Tiny houses, historic stone walls on ordinance committee’s agenda

Tiny houses, historic stone walls on ordinance committee’s agenda

Ezovski: Board should look at harvesting marijuana

NORTH SMITHFIELD – The board that drafts town laws with the aim of adding and modifying ordinances to suit the changing times will look at several issues over the upcoming year, including taxes on tiny houses, protection of historic stone walls and potentially, the growth of marijuana within town borders.

The Ordinance Review Committee, a seven-member board made up mostly of representatives from other factions in town government, was authorized to continue its work by members of the Town Council last week.

“We still have a number of things that we think are important to consider,” noted committee Chairman Scott Lentz, who is also a member of the town Planning Board.

The committee was established in 2015 as an ad hoc 11-member group and over the past two years has weighed in on issues from dumpsters to the parking of recreational vehicles.

Initially scheduled to meet only once a month, board members have found themselves gathering far more often as the town has faced questions such as where solar panels should be allowed.

“That’s when we started getting really busy,” Lentz noted of the council mandate to work on a solar ordinance, an initiative the committee is still in the process of finalizing.

When the town received a proposal last year from a developer who hoped to build a 465-foot wind turbine, with no laws on the books dictating where such structures could be erected, the committee worked overtime to develop a recommendation for how North Smithfield should change its rules. Meeting two to three times a week to develop a comprehensive law, the committee ultimately recommended an adjustment to the town’s use table that would prohibit turbines in all property zones, a solution that was adopted by the council.

Membership on the ad hoc committee was reduced to seven members last year, and several members have recently resigned, including zoning official Carl Johnson, Economic Development Commission member Alfred Puccetti, former Budget Committee member Mary Jo Vallee and Parks and Recreations Committee member Michael Desrossiers.

Still serving with Lentz are Conservation Commission Chairman Paul Soares, Zoning Board member Robert Najarian, Probate Court Judge Robert Rossi, Town Councilor Paul Zwolenski and retired school teacher Diane Wojcik.

Their current work includes cleaning up the language in the town ordinance governing accessory buildings, and a general review to make sure all of the ordinances and the use table are consistent, sensible and enforceable.

“If they can’t be enforced, we should look at them and change them,” said Lentz, noting that members have also noticed some strange provisions, such as allowing a 300-person restaurant to be built on a conservation property.

“Maybe there’s some reason that got in there, but it just doesn’t make sense,” Lentz said. “There’s anomalies that we think we should bring to the attention of the Town Council.”

Lentz said his board also has some suggestions for new ordinances addressing preservation of historic stone walls, nuisance dumping of organic material, and tiny houses.

“We looked at the ordinances, they’re not addressed,” Lentz said of the popular “tiny house,” phenomenon. “Under the way the ordinance is right now, we could have tiny houses parked in North Smithfield and they’d probably be legal, and they probably wouldn’t be taxed. There ought to be a way to make sure they’re done properly.”

Zwolenski said that as the council liaison to the committee, he feels that the board has had fair and balanced representation, with members from many different factions.

“If you want to continue with the same people, that committee was working really well,” Zwolenski said.

The council voted 4-1 to continue the board’s work with Councilor Thomas McGee casting the sole vote against the committee.

Asked why, McGee later told The Breeze, “I just hate all of the extra government, and they come up will all of these ordinances that make it worse, and even harder to do business. It’s just too much.”

McGee said he fears the town is creating too many rules through the committee.

“It’s like they want condo rules in a regular community,” said the councilor. “I want to disband them.”

Town Administrator Gary Ezovski noted that he would like the group to look at a specific idea.

“I would say that one of the most important issues we have related to our ordinances is marijuana growth,” Ezovski said. “We need to get ahead of that, and not be behind it like we were with wind and solar.”

Zwolenski said the council may ask the review committee to take up the marijuana issue in the near future.

Comments

Maybe we should all slow down and harvest marijuana.We are squeezing the life out of our Tiny town with regulations.

Several years ago the stone wall issue was settled. The people of North Smithfield made it clear that we enjoy the right to do as we please with the property that we own and pay taxes on. If someone wants to "save" a stone wall then they should buy that property and keep it forever.