Bad blood over yard clean-up in Warren

Clarence Davis and his neighbor, Charlene Vernon, say Mr. Davis is doing all he can to clean up his property. Clarence Davis and his neighbor, Charlene Vernon, say Mr. Davis is doing all he can to clean up his property.

Clarence Davis and his neighbor, Charlene Vernon, say Mr. Davis is doing all he can to clean up his property.

Clarence Davis and his neighbor, Charlene Vernon, say Mr. Davis is doing all he can to clean up his property.

After nine years of court dates, deadlines, fines and orders, a town effort to force a Warren couple to clean up their property and fix their crumbling home is in legal limbo this week, leaving one thing certain: The bad blood on Parker Avenue is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Ever since Warren building official William Nash first contacted 24 Parker Ave. residents Clarence “Gene” Davis and his wife Barbara in June 2005, the state of their yard — and the large number of cars, lawnmowers, trailers, boats and other items it contained then and still does — has been a sore spot for the town, which has taken the Davises to Warren Municipal Court and, more recently, District Court in Providence. In April, Mr. Nash declared the Davis’ home uninhabitable, forcing Mr. Davis to move into a neighbor’s house next door while his wife Barbara recovers in the hospital following hip replacement surgery.

The case long ago stirred up a hornet’s nest on Parker Avenue, a mostly quiet street made up of modest ranch houses and tenements left over from the days when neighborhood residents worked in the mills on Metacom and Franklin streets. It only grew worse last week, when a neighbor wrote a letter to the Warren Times-Gazette taking the Davises to task for the state of their yard, which has not changed substantially in the nine years since the town first sought to correct the issue:

“I’m concerned … and I cannot believe the Town of Warren allows this problem to continue,” wrote Dolores Seddon.

In response, Mr. Davis was blunt:

“I’m just trying to work myself out of a bad situation, but I don’t know that I ever will,” he said. “I’m doing everything I can here.”

What happened?

Mr. Davis, 72, a U.S. Army veteran, worked for years as a diesel mechanic and has for years been storing cars on the property, partly as a hobby and partly through his work. There’s a late ’40s Oldsmobile, a Porsche, several old Fords and Cadillacs and Pontiacs, and more. He has also filled the yard with all manner of random objects from vacuum cleaners to fishing poles and toaster ovens and several trailers; all, he said, are items that he brings to the Route 6 flea market near Seekonk Speedway every week in hopes of selling. It’s his sole income, apart from $680 or so that he gets every month from the government.

“How far do you think that’ll get you?”

He said he is trying to comply with long-standing town orders that he clean up his property, but is hampered by poor health and the recent condemnation of his home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHowever, the Calenda family, who own property to the west, want more. Members of that family — including letter writer Ms. Seddon — have been after Mr. Davis to clean up the yard for years, and one of the most vocal neighbors is Steve Calenda, her son, a retired Bristol police officer who serves as a member of the zoning board of review.

Mr. Calenda said he has had many talks with town officials over the issue, and wants only for Mr. Davis to be a good neighbor and clean up his yard.

“What would you do if you lived next door to that?”

Town officials several years ago sent in a cleaning crew which moved items including cars around and cleaned up some of the underbrush. Though the town was charged about $10,000 for the work, it had only a temporary effect, as the underbrush is back, Mr. Calenda said.

Warren is now seeking repayment of the money the town spent cleaning up the property, and the town’s attorney, Anthony DeSisto, wants a clear plan for how to permanently solve the many violations Mr. Nash notes on the property.

Town officials might have hoped to expedite the matter when they brought it from local municipal court to district court last summer, and it looked as if things were moving along until this spring. In April, Mr. Nash declared the house uninhabitable, forcing Mr. Davis to move in with a sympathetic neighbor, Charlene Vernon, at 26 Parker Ave. Then, the Davis’ attorney, Sonja Dejoe, successfully petitioned the court to remove her from the case, effectively putting legal proceedings on hold.

Ms. Dejoe had been working on a plan to present to the town detailing how the Davis family would clean up the property, but nothing has happened in the court since she left, and the plan was never submitted.

At this point, Mr. DeSisto said, the town and court are waiting for the matter of the Davis’ legal representation to be settled. He suggested that in the meantime, neighbors are free to file injunctions with the court seeking that the matter be resolved. But that’s not the best course, Mr. Calenda said.

“I want the town to do what needs to be done,” he said. “Me personally, the position I would be taking, is you issue a court date and allow them to present. If they don’t present, you go forward against them.”

Two doors down, Ms. Vernon said the matter has gotten out of hand. She said Ms. Seddon’s letter contained inaccuracies and was unfair and mean-spirited, as it accused Mr. Davis of spreading junk to her property — “that’s not true,” she said. “Those things are mine.”

