Lawsuit possible over Canning Street project

Lawsuit possible over Canning Street project

One of many signs of protest on Canning Street, where neighbors are opposed to development of a home on the wetlands shown here at 45 Canning St. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

CUMBERLAND – In what was a pleasant surprise to several Canning Street neighbors last week, the Town Council voted to retain an attorney in the matter of a state-approved development on a wetland lot there.

Councilor Lisa Beaulieu made the motion at the July 21 meeting to retain attorney Marisa Desautel, Councilor Tim Magill seconded it, and the council voted unanimously on it, according to Council President Mike Kinch. Desautel, who specializes in matters related to land use and environmental law and litigation, will be hired to do all things necessary, including filing court action, in protecting the best interests of the town.

Beaulieu later told The Breeze she made the motion based on concerns the town raised, some of them twice, that were previously first deemed substantial and then not considered so when the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management recently made a ruling approving the development. Kinch said Desautel was hired to protect the town “and make sure due process was followed.” He referenced a pending lawsuit.

Prior to the council’s announcement of their non-public executive session vote, neighbors spoke of their consternation over the state approving a home on a lot that’s more than 90 percent covered in wetlands.

The Breeze reported earlier this month that despite opposition from town officials and neighbors of 45 Canning St., the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management issued permits for a house to be built on a lot mostly covered in wetlands.

Neighbors say they fear worsening water issues in an area already prone to flooding, questioning why the permit went through so easily without a public hearing after earlier versions of the plan were subject to a public hearing process.

Asked by a WPRI reporter on July 13 about suggestions from residents in a Breeze story that there might have been a connection between the approvals and the fact that the developer behind the project is his chief of staff Tony Silva, Gov. Dan McKee said it’s unfortunate that such connections are made because he’s never gotten involved with such matters going back to his time as mayor of Cumberland with his brother Jim McKee’s developments. He hinted that Silva might not still own the property.

Cumberland’s property tax database shows that the 5,600-square-foot lot at 45 Canning St. changed ownership from Joan Mooney to Silva’s son, Ross Silva, on July 14. The purchase price was $17,500.

Sharon Clapprood, of 17 Canning St., said the property at 45 Canning serves as a very important downstream water flow, saying flooding is an “extreme problem” here, and this property provides an important solution to those issues. She said she’s confused as to why residents were denied a hearing when they feel so strongly about what the construction would do.

“This is a major, major issue,” she said.

She said neighbors need the town’s help and for everyone to be on the same page, as residents keep getting different stories, and she wants to make sure citizens are being heard.

Bill Spear, of 70 Canning St. across the street from the proposed home, said there was flooding damage to the home before he purchased it and he’s been told that insurance won’t cover flooding again. Without runoff to the lot across the street, the problem will grow, said Spear.

Amy Brayton, of 9 Sprague St., said she’s been one of the lucky neighbors, but she doesn’t want to become one of those impacted. She urged town officials to keep residents in their thoughts and help them.

Michelle Burgoyne, the abutter who previously contacted town officials about the situation, said she too has serious concerns about this development and how it will impact water issues. She said she doesn’t plan to let the developer use her separate rear lot to drain onto.

Tiffany Pendleton, of 69 Canning St., told officials about the “huge increase in water on my property,” to the point where it’s 20 percent covered at the back. She said she’s worried about adding even more water and that it might “creep even farther up to the part (of the yard) that we use every day,” hurting their quality of life and diminishing the property’s value.