Stephen MacGillivray Quoted in Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly: CRMC Lacked Authority to Mediate Denied Application

In one of Rhode Island’s longest-running property, land use, and littoral rights disputes, the Rhode Island State Supreme Court has affirmed a lower court decision, ruling that the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) had “sufficient grounds to deny a Block Island marina’s request to extend its docks.”

In 2003, CRMC denied Champlin’s Realty Associates’ application to add 240 feet to its existing marina “in the environmentally sensitive Great Salt Pond.” In 2020, after “years of legal wrangling,” this denial was upheld in Superior Court. And in its latest term, the Rhode Island Supreme Court endorsed this decision. 

When the state Supreme Court agreed to review the case, Champlin’s and CRMC entered into private mediation where they agreed to a smaller marina expansion, which would serve as CRMC’s decision in the matter. The Supreme Court, however, “declined to issue a consent decree incorporating the terms of a memorandum of understanding (MOU)” between the parties. The Court “emphasized that CRMC had no authority to mediate such a resolution, noting that since the CRMC denied Champlin’s application, it did not have the authority to modify the final decision.”

Pierce Atwood real estate litigation and land use partner Stephen J. MacGillivray, who chairs the Rhode Island Bar Association’s Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, noted that the mediation issue was focused on whether CRMC had the authority to settle litigation stemming from an administrative action that it had been previously adjudicated to conclusion.

Steve stated, “The court pointed out that CRMC’s responsibility to the public does not end with litigation. The agency is not a ‘normal litigant’ that can undertake a cost/benefit analysis to determine if it should settle. An administrative body is the protector of its rules and regulations and is tasked with defending the processes required as part of its decision-making.” Steve also noted the court’s concern that the MOU, “while purporting to be a final decision, was not supported by underlying findings of fact and conclusions of law.”

The complete article by Barry Bridges appears in the October 21, 2022 edition of Rhode Island Lawyers Weekly.

Steve MacGillivray has more than 20 years of experience advising companies, high net worth individuals, and organizations of all sizes in matters related to complex litigation as well as real property disputes including zoning and land use, title, easement and access, condominium disputes, adverse possession and prescriptive rights, commercial leases and claims based on trespass, nuisance, and other property-related torts.

He has successfully assisted developers in the appeal of denials of zoning, wetlands, or environmental permitting, and has represented municipalities on issues such as ordinances related to renewable energy projects.