Ordinance would ban sale of pets in Smithfield

Ordinance would ban sale of pets in Smithfield

Council considers other matters

SMITHFIELD – Store sales of dogs and cats in Smithfield may soon be illegal after the Town Council on Tuesday proposed an ordinance change that would ban the sale of animals in any retail pet store or commercial establishment.

Council President Suzy Alba said five other Rhode Island towns are making the ordinance change to ban such sale of pets, and residents are requesting that Smithfield does the same.

The council unanimously agreed to hold a public hearing on Dec. 17 during the regular council meeting at 7 p.m. at Town Hall to discuss and vote on the ordinance change. Alba said residents advocating for the change will be present at the public hearing.

The proposed ordinance states that it would be unlawful for any person to display, offer for sale, deliver, barter, auction, give away, transfer, or sell any live dog or cat in any pet store, retail business or commercial establishment in Smithfield. The proposed local law is meant to prevent retail or commercial sales of puppies and kittens bred from puppy mills, said Town Solicitor Anthony Gallone.

Town Councilor Sean Kilduff said as an animal lover, he supports the ordinance change and holding the public hearing to discuss it.

“This is to make sure the proper people get their hands on proper animals,” Kilduff said.

Violators will be fined no more than $500 for each separate offense or 90 days of community service.

Councilor Maxine Cavanagh requested that all Smithfield pet breeders be notified of the possible change before the public hearing.

Council looks at Planning Board attendance

Responding to residents’ complaints that members of the Planning Board are not attending meetings before voting on significant issues, the Town Council requested that Town Manager Randy Rossi look into board and committee members’ attendance.

Alba said the council interviews every applicant for town boards and commissions and explains the time commitment necessary for each volunteer position.

“We’ve asked the town manager to take a look at attendance and see those inconsistencies,” she said.

Cavanagh said board members’ lack of attendance at meetings related to proposed large new developments led to the council getting involved.

“A lot of people were upset about the large developments. Some (members) hadn’t attended the meetings and (then) showed up to vote,” Cavanagh said.

“You can’t vote on something if you don’t know what the people said,” she added.

Solicitor Gallone said residents complained following the Planning Board’s meeting with Churchill & Banks on Smithfield Village. He said the Zoning Board has a rule that members must attend a meeting before voting on an item.

The difference, he said, is that public hearings at the Zoning Board may only last a couple of hours while Planning Board applications can be heard for months or years.

They decided against a request changing the Planning Board’s rules and procedures to mandate attendance on all comprehensive permit application hearings for Planning Board members to be able to vote. Assistant Solicitor Scott Levesque said such a change goes against state law, and would go beyond what the council can ask board members to do.

Instead, the council recommended that the Planning Board change its rules to require that members study transcripts or video of a missed meeting and testify on record that they’ve reviewed it before voting.

“It is my suggestion that will be the course. There was no opposition from the Planning Board,” Levesque said.

Cavanagh also requested that a stenographer be present at comprehensive permit meetings.

Lawton said board members are volunteers and are helping the town at no cost.

“People have lives. Things come up. There may be reasons why people miss a meeting. It’s important to remember that they are volunteers, and they’re helping the town,” he said.

Resident Michael Iannotti said some Planning Board meetings can be three to four hours long, and he doesn’t believe videos will be easy to review.

“The public does not get the feeling that this is a fair or just process,” Iannotti said.

He urged the council to speak with state legislators to take another look at state law to see if changes should be made there.

Members approve water rate increase

Sitting as the Smithfield Water Supply Board, the Town Council approved an approximate 37 percent rate increase for water supply, the first rate increase in 10 years, according to Public Works Director Gene Allen. The increase will be used to fund day-to-day operations, build a reserve account for capital improvements, and for borrowing to repaint and renovate three existing water tanks.

Rate increases for the first step will go up from $3.52 to $4.88 per 1,000 gallons, the second step from $4.18 to $5.78 per 1,000 gallons, and step three from $4.84 to $6.66 per 1,000 gallons.

Resident John Serapiglia asked why ratepayers continued to pay for the Smithfield Water Supply when the Providence Water Supply Board provides the water.

“Why doesn’t Smithfield get out of the water business? Give it back to Providence because we get it from them anyway,” Serapiglia said.

Town Manager Randy Rossi said Smithfield Water is an asset to the town and its users.

The annual water bill, using 40,000 gallons for the average at a low-consumption home, will increase from $212 to $287 annually. For the average medium-consumption home using 75,000 gallons, the water bill will go from $364 to $486 for a year. The average high-volume household using 120,000 will go from $571 to $759 per year.