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A Hummel Report Investigation

Where's the City?

Seven years ago a Superior Court judge ruled that a property owner on the East Side of Providence could not use a vacant lot for parking - after neighbors complained it was a safety hazard for cars to get in and out near a busy highway on-ramp. But the owners have defied that order for years, allowing cars to regularly use the lot - despite repeated violation notices from the city. This week Jim Hummel asks: why isn't Providence cracking down?


As one of the primary roads in and out of the city's East Side, Gano Street sees thousands of cars every day using this ramp to Route 195. It is because of that heavy traffic the Fox Point Neighborhood Association objected a decade ago when the owner of this residential lot right next to the on-ramp began using it as a parking lot.
Schnepel: ``W had two board members who lived in the area.''
Daisy Schnepel, a founding member and past president of the association, said the group believed strongly that having a parking lot not only violated the city's zoning laws, but was dangerous for cars getting in and out of the property.
So the association took the owners, Steven Puleo and Michelle Boutin to court, where a judge agreed the zoning board had been wrong to grant a variance allowing the lot in an R-2 residential zone, something prohibited in the city's zoning ordinances.
Schnepel: ``The relocation of the highway was going to impact the neighborhood and we wanted to make sure that the neighborhood wasn't going to be ruined by the relocation.''
Schnepel said the parking lot was one of several issues the association took on at the time - during the early stages of the Route 195 relocation project  - including a proposed drive through window at this Dunkin Donuts just up Gano Street.
Schnepel: ``We felt very strongly that the Gano Street exit and also the Wickenden Street exit were gateways to Providence and gateways to our community.  We were concerned if there was a parking lot right next to an entrance to the highway there would be congestion and possible accidents. The spacing was bad.''
That was seven years ago. But The Hummel Report has found that within a year of the judge's ruling the city was sending the owners violation notices for continuing to use the lot for parking - without the city's permission and in defiance of the court order.

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