She is facing her own problems, she said, as her home is due to be sold at a foreclosure auction in October. She doesn’t know what will happen to her or the Davises if that comes to pass.

“But it’s too bad,” said Ms. Vernon. “We need more compassion in this town. This is a man who served his country, who has been with his wife for 50 years, who is facing hard times and needs a little bit of help. He’s a good man. He’s trying.”

“And what’s he getting? It sure isn’t help. It’s a shame.”

Authors

19 Comments

  1. Warrenite25 said:

    As a neighbor on Parker ave. who has a clear view of both Mr. Davis’ and Ms. Vernon’s properties, I believe that I have a unique perspective on this issue. First of all, I am outraged that an elderly veteran who served his country, has spent his lifetime collecting items of personal interest, and chooses to store them in HIS OWN yard is being persecuted in such a public, and inflammatory way. Additionally, Mr. Davis’ yard, where much of the “mess” is stored, is surrounded by trees and shrubbery that make it very difficult for the routine passer-by to even see the yard. It is not an eyesore, as it is camouflaged behind very thick trees. I am sorry to hear that his house has been deemed uninhabitable, but for his own safety, and the safety of his wife, I am so happy that we have such a wonderful neighbor in Chucky (Charlene). I understand that neighbors directly abutting the property may consider the eyesore, as they can see it directly from their home, but all in all, I do not believe that a man who has invested so much in his community over the course of 72 years should be forced by that community to sell off the possessions that he has spent a lifetime collecting.

    No, the yard is not pretty, and no, it does not help the value of adjacent properties, but it is HIS home, HIS property, and HIS right to use said property however he sees fit. The condition of his yard does directly violate any laws (as far as I know…but I’m no lawyer, I could be wrong), so please let him live out his golden years with dignity and respect.

  2. Warrenite25 said:

    And in response to the rhetorical question in the article, “what would you do if you lived next door to that?”

    For all intents and purposes, I do live next door. I see the yard every time I walk out my front door. The simple answer is: I would do NOTHING.

  3. elomas_2001@yahoo.com said:

    This outrages me!!! Leave them alone!!!! I know them both personally!!! The is a medical condition called hording, don’t know what causes it but this is it! The cars no that was a hobby of his!!! I loved the papa smurf car which I can’t see in the pictures that are here! It upsets me even more that I did not know that the house was uninhabbitable!!!!! It has been many years since I seem them even talked to them but it outrages me!!!!!!!! And 2 find out this way kills me!!!’

  4. Brian Marshall said:

    To the Calenda family & and others,

    If this is such a big EYESORE why don’t you lend a hand and help your neighbor out. Maybe that’s all this Man and his wife needs is a help n hand. The more you attack him and his yard the more nothing gets done to solves this issue. Sorry if I lived next door to 72 year old man that had health issues I would help as much as I could in stead of complaining. Be a leader not a complaining wimp

  5. pfisher said:

    The job I work in puts me in houses like this all the time. They all say the same thing.” I’m getting a dumpster next week so don’t mind the mess.” The next time I go to their house it’s still the same if not worse. The man is a hoarder, he is not going to change and he will not give up collecting items that he feels are of value. I speak from experience also because my father was a hoarder. Until his death I was not able to be rid of his items. So Mr. Calenda, get some good curtains or some fast growing trees because that man is never going to give up his things. Even if the town makes him clean up, that means he will have more room for new things. Take it from me, I have seen it all before. Fighting him is only going to make him dig in deeper. Maybe you and all your neighbors can ease up a little and maybe offer to help him cleanup some or chip in for a roll off dumpster. I feel for you because that was me and I feel for him because he was like my dad. Good luck to both of you.

  6. steve calenda said:

    Well it appears a personal attack is occurring on my family so I have a response to the readers. My name is Steve Calenda and like Mr. Davis, I too served my community, state, and yes country (Iraq 2009) Being a veteran doesn’t entitled you to do whatever you want or trample upon the rights of other people.

    First a little background on the neighborhood. My family took up residence on Parker Ave over 100 years ago. 24 Parker Ave was once owned by my Uncle Gabe Ferrazzanno. My Aunt and Uncle used the residence as a summer home. The property was sold to a lovely man we referred to as “RED”, he planted trees and maintained a beautiful residence. In the late 60’s, the property was sold to Mr. Roger Fournier. Mr. Fournier worked nights and tried to sleep during the day, unfortunately with the dozens of children playing in the street, the property was sold around 1978 to its present owner.

    20 Parker Ave was built in 1962 (By my parents, my father was also a veteran Korea) and for more than 20 years there was never an issue with 24 Parker Ave. In 1999 I purchased 20 Parker Ave and began a massive renovation. What has occurred at 24 Parker Ave has been growing increasingly worse and further comment is not necessary. However, during my many journeys to Warren Town Hall, I was informed, due to the condition, 24 Parker Ave has received a discount of 30% on the property tax evaluation and payment, and as far as I know, still does, do the math, that’s thousands in lost tax revenue.

