Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 05-23-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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10 WOONSOCKET / NO. SMITHFIELD MAY 23-29, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE | NO. SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET Though supporters billed it as a way or removing red tape in a part of the city crowded with schools and churches as well as empty storefronts, Councilor Denise Sierra expressed strong opposition to the measure, describ- ing it as a "slippery slope." She com- pared the measure to removing barriers to entry to the medical or pharmaceuti- cal industries put in place to protect consumers. "I think it is a big mistake to not look at the food and beverage indus- try in the exact same manner," she said. Sierra, a former restaurant owner, said she does not think other res- taurant owners would support the measure, saying it "waters down" an already crowded industry. She added she doesn't think loosening up restric- tions downtown will have the desired effect of generating new business in the area, describing Main Street as a "decimated" area that needs to be regenerated from the outside in. "Main Street has remained deci- mated for three decades despite every- one's best effort, despite all the money we've thrown at it," she said. Councilor David Soucy, who spon- sored the resolution, took issue with her description of the downtown area, pointing out the many success- ful or planned improvements over the past several decades, including the Stadium Theatre, River Falls restaurant, a new apartment building on North Main Street and the bike path. He added other cities around the state, including Providence, have taken up similar measures to spur development. "How can we stand here and say that things haven't changed for the better in some regard, and that a bill like this would somehow be detrimen- tal to Main Street?" he said. "To say that nothing's happening, nothing's happened in the past 15 years, I think is a disservice to our community." The remainder of the council sup- ported the measure, voting 5-1 to pass a slightly amended version. While the original request applied to the entire Downtown Overlay District, a large swath of downtown neighbor- hood, the final version only applies to buildings with Main Street addresses between Hanora Lippitt Manor and Court Street. The final version also restricted the exemption to businesses applying for certain liquor licenses, including restaurants and breweries, but excluding many bars and liquor stores. In an unrelated matter, council- ors also voted 5-1 to approve the purchase of 54 acres of open space known as Holley Springs off Annette Avenue behind Elder Ballou Road. The purchase is contingent upon the owner, H.S. Realty of North Attleboro, Mass., fixing a broken dam on the property that does not cur- rently meet Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management standards. The purchase price, total- ing $1.2 million, is supported by $800,000 in open space grants from the RIDEM, with the remainder paid by the city in $50,000 installments over eight years. Sierra voted against the proposal, citing the cost of the purchase to the city. LICENSES From Page One fund a new concession stand and bathroom facility along with other improvements at town recreational facilities. The school board supported the proposal, forwarding a letter of support to the Town Council later that month. While Guertin hopes to move forward with the plans this year, and has requested the town use $100,000 set aside toward the pro- posal to begin engineering studies, town leaders are taking a more cau- tious approach. Both Town Council President Paul Vadenais and Town Administrator Gary Ezovski told The Breeze they plan to await the out- come of sewage monitoring currently being conducted on the property to determine if the plan is compatible with the septic system. Only after the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management signs off on placing an additional restroom on the property, they said, would they be willing to invest in the facility. "I'm not against putting out a bond, but I'm just against putting out a bond without having all the answers to it," said Vadenais. In addition to the concession stand, school officials have also offered concerned about replacement of the turf field, an approximately $600,000 asset that's approaching the end of its 10-year lifespan. Guertin said he believes the town has failed to invest in maintenance of its recreational facilities, including properties outside the athletic complex. He brought up the example of two town properties on St. Paul Street and Milton Avenue in Union Village that are officially considered playgrounds but, with the exception of some plastic playground equipment on St. Paul Street, have been left as empty lots. "We haven't invested in anything," he said. "In fact, we've neglected and diminished our recreational facili- ties in the town. All you have to do is drive by that empty lot on Milton Avenue or that lot on St. Paul Street." A third lot, located at the intersec- tion of Walsh Avenue and Merrimac Road behind the Municipal Annex, has also been the target of concern from residents. Though it's listed on the town website as Bushee Playground, the lot has not contained playground equipment in at least a year. In 2016, the town received a $53,440 RIDEM grant to improve the property that remains active until September 2019, though the town has not moved forward with plans for a proposed "trike park." Last summer, town officials told The Breeze they were waiting until they could finalize plans for the nearby Municipal Annex, a project that has since been placed on hold. The other two lots have recently drawn the attention of Engage North Smithfield, a local group hoping to lease space for a community garden in a residential area. Megan Staples, a group member who also serves on the town Planning Board, came before the Town Council in March to pitch the idea. Staples said this week the group has since focused its atten- tion on the St. Paul Street lot and hopes to present a formal proposal to the council later this year. "We've been working on quite a few grants behind the scenes to see what we could do in terms of raising funds," she said. Cynthia Roberts, a group co-found- er who has also been a vocal support- er of a community garden, agreed the St. Paul Street lot is an ideal loca- tion for a garden and said she thinks town residents are looking for more recreational opportunities outside of organized sports. The group has been conducting an informal needs assessment among event attendees over the past year and a half, she said, and suggestions have included a 4-H club or community arts program. She pointed to some of the town's denser neighborhoods such as Branch Village and Union Village as areas particularly in need of green space. "Places like that where there's dense population, dense housing, those kinds of places especially need opportunities, whether it's little pop- up parks or little gardens for the people literally to walk out their door and have it right there," she said. In recent months, a debate over the future of the Gold property on Mattity Road has again raised the issue of open space, a feature many see as an important recreational and environmental component for residents. After several people criticized the handling of a proposed purchase during a meeting last week, Councilor Douglas Osier Jr. told The Breeze he plans to introduce an See SPACE, Page 21 RECREATION From Page One SIERRA Improvements to the NORTH SMITHFIELD HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL STADIUM, scheduled to be renamed Veterans Memorial Stadium, are one of several proposals related to recreational opportunities for residents currently up for consideration in town.

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