-page document dump on town officials last week in advance of the meetings, scheduled for this Wednesday and Thursday for LCACT and the Town Council.
For the most part, beyond the application itself, these new legal papers are not actually required for town officials to act on the requested licenses at this time. Instead, they were delivered last week as a final act of intimidation by CSV, saying, in effect, “Give us what we are demanding by way of licenses and approvals to implement our plans for a major concert, entertainment and event venue at CSV, or we will take you to court on the following grounds”. This is just a way of bludgeoning and coercing Town officials with the result of destroying the community. Who benefits? CSV’s high priced lawyers will have a big payday and CSV will benefit for years to come.
It is absolutely outrageous for the citizens of Little Compton and their elected and appointed officials to be treated in such a contemptuous, dismissive and threatening manner. All of us in town must actively and openly support you, our town officials, as you seek to do the right thing to protect our way of life, including supporting the funding that may well be required to retain effective legal representation to match the legal onslaught from CSV. No one hopes for litigation, but when it is a necessity to protect our community and so much of what makes Little Compton special and the place we love, we have to do what it takes, or lose what we have because we were not willing to fight for it.
Heartfelt thanks to all of you on the Town Council and LCACT for standing up to and fighting off the high handed attempts by CSV and their legal teams to infect our extraordinary, beautiful community with their relentless and unwanted gross commercialization of Sakonnet Vineyard.