Letter: Is it Rumford or ‘Dump-ford’?

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To the editor,

With all the talk of slander and political witch hunts in Mr. Foley’s recent commentary, he tries to distract us from the core issue before us: Is any expanded Construction and Demolition (C&D) operation from the 150 ton per day intake of waste a violation of the original variance and subsequently a violation of East Providence law?

Over the objections of many residents in 1998, the zoning board granted a use variance to 1 Dexter Road without doing any kind of studies on what effect a C& D facility would have on the quality of life to the surrounding neighbors and business. This variance and subsequent application to the DEM was to ACCEPT no more than 150 tons per day of waste. While neighbors were upset that the Zoning Board granted the variance, we understand that Mr. Foley has been given the right to accept no more than 150 tons per day of waste at his facility.

However, he does not have the right to expand at will. To expand he must get a new variance from the Zoning Board. In 2005 Mr. Foley sought a variance for 500 tons of waste per day, but he withdrew his application before the Zoning Board ruled on his request when it appeared that he would not be given the new variance. Since then the companies operating at 1 Dexter Road have sought to circumvent the Zoning Board and to expand to 1500 tons per day. That is 10 TIMES the original amount without any approval from the city! What’s next? 5,000 tons? 10,000 tons?

Anyone who lives near the facility knows from their own experience that when the plant operates they are living with dust and odors. They hear the noise from the machines, and they feel the vibrations of the materials being moved. Many residents report they are experiencing illnesses especially respiratory illness such as asthma. They stay inside and they keep their windows closed. They are stressed by the ongoing assault on their homes and families. The operation is performed all outdoors, including grinding wood. Where do you think all the dust goes?  We can even quote Mr. Foley’s own words when he testified to DEM for the issuance of the 1500 ton per day license: (http://www.dem.ri.gov/programs/benviron/waste/pdf/tlapvlic.pdf) (page 433, line 12) “Has there been dust in the pond?  Absolutely, can’t deny that.” and “TLA has done a much better job of controlling it than I had.”

There Mr. Foley admitted in his own words what the residents know from their personal experience: that dust travels beyond the property lines and that he did a poor job of controlling it.

Further, Pond View is a huge albatross on the financial future of our entire city. It is no longer an I-3 Heavy Industrial Zone which proponents erroneously claim it to be. The Dexter Road area has been re-zoned as a Waterfront Development Zone suitable for “Technology-oriented light manufacturing, including offices, research and development, commercial education institutions and supportive commercial retail uses. Heavy commercial, mini-storage or industrial land uses are not permitted” (East Providence City Code Sec. 19-480 (a) (5)). The existence of a dump in the midst of the Waterfront Development Zone will stifle the City’s effort to redevelop the area to be used appropriately for our current circumstances. The tax base and community that could be developed along the waterfront is not going to happen if the businesses at 1 Dexter Road are allowed to continue to operate outside of the law. It is in the interest of the entire City that the laws be enforced at 1 Dexter Road.

Finally, this zoning board case is one of particular importance because it sets a dangerous precedent with regards to municipal enforcement of zoning laws. What value will decisions of the zoning officer still have? What prevents someone from telling the zoning board one thing and then doing something different? And this is not just for the city of East Providence; it would have a ripple effect across the state. As such it is imperative that the City follow through with the appeal to the Supreme Court.

We are pleased three of the members of the City Council could understand the facts and the implications of their actions, and vote to support the appeal. Thank you, Councilmembers Rose, Cunha and Briden for the support of our laws and your commitment to the future of East Providence.

Ken Schneider and Peter Oppenheimer

Co-Presidents, East Providence Coalition

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