Grupo Amigos, neighbors face off on proposed garage

Grupo Amigos, neighbors face off on proposed garage

PAWTUCKET - A plan by members of the Grupo Amigos Da Terceira to build an expanded storage garage not in compliance with existing zoning regulations has renewed tensions with neighbors of the Portuguese social club on Memorial Drive.

The way members of Grupo Amigos are characterizing it, they've been trying for a year to get a garage built to store, among other items, floats used in yearly parades, but, according to a note on the group's website, "it seems one vengeful but well-connected neighbor is dictating due process of law."

That "well-connected neighbor," identified as nearby resident Robert Miniati, has the opposite view of the situation, saying he's been dealing for years with problems at Grupo Amigos in part because he believes someone from "high up" in the city is protecting the group.

At a meeting of the Pawtucket Board of Appeals Monday, Miniati submitted a list of 39 signatures from nearby residents of the club opposing the latest expansion effort.

Douglas McKinnon, chairman of the Board of Appeals, extended the public hearing on the Grupo Amigos application to next Monday, April 7, after he learned that the elevator at City Hall had been damaged again by rainwater and shut down.

McKinnon considered whether to postpone the meeting so as not to violate open meetings laws, but because of the people on both sides of the issue who "struggled so mightily to get up the stairs" after learning that the elevator was broken again, decided to proceed.

The compromise will be that additional testimony will be taken at next Monday's meeting if necessary, a night that the board would typically just render a decision.

McKinnon interrupted proceedings several times Monday to remind participants not to talk about the past, but instead focus on the merits of the current application from Grupo Amigos, which seeks a dimensional variance for the three or four feet from the existing garage to the lot line, essentially legalizing construction of an extension that would connect the garage to the two-family house on the property located next to the Grupo Amigos community center. Representatives for the group must show that it would be "more than a mere inconvenience" not to be granted the variance.

The task of staying on point proved difficult for both sides. The convoluted battle between them goes back a decade, with numerous neighborhood complaints about expansion efforts at the community center and a number of citations by the city for violations.

Neighbors fear what they call a proposal for a "warehouse" will be an unattractive eyesore and bring down property values nearby.

Victor Santos, president of Grupo Amigos, and Michael Horan, attorney for the group, talked at length about what the 700-member group means to the community, especially in terms of donations to local charitable organizations.

A key moment came when Jessica Monteiro, the assistant treasurer of the group from North Providence, talked about the need for a larger garage to store the group's parade floats. Grupo Amigos currently spends $3,600 a year to store the floats at an independent garage, said Monteiro, and members would love to use that money to help others instead.

Board member Russell Ferland was quick to point out that storage of equipment like floats is "not allowed" in a residential two-family zone, meaning the group will now likely also have to apply for a use variance.

Horan said that the application before the board doesn't actually state a proposed use, and the group can address the use piece at a later time if needed, but Ferland countered that the testimony from Monteiro and others revealed the proposed use and he likely won't be able to vote for the dimensional variance without a stipulation that the applicants get the use variance as well.

Comments

Don't be fooled....both sides here are connected.

The club is not well kept, those people are filthy filthy people.

Firstly, let me inform you that Amigos da Terceira is not a "club" but instead a charitable community center. When they joined the neighborhood in 1998 they came into the Lodgia Roma which was the definition of filthy, comprised of a animal infested boarded up building in the middle of a residential area. I would call THAT an eyesore! They turned it into a well landscaped building, lined with hydrangeas, and built a marble memorial to Veterans. They donated close to a million dollars to charities in our area and families like children fighting leukemia, veterans in need, homeless families, and women suffering from domestic abuse. They do all of this with endless hours of volunteers, who take time away from their families to lend a hand. It's a shame that a small garage, on a street lined with a mechanic shopa nd two banquet halls and nearby factories, is having such an impact and has riled up ONE neighbor, who has in turn used such anger to manipulate others. Sadder is the legacy that he will leave. If you are interested in the truth of what this organization is, visit their Facebook Page and Website. You will see what a gorgeous hall it is, and the charitable work that is done for yourselves.