Neighbors protest change on Mowry Road

Neighbors protest change on Mowry Road

New signs by Jason Richer's house at the intersection of Douglas Pike and Mowry Road warn drivers they are going the wrong way.

NORTH SMITHFIELD - The creation of a one-way road on an old country byway off Route 7 has residents upset, and may have created a contradiction in laws between two neighboring towns.

Around 300 people have signed a petition against a new traffic ordinance ending two-way traffic on Mowry Road, and say they should have been notified that the town was considering the change.

Mowry Road historically has always allowed two-way traffic, but was turned into a one-way street via a charter ordinance amendment by the North Smithfield Town Council on Dec. 15, 2014. The traffic pattern was changed at the urging of resident Jason Richer, who said the street was far too narrow for two-way passage, and that cars were frequently driving on his lawn.

But neighbor Sheila Williams says she's lived on the quarter-mile long road, which enters the town of Burrillville, for 33 years without any real problems.

"People knew it was a town road and that it was narrow, so you slow down," Williams said. "It's always been respected. It's a narrow, concrete road. But it's been a town road since 1951."

Now, Williams and others have to travel by a new route to get to their homes every day. She says the change takes her about a half a mile out of her way on a regular basis.

"It's going to affect a lot of people and it's not just him that counts," she said of neighbor Richer. "We were never contacted about this change. I feel like my rights are being trampled on."

The North Smithfield ordinance, which led to the recent posting of wrong way signs by Richer's property at the Douglas Pike intersection, also addresses the section of Mowry that runs through Burrillville. According to the recently adopted traffic law, "all vehicles shall travel at all times only in an easterly direction on Mowry Road from the intersection on Tarkiln Road to Douglas Pike."

But Burrillville Town Manager Mike Wood says that as far as his town is concerned, the road is still open to two-way traffic. North Smithfield, Burrillville officials point out, has no authority over their town's streets.

Only around 420 feet of Mowry Road fall inside the North Smithfield town line.

Sue Millette, a North Smithfield resident whose home sits on the adjoining Tarklin Pond Drive, a small dirt road with four homes that can only be accessed via Mowry, said that she had no idea the change was happening until the signs were posted.

"We always use that road, and we're all seniors," she said.

Now, Millette says trash collectors who used to enter the area from Douglas Pike will no longer pick up at her home.

"We have to bring our trash up the road every week now," Milette said.

She says she has offered the town some of her land to widen the road.

Williams points out that just five years ago, the town of Burrillville took a piece of her property for just that purpose. She questions why North Smithfield would instead inconvenience others for the benefit of one resident.

"You would think North Smithfield would take it by eminent domain," Williams said.

Documents on the issue in North Smithfield show that the Department of Transportation recommended the change after Richer notified them of the problem.

"Mowry Road also narrows down to less than 20 feet in width just west of the intersection, restricting space for opposing vehicles to move past each other and for pedestrians," explained a letter to Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton, signed by DOT Managing Engineer Vincent Palumbo. "We would suggest changing Mowry Road out to a one-way out to Route 7 to alleviate the problem."

The change was also recommended by members of the North Smithfield Police Department.

"I am very familiar with the noted intersection and I do agree that Mowry Road is very narrow," wrote Lt. Gregory Landry in an inter-department communication, noting that Richer sent him a video showing two trash trucks having difficulty passing one another. "Due to this fact alone I feel there is a definite safety issue with respect to pedestrian traffic."

Landry does note that there have been only five accidents on the road since 2004, an amount he describes as "minimal."

In an email between Wood and Town Administrator Paulette Hamilton dated Dec. 11, 2014, Wood writes "Paulette, the Town Council voted last night to receive and file, which means they have no objection as a board to the proposed change. Our police department is in support of the change as well."

Wood tells The Valley Breeze he was, of course, only referencing the portion of the road that is in North Smithfield.

"We have no jurisdiction over North Smithfield," Wood said. "Our Town Council did not do anything to our own roads."

In terms of notification, North Smithfield officials say they aren't explicitly required to alert abutters of an ordinance for creating a one-way road, and Town Clerk Deb Todd verified that no warnings had been sent out to neighbors. Wood says Burrillville's town ordinance also does not require specific notification, but the town likely would have done it anyway.

"In the case of something that's a major change, we would notify as a courtesy," Wood said.

Williams and others brought their complaints to the North Smithfield Town Council this week, saying that local businesses hurt by the change were among those to sign the petition.

