NORTH SMITHFIELD – Piles of asphalt, dirt, equipment, dumpsters and downed trees stored at a business on Victory Highway have created an eyesore according to neighbors of the property, but town officials will have to wait until restrictions related to Covid-19 are lifted to address the owner in municipal court.
According to records on the property, building and zoning officials have issued numerous citations for the lot across from Slatersville Plaza owned by the Mongeon Family Trust. Michael Mongeon, owner of North Smithfield Tree Service, received the first request for cleanup from the town in 2016.
“This has been a very frustrating experience for folks that live nearby this property,” said Town Administrator Gary Ezovski this week. “Everyone knows that I have been an advocate for business during my tenure as administrator. This is not the way that we want to see business run in our town.”
Some 30 neighbors, most listing addresses on nearby Ferrier Street and Homecrest Avenue, signed a letter to the Town Council this month asking for action on the property, noting that Mongeon’s lots have the characteristics of a “dump.” The family owns several acres near the busy highway, including a second residential lot at 16 Ferrier St.
“In the past couple of years our scenic and rural neighborhood has deteriorated with an eyesore that has been getting progressively worse,” the letter stated. “The current business in my estimation reduces the value of the neighboring homes as well as the ruining the aesthetics of the area.”
“If additional business is looking into coming to the Slatersville area this would a liability with the unkept property,” it stated.
Town records on the problem go back to December of 2016, when the building and zoning department denied Mongeon’s application for a certificate of zoning compliance on the property.
“The building and zoning department has no record pertaining to the existing use of this property, however, field cards obtained from the office of the tax assessor indicate a single family dwelling, a commercial garage and an office/retail building exist of the lot,” the denial noted. “The proposed use for storage of tree service equipment is not permitted.”
In July of 2018, Mongeon received a notice of violation for open lot storage of commercial vehicles, tree cutting equipment, cut logs, an unregistered vehicle, and high grass and weeds on the Victory Highway property, located in a “business neighborhood” zone.
In March of 2019, Mongeon was ordered to municipal court for open lot storage of tree service equipment, trucks and logs.
But in a follow-up letter dated July 1, 2019 Building Official Kerry Anderson noted that, “To date, little to nothing has been done.”
This May, Anderson issued another notice of violation for storage of solid fuel, sand, gravel and reclaimed asphalt, warning of fines of up to $500 for each violation if corrections to conditions were not immediately met.
“Building of a parking lot requires development plan review,” the violation noted, ordering a municipal trial date for May 20.
But courts have been closed in recent months as the region works to curb potential spread of Covid-19. Mongeon was rescheduled to appear this week, but court activity remains limited, and the date was again postponed.
Ezovski said he’s hopeful a new date will be issued in the upcoming weeks, noting that he’s pushed for the case to move forward.
Still, town officials said they are concerned that even the legal action won’t prompt a response.
“It appears he’s been to municipal court before and it hasn’t had an effect on it,” said Town Council President Paul Vadenais. “It isn’t just one or two neighbors, it’s a whole neighborhood that’s concerned.”
Vadenais said he’s also received numerous phone calls regarding the property at 905 Victory Highway. Neighbors point out that the house on Ferrier has no front door, an unregistered camper, trailers and other vehicles, and nearby are recycled asphalt piles and oil trucks.
“I think anybody that drives down that way has seen that, month after month after year,” said Councilor Terri Bartomioli. “It’s only getting worse and it’s really not acceptable.”
“I couldn’t believe the junk,” Councilor Claire O’Hara said of viewing the two properties. “Something has to be done.”
Ezovski said that while the town has done all it can to address the problem under current law, it may make sense to revisit town ordinances and give them, “more teeth to force action.”
“It’s very disappointing,” Ezovski said. “This is a repeat offender.”
“It’s not fair to those people who live up there,” agreed Vadenais. “There’s a lot of angst up there about what’s going on.”
Mongeon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.