Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Cumberland Lincoln 04-12-2018

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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ordinance, upheld by the council last week, permits internally illuminated signs on Diamond Hill Road, High Street, Mendon Road, Broad Street and Dexter Street, "except for on Diamond Hill Road, from Industrial Road and Broadview Avenue north to Pine Swamp Road to the Woonsocket boundary." The change would have struck the words "Industrial Road and Broadview Avenue" and instead prohibited such signs from Country Hill Road, two- tenths of a mile up Diamond Hill Road from Industrial Road, and then north to Woonsocket. The difference? One town block. Elizabeth Noonan, attorney with Providence-based Adler Pollock & Sheehan representing J's Deli complex owner Mars Enterprises, asked if there was anything that might be done to make the change more palatable to Schmitt, suggesting that the council postpone a vote, but Schmitt said he couldn't envision changing his mind with new information. Noonan said that despite the entire area being commercially zoned under a C-1 designation, just this one small stretch prohibits the illuminated signs. With construction of two roundabouts at Route 295 and Diamond Hill Road set to cause problems for business, revising the ordinance would help the businesses "compete on an even field with the other commercially zoned dis- tricts," she said. Though the petitioner in this case was Mars Enterprises, the owners of Saki's Pizza were also in favor of the change, said Noonan. She emphasized that these are modest businesses and "not massive enterprises" looking to go "crazy." If Saki's was still located on the prop- erty now occupied by Okonite, as it was until that plaza was torn down, the pizza place would be allowed to have an internally illuminated sign under existing restrictions. Noonan responded to Schmitt's sug- gestion that business owners knew what they were getting into by saying representatives from Mars Enterprises purchased the building in 2001, long before any internally illuminated signs were allowed in town. Now only cer- tain businesses are prohibited from having them, and "it seems somewhat unfair," she said. There are other ways to regulate business growth and devel- opment, she added. Councilor Lisa Beaulieu agreed with Schmitt. She spoke of living near Chapel Four Corners back when it had a blinking light and Saki's was where CVS is now. The change there "absolutely changed the character of Chapel Four Corners," she said. In the case of the internally illumi- nated signs, "I think this is just the first step toward that," added Beaulieu. Mayor Bill Murray said the request from Mars Enterprises was prompted by the arrival of Bank Newport in the J's Deli plaza. He said the bank "wanted this badly" as a newer busi- ness in town. Schmitt, Beaulieu, Tom Kane and Chairman Peter Bradley all voted no to the zoning ordinance change. Beaulieu asked who paid for adver- tising the requested zoning ordinance amendment, and Assistant Solicitor Chris Alger said the town paid for it. Alger indicated that he couldn't comment on the ordinance itself because a family member of his owns the plaza. Asked if he drafted the ordi- nance change, Alger said that he had, "at the request of the mayor." Kane also questioned why the town paid for advertising the zone change, and questioned Alger on whether he really recused himself from the discus- sion after the assistant solicitor inter- jected comments several times. He questioned how other council mem- bers could support the change in good conscience. Councilor Craig Dwyer said he could easily approve it in good conscience, saying it was the right move to help a few small businesses. Alger said the ordinance he drafted simply reiterates the contents of the town's comprehensive plan, and he didn't comment on the merits of whether the change should be approved. Murray grew upset about the line of questioning from Kane and Beaulieu, two frequent critics of his administration, saying, "Go ahead, go anti-business." He added, "Councilors Beaulieu and Kane, they love to look for trouble." Council members asked attorney and former Cumberland planner Kelley Morris about the history of disallowing illuminated signs in certain areas. She said the town began allow- ing illuminated signs when she was planner, within the past five years. Prior to that, lighting the signs could only be done by shining a light on them, she said. Under current ordinances, the busi- nesses at the two Diamond Hill com- mercial plazas are allowed to put a spotlight on their signs. The Breeze reported in 2013 that Morris had proposed allowing internal illumination as a way to make the town more friendly to business. She said at that time that the rules are rou- tinely ignored. CUMBERLAND LINCOLN EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | APRIL 12-18, 2018 CUMBERLAND 17 BREEZE PHOTO BY ETHAN SHOREY Town leaders have upheld a rule prohibiting businesses on DIAMOND HILL ROAD in Cumberland just north of Route 295 from having internally illuminated signs, citing a need to retain the town's character. 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