The legal battle over the former Pond View construction-materials recycling company in Rumford will go on.
The East Providence City Council voted 3-2 to appeal the recent Superior Court decision that said the Zoning Board erred in its ruling about a variance given to TLA/Pond View and Kenlin Properties owner Ken Foley.
Voting for an appeal were Mayor James Briden, Assistant Mayor Thomas Rose Jr. and City Councilor Helder Cunha. Opposing an appeal were City Councilors Chrissy Rossi and Tracey Capobianco.
That appeal will come before the Rhode Island Supreme Court and extend the tussle over the much-maligned property for probably quite a few more months.
The vote came in an executive session that followed almost two more hours of public comment about making an appeal. Several dozen people paraded to the podium to urge the City Council either to give up the fight that has gone on almost since 1998, when Foley opened the business at 1 Dexter Road near Omega Pond, or continue the fight in the courts.
“Enough is enough,” said Wilson Avenue resident Jeff West. “An appeal is a waste of taxpayers’ money. You have taken 13 shots at Mr. Foley with 13 misses. Nothing leads me to believe that there will be a different result this time.”
Tom Riley, head of the board of canvassers, agreed.
“I’m tired of seeing money wasted,” he said. “The only people who are getting rich on this are the attorneys. We’ve wasted more than enough of the taxpayers’ money just because the waterfront commission doesn’t think it fits in the city.”
Candy Seel of South Broadway disagreed.
“It will be a travesty to have gotten this far and then abandon the case,” she said. “We should care about East Providence no matter what ward we live in.”
William Conley Jr., a state senator and former City Councilor, also disagreed: “If we do not support the appeal, the zoning in this city will be dead. What was operating out there when the ruling (by the Zoning Board) was made was not in compliance. Let justice be served and let this come to a just and final conclusion.”
Many Rumford residents came to the podium to continue their years of complaints about dust, noise, smells and respiratory conditions spawned by contaminants in the air that often makes life in that part of Rumford uncomfortable.
“People are suffering,” said Tim Norton. “This was improperly cited to start.”
“We are asking for the same quality of life as all other East Providence residents,” said Margaret Dooley, who lives on Roger Williams Avenue. “I can’t enjoy my backyard. I can’t open my windows. This is not appropriate for this neighborhood.”
Ken Schneider, a co-president of the East Providence Coalition citizens group that has been fighting against Pond View for almost 15 years, agreed with Conley that the zoning board would be stripped of its power without an appeal.
Ken Foley, his wife, Linda, and his son, Ken Jr., all spoke in defense of the facility and the fact that the RI Department of Environmental Management has never found the facility in violation of any rules or laws.
DEM, in fact, agreed to expand Foley's operation substantially from 150 to 1,500 tons a day of materials, and gave Foley the $800,000 contract to clean up the materials left behind when TLA/Pond View went out of business and into receivership.
Foley sold the business to TLA several years ago but retained title to the land and began running the operation for the new owners.
“By right,” he said, “ we could operate 24/7 in this zone, which is a heavy industrial zone. But we haven’t and no one has ever produced one piece of evidence that we violated the law. If someone can produce that evidence, I will give the key to the operation to the city.”
Foley said he used to employ 45 workers at the facility and over the years paid $1 million in taxes to East Providence.
“We’re accused of being something we’re not,” he said. “If I’m a violator, I’ll walk away from the city.”
His fate and the fate of many Rumford neighbors who oppose the facility will rest now with the Supreme Court.