Having recently returned from a trip to Block Island that included walks along the Great Salt Pond and past Champlin’s Marina, this article caught my attention. It critiques a mediation between Rhode Island’s administrative Coastal Resources Management Council and Champlin’s. The mediation resolved a longstanding dispute arising out of Champlin’s desire to expand its capacity from 225 to 365 boats. The dispute had worked its way up to the Rhode Island Supreme Court, and while the case was pending, the parties reached an agreement that, no surprise, permitted a more modest marina expansion.
Now the mediated agreement itself is being challenged by environmental groups, the Town of New Shoreham, and the Rhode Island Attorney General, who claim that the CRMC approved a settlement without public input. From a legal standpoint, the dispute raises the issue of a public agency’s ability to mediate and resolve disputes rather than letting them play out in accordance with the administrative legal process. In a broader sense, of interest to mediators and the attorneys who appear before them, the case emphasizes the importance of having all stakeholders participate if they want the settlement to bring finality to a dispute.