VASG withdraws zoning appeal on Dowling storm water plan

VASG withdraws zoning appeal on Dowling storm water plan

NORTH SMITHFIELD - Saying they have finally received the report they've been seeking for the past year and one-half, the Valley Alliance for Smart Growth has withdrawn their Zoning Board appeal regarding environmental testing at Dowling Village.

"We had concerns about the drinking water because of residents' alleged problem with their water after Dowling Village blasting," said VASG president Caroly Shumway in a prepared statement.

Shumway said the organization also had "serious" concerns over possible sediment problems.

VASG filed a complaint against the retail complex developer Bucci more than a year ago alleging that construction at the site was not in compliance with the development plan approved by the Department of Environmental Management. The town denied the complaint, which requested a cease and desist order on construction until Bucci performed an invasive plant study, groundwater testing and a study of sediment damage in Booth Pond.

Shumway accused the town of being slow to act over the past year, but said Wednesday that her organization has finally received much of the information they were seeking.

"Because of the delay caused by trying to work with the town, and the nearly six month delay that the town caused in scheduling this hearing, the developer has finally produced the Water Quality Report we were seeking, including plant transects and monitoring of the two groundwater wells," she said.

"We take great comfort and pride in knowing that without us expressing our concerns and comments to DEM, the developer would not have provided this," Shumway continued.

Shumway said the report is currently being reviewed by an outside expert.

The withdrawal was delivered to the Zoning Board at their meeting Jan. 15, just before zoners were scheduled to hear a motion to dismiss the appeal on the grounds that VASG was not an aggrieved party under Rhode Island law filed by Bucci's attorney, Michael Kelly.

Town Planner Robert Ericson rebuked the organization for what he implied was a waste of town officials' time.

"This was yet another battle in Caroly Shumway's decade-long war against Dowling Village. She wanted more from RIDEM, so she complained to the town," Ericson said. "After more than a year of delay, the appeal to the Zoning Board of Review ended partly in dismissal and partly in withdrawal. Everyone lost in this process."

Still, Ericson admits that Shumway, a scientist by trade, who currently serves as the executive director of the Merrimack River Watershed Council, has been involved in a number of volunteer efforts that have benefited North Smithfield.

"Dr. Shumway has been very cooperative and effective in developing needed environmental ordinances for the town," he said.

Shumway, meanwhile, alleged the town's zoning office had made several procedural errors that had hindered the complaint, citing loss of public records and incidents of bias.

"The zoning office does not even have the abutter's list on record that we filed in the record in February," she said.

Shumway also said VASG still has concerns over sedimentation.

"On this point, we have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to get the town to do the right thing at this level, and we will now pursue enforcement with higher agencies to protect residents' drinking water and our town's natural resources," she said.