Letter: Sakonnet Vineyard battle is one worth fighting
To the editor,
It’s High Noon in Little Compton this week! Two events, both involving Carolyn’s Sakonnet Vineyard (CSV), have the potential for creating dramatic and lasting changes to the quality of life in our community.
On Wednesday, May 3, the Little Compton Agricultural Conservancy Trust (LCACT) meets to decide their course of action regarding the conduct of non-agricultural events on property largely controlled by easements owned by LCACT.
On Thursday, May 4, in the wake of the LCACT decision, the Town Council meets to weigh the merits of CSV’s 2017 entertainment license application.
Here are some important facts, which we want you to know:
• CSV wants to host a significant number of weddings and concerts on land covered with restrictive, conservation easements owned by the LCACT.
• CSV is an appendage of the hugely successful Alex and Ani jewelry empire.
• CSV wants the Town Council to believe that weddings and concerts are logical and allowable extensions of running a winery.
• The Little Compton zoning official has reviewed the CSV entertainment license application and provided a written opinion stating that the proposed non-agricultural activities are not permitted under our existing zoning ordinance.
• CSV is not happy with this opinion. They have an army of lawyers working on their application. They have spent over a year and a lot of money preparing for these two important meetings. They are determined to prevail and have made it known that, if they are thwarted, they will launch a nuclear legal fight designed to financially intimidate our little community, until they get what they want.
• CSV requested and was granted three requests, totaling over 90 days, to continue their Zoning Board of Review hearing in order that they would have adequate time to prepare. Ironically, they are now demanding that town officials consider their recently resubmitted entertainment license application, which contains over 300 pages of documentation, without further delay.
Is this a battle worth fighting? We believe it is!
Here’s what’s at stake:
CSV purchased the vineyard knowing there were serious limitations to its non-agricultural uses. They are determined that aggressive demands backed up by the threat of expensive litigation will cow town officials into giving them what they want. We firmly believe that the two High Noon meetings this week will reveal the character of our community and our elected officials. If CSV prevails, the zoning redline surrounding the vineyard will have been breached and converted into a green light incenting aggressive bad behavior by CSV and others.
The coming events of this week remind us of the very fateful moment in 1938 when Neville Chamberlain mistakenly thought that appeasement was a winning strategy. As a result of citizen tax payments and other charitable investments totaling tens of millions of dollars, our community has made a huge investment in keeping Little Compton special and preserved. If CSV prevails, we are convinced other well-financed and aggressive corporate promoters will follow their lead.
So, there is much at stake for the future of our community. We strongly encourage our town officials to continue the entertainment license matter for as long as it takes – even up to the 90 days granted by town officials to CSV lawyers – to properly review and consider the 300 page document dump delivered by CSV less than a week ago. Fairness and common sense dictate that our volunteer town officials, at a minimum, allow themselves more than seven days to fully digest the resubmitted application and consider the magnitude and lasting significance of their decisions.
There is never a wrong time to do the right thing. This week will be an important moment of truth. We urge our town officials to stand up to CSV and tell them that in our community red lines are real!
Carl Acebes, Larry Anderson, Brett Haire, Mike Hudner, Dick Rudick, Chris Burns