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Ballard’s faces $50,000 in fines over tiki bars, fences

PROVIDENCE — State regulators are hitting Ballard’s with five $10,000 fines in an ongoing battle over allegedly unauthorized tiki bars, fences, and other amenities on the beach at the Block Island bar and resort.

The Coastal Resources Management Council issued the fines in five separate letters to Ballard’s Inn Realty, LLC on July 31. The letters cite problems with a canopy, fences, a pergola, tiki bars, and a structure over a stage. State regulations require applications for CRMC approval to place such things within 200 feet of a coastal feature, and Ballard’s didn’t submit complete applications for them, CRMC said. The agency has been scrutinizing Ballard’s over the amenities on the beach there for months. Those issues have now escalated to five-figure fines.

“Please be advised that the levy of this fine does not preclude any further Council action regarding this violation,” Laura Miguel, CRMC’s deputy director, wrote in the five notices of administrative fines.

In addition to the five $10,000 fines, a fine of $1,000 can be assessed for every day the violations continue on issuance of a cease and desist from the coastal council, Miguel wrote. The letters noted that Ballard’s had the right to file an appeal for an administrative hearing. CRMC told Ballard’s to remove some of the amenities or to submit complete applications for others of them by Aug. 11 to avoid further enforcement.

Ballard’s owner Steven Filippi declined to comment. In previous volleys of letters over this lingering issue, Ballard’s lawyer has argued that CRMC approval wasn’t required because, among other reasons, the tiki bars have been used at the beach there since even before CRMC existed. That means they’re grandfathered in, Ballard’s lawyer has argued.

CRMC disagrees. The agency issued cease and desist orders in June over several of the issues, including the fences, the pergola, the tiki bars, and the structure over the stage.

The fines are just the latest turn in the Ballard’s saga. The legendary beach bar and resort had a tumultuous season last year, culminating in a chaotic music festival on Victory Day weekend in August. Filippi said previously that Ballard’s was going to make changes in 2023, although some on the island look at the continued presence of things like tiki bars — which CRMC has been scrutinizing for months — as an indication to the contrary.

“We are very grateful to CRMC for issuing fines that represent the seriousness of the violations, and for their clear statement that the non-compliant uses be removed,” Keith Stover, the first warden of the New Shoreham Town Council. “There’s always tension over how slowly the wheels can turn, but CRMC has acted fairly and judiciously to enforce rules that are, fundamentally, intended to protect and preserve precious and vulnerable coastline.”

Regulations on putting structures — like fences and tiki bars — on a coastal feature like a beach are in place to protect both the environment and shore access.

In a previous letter, CRMC said a fence on the south of the property there — running perpendicular and into the water — had to be removed to comply with the state’s new shore access law, which provides people the right to access the shore if they’re no more than 10 feet landward of the recognizable high tide line. Filippi said previously that the fence was cut back by 10 feet, and that Ballard’s was in full compliance with the state’s shoreline access law. But CRMC said the fence, even if it was 10 feet shorter, was still unpermitted, and Ballard’s needed to either remove it or apply for it. As of the date of the July 31 letter, a complete, acceptable application hadn’t been submitted for the fence, Miguel wrote.

As for the pergola and the structure on the stage, applications were submitted in late July, but they were not “complete, acceptable” applications, Miguel wrote.

Brian Amaral can be reached at Follow him @bamaral44.


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