Neighbors express frustration as compost plant hearing sees more delays

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NORTH SMITHFIELD – Neighbors of a Buxton Street property where owner Frank Jacques is appealing a cease and desist order on his composting plant expressed frustration this week, as a hearing on the issue was once again delayed.

The appeal of the violation notice – first issued in 2020 – was continued this week to Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022, marking two years since the town took action on the issue.

Jacques’ has used his 29-acre property at 300 Buxton St. to a produce compost known as Rhody Gold. The product, created from yard waste and food scraps, is sold to local stores and gardeners.

But many in the residential neighborhood say that in recent years, the activity has created a terrible stench. Early last year, Building Inspector Kerry Anderson asserted that Jacques’ operation violates the town’s zoning ordinance and ordered that the property, dubbed Buxton Hollow Farm, stop accepting dumped materials such as food scraps from outside sources. 

Jacques appealed the cease and desist order soon after, stating that the allegations and enforcement actions violate Rhode Island’s Right to Farm Act. That appeal stayed any further enforcement action at the property.

Then, a pandemic hit, leading to delays in members of the Zoning Board hearing the matter. Chairman Robert Najarian, who lives on Buxton Street, has recused himself on the appeal.

Residents of the area say they have watched for notice of the hearing in the year and a half that since Jacques filed the appeal. It has been scheduled – and then delayed – several times.

And on Tuesday, Nov. 9, Zoning Board members announced that the appellant – represented by Handy Law – had sent a letter requesting another 30-day extension.

Attorney Stephen Angell, who is representing the town of North Smithfield and zoning officials in the matter, told board members this week that the parties have been discussing a possible settlement.

“We did this dance back in July for the same reasons,” Angell said of the last delay.

Groans and objections from several at the hearing, including a shout of, “I pay taxes in this town,” can be heard in a video of the meeting.

Angell said the two parties have not yet reached a settlement, but are still exploring and discussing a potential resolution. The attorney added that he expects to deliver a proposed agreement with the town to Jacques and his counsel within the next ten days.

“I’m going to know in ten days or thereabouts whether we have an agreement,” Angell said. “The terms of that would be made known before this group. I certainly would be able to say more at that time.”

“These folks should indeed have the right to be notified and testify,” he added.

“Our town has worked very hard to put their case together,” Angell said. “Let’s see what happens.”

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