Public Works Director Raymond Pendergast said he's received around 50 calls a day about the issue since the signs were put up.

"This plan was based on one complaint with no other residents providing feedback," Pendergast said, saying that town officials and residents will meet in the near future to revisit the issue. "We all have to get together and hash this out."


But Burrillville Town Manager Mike Wood says that as far as his town is concerned, the road is still open to two-way traffic. North Smithfield, Burrillville officials point out, has no authority over their town's streets.

This better get straightened out fast before there is a tragedy and the town of North Smithfield gets slapped with yet another lawsuit that the town cannot afford not to mention the individual council members that voted for it should a civil suit arise.

Mr Richer is a known trouble maker around town. Complains about everything. This change came about because the police were probably tired of fielding nonstop calls from him. Essentially he wore everyone down until he got his way.

I lived down the road on Douglas Pike, and used Mowry extensively from my youth, till I moved from the state in 2003 at age 39. Bicycles, lawn mowers (Thanks officer Malo for not citing me), and cars to Tarklin Pond, with never an incident. I don`t recall anyone driving on Mr Richer`s lawn, but it looks like he`s added boulders to the edge of his property to further his claim that the road is too narrow for two way traffic. A nice person would have seceded a small edge of his property to make passing easier, what else was it used for anyway? Glad he`s not my neighbor!

I have been traveling this road for years, I agree that it is narrow, and as such we slow down and thus the reason that the accident count is low. There were no problems til this guy moved in, he put large rocks on the edge of the street which is ridiculous, the town should make him remove them plus they just made the road even narrower. I agree that since he thinks its too narrow, the town should take some of his land, why should everyone else suffer for one guy, plus he has a driveway on both sides and doesn't even need to use Mowry.

I have been traveling Mowry Rd for 39 years and its been fine and everyone knows to slow and pass bye each other without issue, now all of the sudden someone buys a house that did not even have access to the road until he decided to put in a new driveway (oh and by the way did he even get a permit to place a new driveway access to Mowry road????) someone should check that out. So anyway he now complains about the traffic on the road and people driving on the crappy dirt side of the road which abuts his property (which I thought belonged to the town btw)! I'm sorry but the town of N.S. should have contacted those who live on the street and had an open forum to voice any opinions about that road before changing it without notice to the property owners, or the people who are directly affected by the change mainly the people who live in Burrillville on Tarklin Road. So this one guy who lives on 50feet of N.S. Mowry Road gets to dictate the access for the rest of Burrillville residences who need this road and have used it for many many many years, that is not right and needs to change imediately, or legal action may occur.

Here's the kind of guy who moves next to the airport then complains about the noise. Here's the kind of guy who moves next to the landfill and complains about the stench! live on a highway with traffic moving by your house at 50+ mph on a corner lot! You complain about the traffic. You probably bought the house for song & dance and you complain about the traffic.

No. Smithfield, I've complained to Ms. Hamilton the day these signs went up and two summers ago when all the rocks got put right on the edge of the pavement. (Surprised, honestly the rocks haven't ended up in this guys living room, quite frankly?) No. Smithfield in this situation has simply catered to the interests of one and I seriously hope there is plans in the works to consider widening of Mowry on the NS side. The road is too extensively used to not consider this option.

The two alternatives to Mowry are not much safer either. Matitty in No. Smithfield is terrible and Tarkiln in Burrillville although is safer will likely see rear end collisions when left turning motorist engage the turn off Douglas Pike. You've kicked the problem can down the road instead of saying "NO" to Mr. Richer.

Booooo! If I lived in NS, both the administrator and Councilors would lose my vote, not that it really makes a difference.

Hundreds, if not thousands of motorists used that road daily! How is the WRONG WAY change a service to the public at large? Caters to the interest of one. Bad! Change it back. Tell Richer...."NO WAY"

Better get your Ordinance straightened out too, if the Ordinance verbiage indicates One Way from Douglas to Tarkiln. Mowry out to Tarkiln is outside the corporate limits of the township. Douglas to Burrillville Town Line perhaps, but not to Tarkiln. ;-)

This is currently on our Town Council agenda for May 4. *Disclaimer... The date may change depending on what happens between now and then.
I invite you to come and speak your concerns, as we are reconsidering the One-Way ordinance, due to the recent concerns brought to us during Open Forum at a recent meeting.

Roseanne Nadeau
North Smithfield Town Council