NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — The North Kingstown Town Council met Monday night via Zoom and took up several issues, including a series of neighborhood complaints regarding street parking in a cul-de-sac, the need or lack thereof for a stop sign at a neighborhood intersection, and concerns regarding a seven-day live entertainment license for a popular local hangout.
The cul-de-sac issue brought up the strongest reaction from the public, with members of four households residing on Terre Mar Drive saying they were against the decision to bar parking within the cul-de-sac end of the road, which is near a popular pass for fishers and quahoggers to get to the ocean, an issue they said was not a major inconvenience for them and that the complaints largely seemed to stem from one resident.
Betsy and Terrie Fenik said that parking has never really been an issue in the 35 years they’ve lived on Terre Mar Drive, while Donna Callahan said she had never seen trash or litter left behind in the cul-de-sac and that she had never noticed more than two or three cars parked there at a time. Jerilyn McKay said she felt creating a no parking ordinance would only create more problems for residents, visitors and the police.
In response, Councilor McKay proposed that the issue be tabled for six months before being revisited to give the police and residents time to see whether or not a no parking ordinance is needed.
“Let’s let the neighbors police it a little bit first,” McKay said.
McKay’s call to table passed 5-0, with the issue tabled to the Aug. 16 meeting.
Another issue regarding the request for a stop sign at the intersection of Grove Ave. and Pine St. was narrowly approved by a 3-2 vote on party lines, with Democrats Town Council President Greg Mancini, Katie Anderson and Kim Page in support of the sign and Republicans McKay and Brimer in opposition.
Like with the parking situation on Terre Mar, the issue of a stop sign at the intersection came from a sole resident, but unlike the previous issue, no one spoke out against the proposal, which Deputy Chief Steven St. Onge said that after looking into the situation he was in favor of it.
McKay said there didn’t seem to be much of a need for a stop sign, citing the street being a quieter one and that especially since no one came to speak in either support or opposition of it, that it wasn’t that big of a deal and feared allowing the sign could set a precedent for others to request stop signs in front of their houses and lead to more government involvement in people’s daily lives.
Brimer asked Chief Patrick Flanagan how many accidents have happened at the intersection in recent times, with Flanagan telling her there had been two in the last two decades. Brimer said she remembered canvassing the street in the fall while running for re-election and remembered finding it odd that there was no stop sign, but said that due to the lack of traffic she observed in the area figured that they would be better off leaving the intersection the way it currently is.
Flanagan said his biggest concern in doing that would be having a major accident that could’ve been prevented by a stop sign happening, but agreed with the notion that it wasn’t a particularly busy stretch of road.
Mancini, Page and Anderson disagreed with their Republican colleagues, with Page saying that if it made the street even slightly safer that it would be worth it. Mancini said that he saw McKay and Brimer’s points, but that the endorsement of the sign by the North Kingstown Police Department was the deciding factor in his reason to support it. After a vote to reject the sign failed 2-3 on party line, the 3-2 vote to approve it passed.
Another neighborly discussion had to do with The Oak Hill Tavern looking to get an extension on their live entertainment license to allow them to host entertainment seven days a week. This drew concern from neighbor Norm Fortin, who said he was OK with the restaurant hosting entertainment on the weekends but feared that if they were allowed to host every day, it would lead to noise issues. Owner Brian Casey said he still planned to keep entertainment to mainly three days a week, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, but wanted the full seven-day extension in the case someone has an event on a weekday where live entertainment is part of the deal.
The council heard Fortin’s concerns, which both Fortin and Casey said they had spoken extensively about, but said they believed Casey to be at his word based on his past record and the record of The Oak Street Tavern since him and his brother took over, so he should be allowed to extend his license. They told Fortin if he ever had any future noise complaints or felt that The Oak Street Tavern wasn’t complying that he could then call the police to try to remedy the situation, though Fortin said it was not something he was necessarily looking to do and agreed the tavern has been mostly a good neighbor.
The vote to approve the extension passed 5-0.
The meeting also featured talks with the four members of the Rhode Island General Assembly that represent in part or the entirety of North Kingstown: Senators Bridget Valverde and Alana DiMario and Representatives Julie Casimiro and Robert Craven , where they discussed the progress of legislative action impacting the area.
On the proposal to give Ocean State Community Wellness tax-free status, one which was endorsed by the Town Council last year, all four said the legislation was going fairly smoothly, while Craven noted there had been some hold up regarding House Bill 8054, or the hemp bill, which was drafted in response to complaints about hemp cultivation in North Kingstown in 2019 and would allow for cities and towns to pass ordinances on hemp cultivation within their borders, due to Right To Farm, but Craven said he didn’t think it would hold up the measure for much longer.
Mancini expressed his concerns to the delegation regarding the $500,000 less in state aid the town is set to receive this year as opposed to last, something the officials said they would question the state more on. Councilor Kerry McKay also shared his concerns, saying he would like to see the state be more consistent with its municipal funding and that the state should maintain a maintenance of effort with the town as the town does with the school department.
On a more somber note, a moment of silence was given in honor of the mother of Town Manager Ralph Mollis, who died earlier in the day, with the council members sharing their condolences with the Mollis family.
In lieu of a Town Manager’s report, the council heard from Fire Chief Scott Kettelle who gave the vaccination update for the town’s 75 and older population. Kettelle said that of the 1,400 North Kingstown residents over 75 reached by phone, 705 had either received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination or were scheduled to do so while the remainder had either received or were receiving their vaccination in another location, such as at the state’s vaccination site at the Dunkin Donuts Center in Providence, or had chosen against taking the vaccine all together. Additionally, Kettelle announced that the state was planning on opening five more vaccination sites, including a South County-focused site at Schneider Electric in West Kingston and that more details on the site would be coming shortly.
McKay made mention of the town maintaining an AA+ term rating from Standard and Poor’s for having a strong economy, strong management, budgetary performances, budgetary flexibility and liquidity and a strong debt profile.
“This report further solidifies the steps taken over the past four years in stabilizing our finances and providing sound, conservative budgets,” Mollis wrote in a press release, which was read into the record by McKay. “Strong and stable fund balances, a conservative approach to budgeting, budgetary flexibility, sound debt policy and economic development will provide a quality of life second to none for the residents of North Kingstown.”
The next North Kingstown Town Council meeting is scheduled for March 8.