Council passes new construction ordinance
The Town Council handled the hot topic of construction noise at its Dec. 15 meeting and passed an amendment to the Code of Ordinances concerning noise and construction activities with a 3 to 1 vote.
Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said that numerous complaints from residents regarding noise, dust, lights, and traffic from construction activities at unreasonable hours had been discussed at several town meetings. Consequently, a comprehensive amendment to inadequate, existing laws was drafted and advertised in the Jamestown Press.
After lengthy discussion and listening to testimony from residents and builders who supported or opposed the amendment, the councilors voted to approve the amended ordinance that allows construction activities to take place Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with no construction allowed on Sunday.
Homeowners performing ordinary or routine maintenance on their homes are exempt from the ordinance. The ordinance also does not apply to lawn maintenance and landscaping, snow removal, or normal day to day agricultural activities.
Penalties for violation of the or- dinance range from written warnings and cease and desist orders to fines for second offenders of $250 and third and subsequent offender fines not to exceed $500.
The ordinance will be enforced by the Jamestown Police Department.
Peter and Laura Vetter who are abutters to a large construction project on East Shore Road have attended meetings concerning the noise and disruption of their daily lives caused by construction activities. Others who felt they had been victimized by similar scenarios voiced their concerns.
Local contractors Bob Grenier, Tom Gadoury, and Robert Van Cleef said that they felt they were being penalized by the activities of one off-island construction firm.
Grenier said that he had never had a problem with neighbors because of his projects. "If we made excessive noise, or played the radio too loud and a neighbor said something, we would turn it down, or stop work for that day. We've always been able to get along with everybody in the past," he said. The other contractors agreed.
Jeff McDonough, a Standish Road resident who recently endured several months of a construction project across the street from his house, said that it inconvenienced everyone living on the street and summarized the feelings of island residents and contractors alike concerning the noise, traffic and related issues.
"Nobody has a problem with the local contractors," McDonough said. "They're great guys and we all understand that they're trying to make a living." If they are making too much noise and are asked to quiet down a little bit, most of the time they are able and willing to comply," he said.
He added that people are moving to the island who have lots of money to build whatever they want and they are making people around them miserable.
"Residents are asking the council to come up with some way to help them preserve their quality of life," McDonough said. "They shouldn't have to be miserable in their own homes for three years while somebody is building a palace across the street. That's just not fair."
Councilman William Kelly said that restricting the hours means that the construction will take many more days to complete. He also said that the contractor in question is currently offering 20 jobs in a failing economy when work is desperately needed.
"The East Shore Road project is adding $80,000 to our tax revenues, providing work for island residents, and they are spending lots of money with local merchants," Kelly said. "They have accounts with the hardware store, and a couple of restaurants. We can't just disregard that."
Councilman Robert Sutton said, "This looks like a few isolated cases to me. I don't think we need to have an ordinance like this on the books forever."
After further discussion, the council agreed to the aforementioned schedule of a six-day work week from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. with no work on Sunday and attached a sunset clause of two-years to the amendment when the ordinance would be reviewed.
The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management gave a slide presentation about testing the cumulative impacts of onsite wastewater treatment systems because of recent incidents of well pollution. DEM representatives said they have developed regulations to handle the principal concern of excessive nitrates in well water.
The amended ordinances will require properties of less than 20,000 square feet with wells that that exceed acceptable nitrogen levels in the recharge systems to have advanced wastewater treatment systems installed.
Town Administrator Keiser said that the town will work with RIDEM to update the data regarding well water nitrogen levels by random testing of wells in areas that are problematic. Keiser said that the town would solicit volunteers to take part in the tests.
Bruce Long honored
Town Council President Julio DiGiando presented State Representative Bruce Long (R - Jamestown, Middletown) with an award for his contributions to the town and its residents concerning legislation regarding the environment, education, fire protection, unfunded state mandates, substance abuse prevention and a long list of additional accomplishments during his 17 years of service to the community.