    As for breaking the law, yes, what is occurring on Parker Ave is a direct violation of local town ordinances.

    As for planting fast growing trees/curtains, I have invested thousands in landscaping to shield this eye sore from my residence.

    Further more, having a hobby of fixing antique cars is a great way to spend your time, both my brothers do it. However, having at one time more than 50 vehicles and the average restoration project taking about 3 years and thousands of dollars. At the age of 72, it would take more than 100 years to restore said vehicles.

    Also, I do not need to discuss or defend the issue of lending a helping hand, I am always willing to help anyone in need without hesitation or reward.

    It is easy for someone to say I would do nothing if they lived next door to this residence. My response is simple, forget about moving next door, think about how this is impacting our taxes and how we all have to make up the difference. Sooner or later, this problem is going to be your problem.

    • Warrenite25 said:

      Mr. Calenda,

      I appreciate your response, but I don’t think anyone here has been “attacking” your family. Like I said, I am a neighbor, and with the exception of the issue at 24 Parker, you and your family have been nothing but nice, respectful, and neighborly.

      I take issue with one other thing that you said; you state that just because Mr. Davis is a veteran, that does not give him the right now “trample upon the rights of others.” I just don’t see how Mr. Davis’ collection of…and yes, I’ll say it….junk….in anyway infringed upon anyone’s rights. Conversely, however, I do believe that you are infringing upon HIS rights by pursuing this issue so fervently.

      I’m not saying that the yard and property does not require a major overhaul, I just do not believe that it is the right of any neighbor to “require” it. That’s all I’m saying…

      • steve calenda said:

        Dear Warrenite25

        Apparently you have no grasp of the hear and now. What has occurred at 24 Parker Ave is a clear and present violation of the law, although it be a local town ordinance, it is a violation. Feel free to go online, research the Warren Town Ordinances, and read why this is against the law. I will give you a preview, you cant have multiple trailers in your yard, you can only have one boat, not 6. You can not have multiple containers, and the backhoe in the back yard is not allowed in a residential neighborhood, just to name a few.

        So let me put it like this, the rights of the people to swing their arms as far as they want, stops at the tip of your nose.

        So the right of a person to do what they want on their own property, stops when it infringes on the rights of the people they live next to. If this was not the case, you could have a liquor store on every corner, an adult book store across from our schools, and 24 hour Casinos in every neighborhood. This is why we have zoning laws and if you can not see this is a violation, then you are wearing blinders.

        If you are paying property taxes in Warren you should be screaming bloody murder. The condition of 24 Parker Ave is causing all of our property values to go down the drain. If you don’t realize this, I will gladly allow you to pay my property taxes.

        Also, it is no secret I am an avid runner and run all over this town and the entire east bay. What I see occurring in Warren is an epidemic of junk accumulating through out the town. If this continues to go unchecked, it will spread like wild fire.

        • Warrenite25 said:

          ……and you said YOU felt as though you were being attacked; I’ve been nothing but polite and cordial. You, on the other hand, have chosen to attack me.

          And please, being in possession of an excessive number of boats, trailers, etc., is much different than establishing liquor stores on every corner, or adult bookstores next to schools. Let’s keep this in perspective. The only person whose property is being affected (supposedly) is yours. Mine isn’t, save the $10,000 that I’m sure I will be taxed on because you required that the town take action. The neighbor on the other side, also directly abutting Mr. Davis’ property, has opened up her home to him and his wife. Don’t you think that if his actions were as detrimental as you claim, that she would be equally as upset? Please….you are simply making a bigger issue out of this than need be. I certainly understand your perspective, and I can be sympathetic, but only to a point. I have seen trucks, workers with equipment and friends and family help Mr. Davis to remove items from his yard; not to mention his own efforts (I’ve seen it…he’s clearly trying). It’s unfair and unneighborly of you to say that the town should continue the battle and present against him, despite the fact that Mr. Davis does not currently have legal representation. I’m not saying it’s illegal….but certainly immoral. Like I said, I’ve never seen you or any member of your family do anything unneighborly, impolite, or otherwise rude. I have respect for you and your family, I just hope you can understand that I wholeheartedly disagree with the actions you are taking.

          • steve calenda said:

            Dear Warrenite25

            Once again, you really don’t have a grasp of reality. It must be nice to drive down the street wearing rosie colored glasses.

            Plain and simple, if it walks like a junk yard, smells like a junk yard, looks like a junk yard, its a JUNK YARD.

