Fall 2020 Update

Fall 2020 Update

A message from the President, Joe Loya

I’m sure most of you would agree that 2020 has turned out to be a year like no other. As Block Islanders, many of us have been impacted in ways we never would have imagined – both far and near. Life, on or off the island, has certainly changed. As homeowners for the past 30 years and full-time Block Island residents for nearly three years now, my wife and I value the many new friendships we’ve made in this community. Like so many full-time and part-time residents, we are thankful for this beautiful island environment we are able to wake up to each morning.

The island can certainly be a refuge in times like these and that has been both a blessing and a curse, as the saying goes. Early in the COVID-19 crisis, the island had very few cases and community members made every effort to protect one another. During those challenging months, we were still able to experience the quiet beauty of Block Island with solitary walks, bike rides, and other such activities. (I even did some clamming!) As the virus progressed, it was unclear whether or not there would even be a tourist season. But there was, and by mid-August the island was experiencing some of the heaviest traffic and congestion in recent history with so many visitors seeking refuge even for a day.

Due to the COVID-19 cancellation of many activities, the BIRA Board redirected its financial support of events such as Blues on the Block and Soundwaves’ Movies on the Beach to other emerging and critical needs. For example, we authorized a major contribution to the Block Island Fire & Rescue Squad due to the increased challenges they were facing as a result of COVID-19 and the increase in moped accidents. The Board also provided financial resources to support the Broadband bond proposal, which we are pleased to report was approved unanimously at the Financial Town Meeting in late July. With the proposal moving forward, island residents and visitors alike will finally have access to high speed internet, hopefully, by next summer.

Thank you, Bill Penn

At our virtual September annual meeting this year, I was pleased to accept the nomination for BIRA president. I want to thank Bill Penn for his leadership of BIRA over the past several years, serving multiple terms as president. Under his leadership, and with your membership and contributions, we have supported numerous organizations and initiatives on the Island including Blues on the Block, the Deer Task Force, Helping Hands, the International Student Center, the International Workers Center, Lunch Bunch, and a scholarship for graduating Block Island School students.

At the same time, Bill has made so many other important contributions to Island life, chairing the Historic District Commission and serving as treasurer of the newly formed Block Island Utility District — to name just two!

Bill — on behalf of the Board of Directors, I want to say thank you again for all that you have done and all that we know you will continue to do for the people of Block Island.

Looking ahead

One of our goals in the coming year is to keep our members informed and to give all island residents – both full-time and part-time – a voice. In that spirit, here are some important initiatives and events coming up.

Your input matters!  This summer, the island experienced what seemed like an “overabundance” of summer visitors and tragically, two traffic fatalities. We saw an upsurge in moped related accidents, which has again raised questions around public safety, moped reform, summer congestion and more.  #RespectBI is sponsoring a brief opinion survey as a first step in organizing a more coherent, forward-looking response to the conditions we all experienced this past summer. We agree with this initiative and if you have not had a chance to respond to this survey, we encourage you take a few minutes to add your voice to this important issue. You can access this brief survey at

Land conservation on Block Island is certainly not a new issue, however, the debate earlier this year over the definition of “developable land” has raised new concerns over exactly how much of this Island will in fact continue to be preserved for future generations.

The BIRA Board of Directors is in agreement with Block Island’s conservation organizations, (BIC, BILT, TNC), that land subject to conservation easements should be excluded from the developable land calculation unless the Grantor specifically reserves the development rights. Because the Town Council faced many pressing issues around public health and safety this year due to the pandemic, this issue remains unresolved and we will continue to advocate in support of land conservation.

Candidates’ Night moved to Wednesday, October 28

Candidates’ Night will be now be held on Wednesday Night, October 28th from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. This is a change from what was previously reported in this Fall 2020 Update. The new date will enable us to accommodate the annual Roll Call Dinner, which is set for Tuesday evening at Harbor Church.

What questions do YOU have?
We are asking the public to send in their questions in advance. This is your chance to ask the candidates about the issues most important to Block Islanders. You can submit your questions via this LINK or email your questions to either Lars Trodson at or to Joe Loya, President of BIRA, at

The following candidates have been invited to participate:
School Committee candidates Jessica Willi, Annie Hall, and Patricia Doyle, Republican State Rep. Blake Filippi, Democratic state Sen. Susan Sosnowski, and her Republican opponent Dave Tacey.
Town Council candidates have also been invited: Incumbents Ken Lacoste and Second Warden André Boudreau, who are both running for First Warden; Sven Risom, who is running unopposed for Second Warden; and incumbents Martha Ball, Chris Willi, as well as Marc Emmanuelle and Keith Stover for the at-large seats.

While the candidates will appear together in the gym, the public is not being invited due to health and safety regulations, but may watch on Zoom. The audience will also be encouraged to pose questions to the candidates via the chat feature on Zoom.

To join the meeting via Zoom on Wednesday evening:
Meeting ID: 726 443 8505

Or use One tap mobile:
+13017158592 – 7264438505#
+13126266799 – 7264438505#

Please join us for what promises to be an informative and important event.

We want to hear from you.

We hope to keep in touch with you throughout the coming year and would like to hear your thoughts and opinions about the issues touched on above, as well as what’s most important to you as a resident of this very special place we all love – Block Island. Feel free to write us at

More to come…