Buxton Street residents frustrated over composting hearing delays

Buxton Street residents frustrated over composting hearing delays

A Buxton Street composting operation has become the target of complaints by neighbors and town officials who say it doesn’t belong in a residential area. In January of 2020 a cease-and-desist order was issued after neighbors complained about the smell from composting piles. (Breeze File photo by Lauren Clem)

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Neighbors of a Buxton Street composting operation are expressing frustration over what they claim are “stall tactics” in bringing the issue before the town Zoning Board.

Last Tuesday, July 13, about a dozen residents turned out for a hearing before the Zoning Board of Review. On the agenda for the day was whether a composting business at 300 Buxton St. could continue to operate or be shut down as an illegal dump.

When they arrived, however, many were disappointed to learn the hearing would be postponed until Sept. 28.

“I’ve been to 100 meetings. I’ve been here for 40 years, and I’ve seen this play out many times. Last two seconds, oh guess what, we want to have an extension,” said David Bessette, a nearby property owner who drove up from Narragansett to attend the hearing.

Frank Jacques is the owner of Buxton Hollow Farm, a Buxton Street property he’s used for composting since about 2005. Jacques previously worked with The Compost Plant, a Providence-based company, to bring in food waste from around the state and turn it into fertilizer on the 30-acre parcel.

In January of 2020, the town issued a cease-and-desist order after neighbors complained about the smell from the composting piles. Since then, an appeal of the order has been delayed several times as the town struggled to schedule a public hearing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a letter from town attorney Stephen Angell, this latest delay came at the request of Jacques’ lawyer, Michael Kelly. Town Building Official Kerry Anderson said the town agreed to postpone the hearing after Kelly’s office expressed concerns about witness availability.

“Now that gathering restrictions have lightened up, people are extremely busy,” Anderson said in an email. “Sept. 28 is two-and-a-half months away and should be plenty of time to schedule witnesses.”

Neighbors said the smell has stopped since last year and trucks are no longer carrying food waste down their street, but they worry the smells could start again pending the outcome of the hearing.

“It was the worst smell you could imagine. I wanted to vomit,” said Alicia Curran, a resident of Old Field Drive.

Jacques has repeatedly defended the business as a sustainable agriculture operation protected under the state’s Right to Farm Act. In a letter to the editor this week on page 16, he said he was disappointed with the town’s handling of the issue and stance on environmental matters.

“Sadly, we are experiencing misguided judgments affecting our local farms, farmland and open space ultimately offering only negativity and criticism in return. If we genuinely want a healthy environment in our town’s future, this counterproductive decision-making process requires a change,” he said.

Complicating the matter is the fact that Jacques has placed the property up for sale. An online listing has a sale price of $699,900 and describes it as an “incredible chance for residential development or your own mini estate.”

Speaking to The Valley Breeze this week, he acknowledged he placed the property up for sale earlier this year but said he’s since decided to take it off the market.

“I’ve decided that I made a mistake putting it on the market. I’m exploring the many options that are being presented to me and I’ll make a decision over the course of the next year,” he said.

Jacques said he plans to go through with the appeal, which is currently scheduled for Sept. 28. Neighbors are required to be notified before that time.

Comments

This property is not residential it is zoned RA (Residential Agricultural). This isn't city life. It is disingenuous to refer to it as "residential" when the zoning is right on the property's field card.

https://data.nereval.com/PropertyDetail.aspx?town=North%20Smithfield&acc...

Perhaps he should start raising pigs instead...