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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
nimrod September 18, 2012 at 07:40 PM
Get used to it Diane,it's only going to get worse.
Russell Archambault September 18, 2012 at 09:39 PM
You lost your credibility right away when you said bathtubs hanging out a back wall the building. here are the facts. the bathtubs are still in place as they been for 85 years. that back wall did burn so you could see them if the blue tarps were removed. the building has tarps to try to keep the rain out. the asbestos siding has been removed. railings in the front porches were removed, for a reason unknown to me.which the entire porches were just rebuilt a year or so ago. That building was in very nice condition before the fire I only know what my expert eye can see. Lady get you facts on the future of that building before you complain. I have nothing to to with that building, and I was wondering myself. Demolition?
Still Hope September 18, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Thank you for touching on that Russ. These Ultra Liberals are making regular liberals look like idiots. Ultra Liberals are people that witness things they don't like, recommend someone do something, yet don't offer any resolution or even do the basic research into why things are. The few times they do offer suggestions, they are contradictory to something else they complain about. Here's an example: some dude wrote a letter a few weeks ago complaining about dilapidated houses and taxing the owners of those properties without even considering who own such properties or the legal consequence to enforcing such an item. The funny thing is the Fair Housing and Frank-Dodd acts tied many of banks against helping families re-fi or or making it conducive for non-investors to purchase downed properties. A lot of the empty building are in rough shape because getting hit with obscene tax structures (just ask Russ). Tough rental market, rising taxes, increased regulations...and now you wanna slap them even harder? Let me talk about some more Ultra Liberal ideas. Gather some kids and clean a park or set up a community watch? Oops, now you gotta fight the labor unions that you've been championing all those years. Can't build roads, but we can hand out cell phones. I've got plenty more, but about to get Tolstoy'd. Best quote from this article: "I take different routes so I don't have to look at some of the deplorable buildings in Woonsocket." First to complain, first to turn away.
Russell Archambault September 18, 2012 at 11:04 PM
More credibility issues for me, "I take different routes so I don't have to look at some of the deplorable buildings in Woonsocket." Has she found a special route to and from work that is perfect for her yet !
Russell Archambault September 18, 2012 at 11:07 PM
Cournoyer, was right on everything he spoke of last night at the meeting.Someone worth listening to.
Diane Iskierski September 19, 2012 at 05:11 AM
Russell, Three bathtubs can clearly be seen from the back of the building. They are not covered with tarps. Tarps have been there so long that they have deteriorated to nothing more than shredded material blowing in the wind, closer to the roof line. The bathtub on the third level has fallen through the floor. The two bathtubs on the second floor are also in clear view. Rain and the elements have been entering the building through the roof and missing back wall, for so long now, that much damage has been added to the serious conditions caused by the fire early in January 2012. I trust that the building was in "nice" condition before the fire. Unfortunately fire caused heavy damage and the building was not repaired in a timely manner. Now, the elements have rotted much of what can be seen from the back of the building. Your expert eye may need another look. In addition, I cannot understand why furnishings from the inside have been left on the porches. You have not convinced me that the building at 285 Cass Avenue has any future. Let's clean up the city and show some pride. If that building meets your standards, then enjoy the view. My standards are a bit higher and I know we can do much better!
DR September 19, 2012 at 01:23 PM
Cournoyer was right again, but what he said has fallen on deaf ears.
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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