RICHMOND — Town Council member Nell Carpenter, who previously brought up the issue of poorly maintained properties in the town center, said at Tuesday's council meeting that some properties appear to have been cleaned up since the Aug. 6 council meeting, when members first discussed the matter.
“I’ve driven past a couple of these locations that I mentioned without naming the last time, we addressed this and there’s been some cleanup that’s taken place, and in fact, [at] the one particular vacant building, there’s no debris behind the building, no baby cribs, no mattresses, no air conditioners, so I was pleased to see that,” she said.
Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth looked into measures the town could take and determined that the exterior maintenance of non-residential buildings is under the jurisdiction of the state. The Rhode Island Property Maintenance Code, she said, supersedes city and town ordinances.
“Any enforcement that we wanted to do with respect to the exterior appearance of any non-residential building would come under this code,” she said. “It has provisions for everything specifically that the council asked about last month, except for the height of grass that needs to be cut. That is not addressed and it’s not addressed because the state Board of Standards and Appeals didn’t address it when they adopted the code.”
Carpenter said she was concerned that neglected properties in the Wyoming business district would dissuade the kinds of desirable businesses the town is trying to attract from locating there. Ellsworth said the town could take certain administrative measures to require business owners to maintain their properties and could also cite the state regulations to bolster its case.
“There are ways that the town can address all of these other issues, trash and stuff like that, through the administrative process,” she said. “Usually the most effective thing to do is just to have somebody from code enforcement go and talk to the property owner. That usually resolves the problem. Now that we know that we have an actual set of regulations that are enforceable whoever speaks to someone about this can cite the specific section.”
Council President Richard Nassaney asked what the town could do if the property owner didn’t comply. Ellsworth said the town would send the owner a violation notice.
“That person has a choice of either appealing the violation notice to the [Richmond] Building Code Board of Review or ignoring it,” she said. “If he decides to ignore it, then we can file suit against him in court, either to get a restraining order to restrain him from doing what he’s doing in the future or to punish him for what he’s doing. The court can impose a fine, but there are no specific fines in these regulations.”
Ellsworth said residents concerned about commercial properties that are not being maintained should contact Town Administrator Karen Pinch, who will notify a town building official who will in turn inspect the property.
In other business, the council voted to approve an amendment to the Richmond-Hopkinton waterline agreement allowing the The First Baptist Church to connect to the waterline. The church at 1059 Main Street in Hope Valley is planning to build a parsonage on the lot behind the church. The Hopkinton Town Council approved the amendment at their meeting on Monday.
Church spokesman Pete Toy said the church would begin construction as soon as it received approval to tie into the waterline.
“It’s a 1,600-square foot modular home and we’re ready to put in the cellar house but we held back on the house until we got the approval,” he said.
The council unanimously approved the waterline connection.
“There’s a written amendment to the water agreement that you can sign after the meeting so the administrator can send it over to Hopkinton and they can sign it and then it will be legal,” Ellsworth told the council.