Portsmouth backs out of deal to buy beach, pier

State’s denial of access to abutment is sticking point, manager says

By Jim McGaw
Posted 11/28/23

PORTSMOUTH — It looks like the town won’t be buying Teddi’s Beach and the Stone Bridge abutment from the state after all.

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Portsmouth backs out of deal to buy beach, pier

State’s denial of access to abutment is sticking point, manager says

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — It looks like the town won’t be buying Teddi’s Beach and the Stone Bridge abutment from the state after all.

At Monday night’s Town Council meeting, Town Administrator Richard Rainer, Jr. revealed the town is “at an impasse” with the R.I. Department of Transportation (RIDOT) over the $150,000 purchase-and-sales agreement which was approved by the council in late February.

Town administration, it seems, ran into a catch-22 situation after that vote: The town intended to inspect the bridge abutment before signing the purchase-and-sales agreement, but RIDOT wouldn’t allow access to the property until the contract was signed, Rainer said.

“We’re saying we’re not going to sign a purchase-and-sales agreement if we can’t look at the property,” the administrator told the council. “(RIDOT’s) plan is to pursue other options for that property.”

After the partial collapse of the pier in 2019, RIDOT spent $850,000 on repairs and turned the north side into a riprap wall, but closed the abutment to the public for safety’s sake. Residents and local officials call it an eyesore, and Teddi’s Beach — also known as “Teddy’s” — is also in rough shape and a target of litterbugs.

The council had been keen on repairing the abutment and cleaning up the beach, similar to what the Town of Tiverton did with its side of the long-defunct bridge, now a handsome waterfront park.

To go forth with improvements, however, the town first needed to take ownership of the property, located adjacent to 701 Park Ave. 

In July 2022, the council voted unanimously to pursue an offer by RIDOT to purchase both the abutment and beach for a price not to exceed $300,000. The town was later able to knock the purchase price down to $150,000, and the closing date was to be on or before June 3.

Fire chief’s request

The revelation wasn’t on Monday’s agenda, but it came up during discussion on Fire Chief Paul Ford’s request for funds not to exceed $115,000 to create a separate women’s facility at the fire station.

The department may be hiring a female firefighter soon, said Ford, noting the station lacks the appropriate facilities for women. Even if a woman is not hired shortly, the department still needs to prepare for that eventuality, the chief said.

“If not now, it will happen,” he said.

Ford proposed reallocating $115,000 in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that were initially earmarked for the study and purchase of the bridge abutment and Teddi’s Beach from RIDOT. “This reallocation would not only address an immediate necessity but also aligns with the spirit of ARPA funds,” Ford said.

Council member Dave Gleason asked Rainer if Ford’s suggestion meant that the sale agreement was off the table, and the administrator replied in the affirmative.

The council voted 5-0 to approve Ford’s request.

Stone Bridge abutment, Teddy's Beach, Teddi's Beach, Stone Bridge

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