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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.

 

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, the 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
Russell Archambault September 19, 2012 at 07:07 PM
Diane Iskierski you failed to respond on one important question raised. I noticed asbestos siding removed. that one item being done might mean that it is going to be demolished. We don't know what the legal problems are. You attack one property out of a hundred that is deplorable just because you have to drive by it is about self centered as it can be. Try driving around the city and see for yourself whats happening out there. I suggest you call city hall, Building inspectors office or minimum housing and find out what that property is all about and report it on this site, or should I ? Also when you call, mention my name, you will get a better understanding of my opinions.
Yvette M Ayotte September 19, 2012 at 09:07 PM
Russell, Diane has pictures of a lot of properties that she took to city hall. Nothing is beign done that is the reason she went and spoke at the city meeting. Those three bathtubs WERE falling out the windows, I suggest you get YOUR facts straight. Here's a woman who cares about her city why are you trying to put her down? Why don't you do something positive, and stop the comments you make that are lies!!
Diane Iskierski September 19, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Russell, I did drive around the city and took more than a dozen pictures. I went to the Mayor's office looking for some answers. My concerns ranged from overgrowth of weeds growing between the road and sidewalks on Mendon Road to vulgar signs and children carrying guns pictured on a store front on Main Street. Also of concern was a Providence Street home destroyed by fire. I met with the Director of Public Works and Chris Chianese. I also spoke with Roger Jalette. There were no answers to any of my questions other that there is nothing we can do because we are short staffed and do not have the money to take care of things. I was under the impression that the house on Cass Avenue was going to be demolished because I did notice the removal of the asbestos shingles and portions of the porches. I was merely looking for answers. I do not feel that we are getting our tax dollars worth of representation from this city. Where are our tax dollars going? A supplemental tax bill is on the way and we can't even sell our property because of the condition of this city.
Russell Archambault September 20, 2012 at 01:22 AM
diane I understand your frustration. the building on providence st has been before the city council a few times before. A lot of double talk, Cass ave? Im not sure if that was going to be part of expansion of the hospital if purchased by steward.You getting little answers, like no money. that is not up to the city to tear down, but other remedies can happen. the burned building on the other side of city is interesting, mayor said they could use cdbg funds, interesting isnt it? Next time dont bother going to mayors office, instead just go get a coffee, you wont be so upset, sorry.For any money being spent now I dont believe the council can even approve. has to go before budget commission now. please hold on to your frustration, I deal with it every day seeing dirty properties. Yvette I have not noticed the bathtubs jumping out the windows.I agree Lets hope that i sore on cass can get taken care of soon !
DR September 20, 2012 at 02:41 AM
Diane - I agree we are not getting our tax dollars worth out of our city officials. I would imagine some of the property owners have insurance on the property and I don't know if a portion could be attached to cover demolition prior to any settlement with the insurance company. Also I give you credit for getting involved.

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