            As keeping it in perspective, comparing what has occurred at 24 Parker Ave to zoning run amuck, is 100% accurate.

            As for 26 Parker Ave opening her doors to the unfortunate, hording is a disease, it will spread like wild fire.

            As for seeing workers removing items, that is not even remotely correct. What you have been seeing is more vehicles arriving, such as an old ambulance and a white SUV expedition, (Not operational) and a Volvo station wagon, just to mention a few. This is not an individual who is attempting to clean the area, this is an individual who is laughing at the town and the court.

            You want to agree to disagree, fine, but I didn’t go to Iraq to fight terrorism to come home to this. People are always so quick to mention, he or she is a veteran well so am I and in the great words of John Paul Jones ” I have not yet begun to Fight”

          • steve calenda said:

            Dear Warrenite25

            I would also like to address an issue I don’t believe anyone has brought up yet.

            CONTAMINATION!! Has anyone even considered what has been occurring under the ground of every vehicle, boat, trailer and backhoe. All these vehicles contained fluids that are highly toxic. They have been laying dormant for over a decade, leaking into the soil. Several residents in this neighborhood have wells (including my two brothers) As a neighbor who seems to be so concerned, have you ever considered the effects of the toxic waste that is occurring at 24 Parker Ave.
            Let us not forget what occurred at the Shell Gas Station (Top of Parker Ave). It leaked into the ground and causing serve problems for Parker Ave.

            Folks this is not a complicated issue. The town should be vigorously pursuing this issue. Allowing this to continue could prove catastrophic in the end. This issue could end up costing the Town of Warren Thousands in legal fees and payouts.

            Oh and by the way, I am not sure what you were doing when we got hit with our last blizzard, I along with my brothers were not only making sure all of our neighbors were safe and plowed out, we were all over this town doing the same. So please, don’t make it sound like I am a bad neighbor, you have no idea what you are talking about!!

  7. Guy Guyverson said:

    I am sorry, there is no way you can look at this property and consider this OK. Drive down and take a look. He may be a nice man, but this place is a junkyard plain and simple and does not belong in a residence.

    “Lend a hand” ?? I would not recommend anyone set foot in that yard to help. You need a crane and about thirty 30 yd yard dumpsters and 5 flat beds to clean this place out. No Joke.

    No one mentions the car that caught on fire and exploded in the front yard either?

    Scrap everything and sell it. Give the town what it owes, and give the rest to Mr. Davis, flatten the property and sell it to someone else to start over.

  8. steve calenda said:

    Dear Readers including Warrenite25

    There is one other issue you should all be aware of that no one has addressed.

    A couple of years ago, several (that’s more than one) Warren Police Officers arrived at my residence, it was a beautiful sunny summer day. I was in my back yard cleaning my pool. Of course I was curious and very cordial to the officers and asked what’s up. I was informed Mr. Davis had disclosed he was intent on shooting me. Of course I was concerned and the Warren Police informed me they were going to his residence to remove any and all firearms he had in his possession.

    Now, though out my career, I voluntarily put myself in harms way and continued that service when I performed my tour in Iraq. So if you are intent on keeping this in perspective, lets just make sure you have the entire story.

  9. steve calenda said:

    Dear Readers and Warrenit25

    I would also like to mention the fact Mr. Davis has openly admitted he is operating a business out of his front yard. Mr. Davis has stated, “he transport articles from his front yard to the flea market held at Seekonk Speedway”.

    Folks, this is a residential district, not a business district and if he is able to operate a flea market business, then he is able to clean the yard.

    As stated, this is a clear and obvious case of an individual who is mocking the entire town, you want to feel bad for someone, how about you feel bad for the children who live in this neighborhood who could end up having serve health problems caused by all the contamination.

  10. mmcjsa2 said:

    If you think living next to Mr Davis is bad talk to your neighbors on Harris Ave or Hanley Ln. They live next door to cows and goats in a neighborhood very similar to yours. How would you like to smell and hear cows and goats all day. Also there are many properties in town that have the same amount of crap in their yards, if the town cracks down on this family then all should be addressed.

    • steve calenda said:

      Dear MMCJSA2

      If you have not yet done so, go to the building officials office and file a complaint. If you have already filed a complaint, request to see the complaint and also request to see what action was taken, if any. All of the information I have mentioned is public record and available.

      This is what is wrong with Warren RI. We have zoning ordinances and laws preventing what is occurring and no one in town government is willing to take responsibility and fix the problem. However, we are still paying are taxes at the rate of 18.37 per thousand which comes to about 5400 dollars on a residence valued at 300,000.

      I keep talking about taxes and ordinances, I tell you and the entire town of Warren, if they are willing to return my tax dollars, I will stop complaining.

      Apparently, the only choice we have is to file suit against the individuals we live next to and also name the town in the law suit.

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