EAST PROVIDENCE — There was little special about the special session called by the East Providence City Council Tuesday night, Aug. 13, as nothing was decided in regard to the recent ruling by a Superior Court judge in favor on an appeal by the former operators of the TLA-Pond View recycling plant and the owner of the 1 Dexter Road land, Kenlin Properties.
City Solicitor Timothy Chapman told those in attendance the Council took three separate votes on the matter in an executive session, all finishing with 3-2 counts. The last of the three tabled any decision on the city’s response to the court decision to the Council’s next regularly scheduled gathering on Tuesday, Aug. 20.
“I would ask the residents of Rumford to attend the Council meeting scheduled for next Tuesday, Aug. 20,” Council President and Mayor James Briden who represents Ward 1 where the controversial recycling plant sits.
He continued, “They need to convince the members of the City Council to appeal this recent decision to reverse the ruling of the Zoning Board to the Supreme Court.”
The Aug. 13 meeting, called by Mr. Briden, was scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m. and last just an hour with a School Committee forum already set for the same evening in the City Hall Chamber.
It ended on time, but left both councilors and residents of the Rumford section alike wondering what will happen next.
Councilman Briden requested the Council consider its next move in response to Judge Sarah Taft-Carter’s decision in favor of an appeal made by the former TLA-Pond View owners, recognized in court as TLA-Providence, and Kenlin Properties, owned by Kenneth Foley.
Judge Taft-Carter deemed the East Providence Zoning Board had erred in its decision to put limitations on the original variance, which called for the property to be maintained at a certain level and for it to abide by the 150 ton per day quota. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management had also previously allowed TLA/Mr. Foley to operate with a 1,500 ton per day quota.
“If we do not appeal this decision, then this will go down as one of the worst mistakes a City Council has made in the history of East Providence, “Mr. Briden said. “We also need to make sure the DEM is able to revoke the 1,500 ton per day permit. Depending on how the Council votes at our next meeting, our quality of life in Rumford hangs in the balance.”
Tuesday, the Council was expected to review its options in the case, which most thought would likely be to appeal the appellate decision. The elected officials, however, did not.
At first, Councilors Chrissy Rossi and Thomas Rose, of Wards 3 and 4 respectively, voted not to appeal as did At-Large Councilor Tracy Capobianco. Mr. Briden and Ward 2’s Helder Cunha voted in favor of the appeal
On a second vote, Mrs. Capobianco apparently changed her mind, voting with Messrs. Briden and Cunha to rescind the initial vote.
A third vote, with the same three tallying in the affirmative and Mrs. Rossi and Mr. Rose voting in the negative, tabled all aspects of the TLA/Kenlin situation to next week’s meeting.
TLA-Pond View went into bankruptcy late last year. The receiver is holding what could be a very valuable chip in the matter, a license to operate the facility what is now more favorable terms in light of Judge Carter-Taft’s ruling.
Mr. Foley, who still holds the deed on the land and who was given the contract to clean up the site by the DEM, has been running an interior metals reclamation business at 1 Dexter Road for the last several months.
Gene Saveory, the chairman of the East Providence Zoning Board and who is named as a defendant in the case in the court documents, said he was in favor of the Council appealing Judge Carter-Taft’s ruling.
“I very strongly encourage the Council to appeal so as not to set a precedent in the future,” Mr. Saveory said. “I don’t disagree with Pond View. He’s (Ken Foley) probably going to be there. But I do disagree with the judge. I’m not afraid of Pond View. We can deal with that. What I’m afraid of is the precedent being set.”
What the Council does next is crucial to the near and long-term future of the 1 Dexter Road property as well as that of the neighbors, both business and residential, in the Rumford section of the city, many of whom were in the audience Tuesday.
Corliss Blanchard, one of the most vocal of the neighborhood residents, called out Mrs. Rossi and Mr. Rose for their lack of support. She noted how both have backed other similar measures in the past and wondered why they weren’t with the residents this time around.
“We need good people living here,” Ms. Blanchard added. “We don’t need a dump.”
Chris Ryding, the chief executive officer of Gripnail Fastening Systems located at 97 Dexter Road, spoke Tuesday as a representative of other businesses on the roadway. He noted his company is employee owned and each has a stake in the property value of their building. Mr. Ryding said after some initial trepidation, the original owners of Gripnail agreed not to fight Mr. Foley opening Pond View back in 1998. Their fear of what could happen, however, actually materialized over the last 15 years.
“After about 100 flat tires, broken promises and delayed compliance, it’s obvious to us our business neighbor does not share our values,” Mr. Ryding said. “(Pond View) has not lived up to the basic human contract of being a good neighbor.”
Mr. Ryding added he was excited about the plans the East Providence Waterfront Commission has for the Dexter Road area, but wondered if they would come to fruition with a “dump” near the location. He said the industrial area of the city’s waterfront has the possibility of being like Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick, but would more likely resemble the landfill in Johnston if Pond View is allowed to remain in operation.
Ken Schneider, a Rumford resident and one of the leaders of the East Providence Coalition community activist group, echoed the sentiment of both Ms. Blanchard and Mr. Ryding.
“This is a city-wide issue because we can’t get new businesses to come here. Who wants to open a business near a dump?” Mr. Schneider said. “If any of you (the councilors) lived across from Pond View for just one day, you wouldn’t have to think about your vote.”
Mr. Briden concurred with those residents and business owners he represents in Ward 1. In a rare show of emotion for the usually subdued Council President, he reiterated his earlier point about the harm that would be done to both the city and the reputation of the Council if no appeal is made.
“If the Council fails to vote in favor to appeal this decision, then this will go down as one of the greatest mistakes in the history of our city,” Mr. Briden concluded. “And if we don’t appeal, then the residents of this city should be outraged. We can not allow this decision to stand.”