Town removes 100 tons of trash, spends $76K on cleanup of Quaker Highway property in N.S.


NORTH SMITHFIELD – A contractor hired by the town recently removed around 100 tons of debris from a blighted property on Quaker Highway, in a cleanup that included removal of multiple boats, tractors and more than 30 propane tanks, and cost the town $76,657, according to Building and Zoning Official Lawrence Enright.

The cleanup of 282 Quaker Highway began in June, with the town originally allocating $50,000 for a job expected to take between 5 to 7 days. Contractor Joel Baxter was hire to tackle the work, and by the time his team was through, the cleanup would take 18 days and exceed the projected budget by more than $25,000.

“We ended up with a little over 100 tons of materials,” Enright told members the Town Council at a meeting on Monday, August 15.

According to town property records, the two-acre lot, situated across from the town Highway Garage, holds a single-family owned by Donald and Dorothy Desper since 1993. After years of attempts to compel a private cleanup of the lot failed, the town obtained a court order for the project, and funds spent will now be charged to the owners in the form of a lien on the property.

Records dating back to 2002 document violations of the state’s Refuse Disposal Act, with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, eventually leading to a case in Superior Court.

“Once we started to get in there it went a lot deeper than anybody really thought in the beginning,” Enright said. “There was some equipment that was brought in because there was no way to continue loading dumpster after dumpster by hand. It just kept going, and going, and going, into the woods”

Enright laid out details of the work this week, listing items removed including 101 tires, a minivan, a forklift, tractors, trailers, a rotted shed and thousands of feet of, “wet cloth cording.” The inspector said there were hundreds of rolls of the material, described as, “webbing of some sort,” which alone filled five dumpsters.

“That stuff was really heavy,” Enright said. “It was saturated.”

Baxter reportedly utilized 301 man hours and 45 dumpsters, bringing in equipment for the job that that included a mini-excavator and two tow trucks.

Town Administrator Paul Zwolenski thanked Enright for his efforts in overseeing the work.

“He’s put in a lot of time out there,” Zwolenski said. “No one could have predicted the amount of heavy weight material that had to come out of there.”

Zwolenski noted that there is still more work to complete on the property.

“Right now, the yard’s clean,” he said. “We’re not done. We can’t go into the structures he has there.”

Councilor Paul Vadenais expressed concerns that the property remains clean, noting that when he was at town garage one Saturday, someone drove up and unloaded stuff into the yard.

“They were still showing up with stuff while we’re trying to clean the property, and that’s my biggest concern,” Vadenais said.

Enright, who was hired by the town in April after some 30 years in building and inspection, including 20 years in Woonsocket, said he is now visiting the property regularly, noting that it was the most extensive cleanup he’s ever witnessed.

“The man hours they put in and the amount of time they were there – they worked constantly just to try to get that property clean,” he said. “There was just so much stuff. It was so overwhelming. I had never seen anything that bad in my years of doing this.”

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  1. Our zoning code doesn’t provide the town or it’s zoning officer the ability to simply enter property for actions needed to resolve complaints by neighbors. There is a process which does get lengthy particularly when property owners respond with some action of their own but ultimately fall short or worse, fall back to prior behavior. Ultimately court action is required. Having attended court hearings on this matter and another, I can offer my own frustration while I was the TA. But, as best I could understand, once the matter reaches the court, even the judge must show appropriate consideration to the landowner in order for the court action to hold up. The location of a problem doesn’t impact the action. In my opinion, it is the process and level of cooperation provided by the landowner that drives these issues. The process ultimately works. My assessment is that it is appropriately detailed and time consuming to guard against abuse by officials and the public.

    • I identified the fact a property in Town that did not have the necessary permits to operate in early May. Dozens of emails and APRA responses left no doubt. Three and a half months later, nothing had changed nor had my complaints been recorded, as required. Even a complaint against the Zoning Officer delivered to the Town Clerk on June 15th did not get a response. A reminder on July 15th of the complaint did not get a response either. I had to detail this during Good and Welfare at a TC meeting, as no one would respond or act. Ordinances, policies and practices in N Smithfield are ignored, unknown and/or can be easily obstructed. The “it takes time” excuse only goes so far before one starts to see selective enforcement of the laws here.

    • Bob Benoit didn’t seem to have trouble entering property and issuing Cease and Desist orders. I have copes and a few of them. What changed that the Town is now in this position of “Our zoning code doesn’t provide the town or it’s zoning officer the ability to simply enter property for actions needed to resolve complaints by neighbors.” Bob Benoit used to.

  2. This happened right across the street from the DPW barn? How embarrassing that is to the Town!
    Imagine how bad it can get not directly in their line of sight!

      • Was the DPW across the street in 2002 when it all began? Yes!
        So, they watched this for 20 years and now the zoning inspector is praised for doing his job. Seems about right for this town. I’m certainly glad Larry Enright got the job done here. What’s or who is stopping him from addressing the Soil and Earth Material companies running without the necessary Special Use Permits for a decade or more?

        • maybe its time for you to run for office Jason, you seem to have all the answers. try focusing all your free time on things you enjoy instead of things you disagree with or dislike. you would be shocked how much happier you could be.


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