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City Council Hears Complaints On Property Upkeep, Zoning Process

Resolution moving public comment later in agenda to coincide with Council members' comments coming at Oct. 1 meeting.

City Council Hears Complaints On Property Upkeep, Zoning Process City Council Hears Complaints On Property Upkeep, Zoning Process

 

The City Council heard from a citizen seeking a solution to what was described as the deplorable condition of several Woonsocket properties during the public comment part of their agenda Monday night.

Diane Iskierski said when she comes and goes to work each day, "I take different routes so I don't have to look at some of the deplorable buildings in Woonsocket." She said the buildings along Cass Avenue are particularly unkempt.

One building in particular, she said, 285 Cass Avenue, t he site of a fire in January, had three bathtubs hanging out of a back wall, with no roof. Iskierski said years ago, the city would respond quickly to property owners with maintenance issues that affected the community. She told a story about a neighbor who was fined within two weeks for taking down his house numbers when vinyl siding was put up on his house. "Why does it now take two years just to get somebody to clean off their front porch?" she asked.

Iskierski said that with more stringent laws about keeping up properties, "We could, probably, without spending a whole lot more money, we could spruce up this city a little," she said.

Later in the meeting, Councilman Bob Moreau echoed Iskierski's sentiment, but focused on city roads. "We really need to look at the upkeep of main entries into the city," he said, such as Cumberland Hill Road, for instance. 

Mayor Leo Fontaine noted upkeep of public land in those areas used to be handled by crews of city workers which Woonsocket can no longer afford. "When we cut staffing, this is one of the things we don't have money for," Fontaine said. He said a possible solution, adopted in other cities, would be an ordinance requiring property owners to cut grass and control weeds along their properties just as they're required to do for snow and ice in the winter.

The Council also heard Jim Cournoyer's concerns about the process for zoning ordinance/variance decisions. 

Cournoyer referenced a series of memos between Sept. 2 and Sept. 20 2011 about a variance required for 86 and 95 Burnside Ave., where the developer proposed renovations that would add three units to a building with an existing six units that didn't conform to the zoning rules but was grandfathered in.

In a Sept. 2 letter, Assistant Zoning Inspector Lawrence Enright states a variance is required. A Sept. 9 2011 memo by N. David Bouley, Environmental/Compliance Officer,  lays out an argument for allowing the extra units within the land's grandfathered status. A Sept. 12, 2011 memo from Enright to Planning Director Paulette Miller reiterates the need for a dimensional variance, which he repeats in a Sept. 20 memo.

Cournoyer said he interprets the communication between Enright and the Planning Department to be a sign of push-back on a decision which should be argued during a Zoning Board of Appeals meeting. "That's the place and process to do it," Cournoyer said.

Council President John Ward scheduled a working session next Monday, 7 p.m. Sept. 22 at City Hall in the second floor conference room to discuss the process for Zoning decisions and appeals. 

Earlier in the meeting, Cournoyer noted a discussion about moving the public comment portion of City Council meetings to the end of the agenda was a good idea. "I support you on that," Cournoyer said.

Ward explained the move would let people with quickly resolved business before the board to get their issues addressed first, instead of making them wait throughout public comment period. He said in most cases, citizens would not be waiting long for that business to be taken care of. Ward said the move would also place the citizen's comments and concerns just prior to the Council members' own opportunity to speak, so they could directly respond to matters brought up by the public.

Under current practice, a number of unrelated topics are addressed by the council before members are able to respond to issues raised at the beginning of Council meetings.

Ward said he'd heard enough from the discussion to warrant placing a resolution on the agenda for the City Council's next meeting Oct. 1 to consider making the change. 

In other news:

  • The City Council also announced a re-dedication for the Place Jolicoeur Monument at Woonsocket Fire Department Headquarters Oct. 3, 4 p.m. 
  • Councilman Christopher Beauchamp announced he would be helping to serve during the St. Jude's Breakfast scheduled this Sunday, from 8 a.m. to noon, at Le Club Par-X, 36 Stanley Ave.
  • The City Council also approved a tag day fund-raising collection for the Woonsocket Lions Club Dec. 22.
  • Family Resources Community Action, route: {:controller=>"listings", :action=>"show", :id=>"family-resources-community-action"} -->'s Bette Gallogly announced the return of the FRCA's annual

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