2008-12-11 / Editorial

EDITORIAL

Ordinance needs stronger language

People say that they move to Jamestown because of its character. Often mentioned is the rural, small town atmosphere and the scenic, almost idyllic, seaside landscape that is an attraction and a comfort to us all.

Yes, Conanicut Island is normally a peaceful place — a bucolic, tranquil retreat from the urban rat race found on the mainland. But what if someone purchased a house in your neighborhood, razed the structure and then converted the area into an industrial construction site?

Indeed, that has recently happened in several neighborhoods around Jamestown. A number of islanders have found the peace and quiet of their homesteads abruptly shattered by the constant noise from construction crews laboring away at all hours of the day and night. These neighbors have not only had to endure the noise, but have suffered the increased traffic, dirt and dust, and other inconveniences brought about by these massive building projects.

The owners of these new monster houses are well heeled and used to getting their own way. They are creating their own private kingdoms and, frankly, they can't be bothered by the complaints from a few troublesome neighbors down the road. Besides, those complaining neighbors are probably not going to be invited to enjoy the view over cocktails once the masterpiece is completed.

So, the neighbors have turned to the Town Council to ask for relief.

On Monday, Dec. 15, the Jamestown Town Council will hold a public hearing on a proposed amendment to the environment/noise ordinance.

The amendment to the ordinance has several good points. It sets a time period during which construction is allowed. It also bans all construction activity on Sundays and state and federal holidays.

Holidays should be quiet. After all, holidays are an escape from the work-a-day world. One shouldn't have to listen to earth movers next door.

The noise ordinance amendment also defines construction activity and lists several exemptions. Most importantly, public emergency activities are exempt — as they should be. If we have a hurricane, we'll need all hands on deck afterwards to clean up the debris and repair the damage no matter what day of the week.

Also exempt are a homeowner's activities of routine maintenance and repairs.

The ordinance fails in the enforcement category. The first offense is a written warning. The second offense brings a $250 fine. The third offense tops out at a $500 fine.

Even if a contractor is fined $500 a day, that amount is only peanuts on some of these local construction projects. Count the number of vehicles parked at the work site. There are 30 to 40 trucks and cars. Adding a daily $500 fine to the mix will just be figured into the cost of getting the job done.

The amendment should go further by requiring each contractor that wants to work in Jamestown to purchase a work permit — similar to the peddlar's permit — from the town. The work permit could be bonded at $100,000 or even $500,000. If the town receives too many complaints and the contractor chooses to ignore them, two things will happen: 1) the contractor will lose the bond, and 2) the contractor will lose the work permit and will no longer be allowed to work at that job site.

This bonding measure may seem extreme, but a simple, inexpensive fine will not get attention that is sought.

— Jeff McDonough

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