House to hear I-195 Commission Bill tomorrow

As an update on the previous post regarding the I-195 Commission vote, to be heard by the House tomorrow, please see the following from our neighbors in Fox Point:

The House has I-195 Redevelopment Commission on docket tomorrow, Wednesday, June 29th.  Take 30 seconds to read the updated information below about the now 61 acres of prime real estate, of which you would have no voice, while your property taxes go up.

Urge Speaker Fox and the Providence delegation to vote no to the Senate version of the bill directly at http://www.citizenspeak.org/campaign/paul7of7/stop-i-195-redevelopment-commission

(Click on image to enlarginate)

Update of Clarke Florist site

An update on the Clarke Florist site from the Friends of Preserve Hope Street:

Dear Friends of Preserve Hope Street,

Our journey to find a good use for the Clarke Florist site continues, and we wanted to send everyone an update.


Zoning Appeal: The Schartner team has filed an appeal of the Providence Zoning Board ruling in Superior Court (case number CA 11-3099).  It is unclear if this step was taken by Schartners or by the developer who was working with them on the drive thru proposal.  The City of Providence will be defending the decision of the zoning board.  No hearing date has been set, and we have been informed that this could take a while –  a few months up to a couple of years.  Abutters to the Clarke’s site have been legally notified, and we are exploring how best to support the City and the Zoning Board in this case.  We are VERY grateful to Steve Litwin, who has been offering his legal services to us at no charge.  If we hear more specifics, we will let you know.


Update on the Site:  As you may have noticed, the flower shop is now closed.  The signs say they have “moved,” but this means that they have forwarded the phone lines to the flower shop still operated by Schartners.  An area of focus for us is supporting Schartner in identifying a new owner or a tenant for the site.  We would hate to see the building deteriorate further and risk demolition. We would love your help in spreading the word to anyone you think might be interested in setting up a neighborhood-friendly business. We are concerned that potential tenants know that neighbors are NOT anti-business, we just want a business appropriate to a residential block.


As always, your ideas and questions are welcome.  We will continue to post updates to our Facebook page, to our web

site www.preservehopestreet.org and send out e-mails with any news. Thanks for continuing to follow this story.

Sincerely,

Concerned Hope Street Abutters


Summit Crime Watch: Call for Block Captains

The neighborhood Crime Watch group is making a call for Block Captains.  Ultimately, this is a way we can help reduce crime in our neighborhood.  Can you be your block’s captain?  Can you forward this to the person who can?

Here is the website: www.summitcrimewatch.org

From Monica Anderson, neighborhood liason for Miriam Hospital and Crime Watch leader:

The Crime Watch of Summit Neighborhood (CRWSN) needs you!

Formed in 2009, CRWSN has surveyed neighbors, created a website, logo, and mission statement.  We  have a draft set of by-laws and are working on becoming a non-profit organization and we have held trainings and informational sessions with the police and other Crime Watch Organizations in Rhode Island.

The next step to effectively launch the CRWSN is to create a network of Block Captains within The Summit Neighborhood.  The Block Captain program is the most important next step to help make Summit a safer place to live.   Block Captains hold a meeting with neighbors on their street and serve as the central liaison for information sharing.  Block Captains then relay information back to the Crime Watch organization.

Below is an outline of the role of Block Captain. Block Captains are friendly ambassadors willing to hold a meeting or two and help get their street organized.  The role requires a little work up front, but the shared concern of neighbors looking out for one another on a regular basis eases the overall requirement of the position.

If you are interested in being a Block Captain and need assistance in setting up your first “block/street” meeting, please contact Monica Anderson by calling (401) 793 4040. The CRWSN provides support to Block Captains in the form of helping create and copy fliers for their meetings, providing educational materials, and by placing a notice on the CRWSN website.  We can even provide you with the names of people on your block who have already expressed interest in helping on their street.

The next Crime Watch of Summit Neighborhood Meeting will be held on Wednesday, July 20th at 6:00 p.m. at The Miriam Hospital Sopkin Auditorium.

Block Captain Responsibilities:

1.Ensure your group meets at least twice a year by coordinating the meetings, cookouts, block parties, etc. and report the meeting dates to the CRWSN President or Vice President.

For more information, please call Monica Anderson at 793 2120.

2. Educate your block on what suspicious activity is, and how and when to report it.

Be the central person whom neighbors call when they have a NON-Emergency, a question, or a non-emergency concern.  Be sure that you educate everyone on your block to call the police if they see any suspicious occurring.

3. Develop a block map and roster for your group that includes names, addresses, and phone numbers and e-mails for each group member.  Telephone trees can help expedite emergency information among your neighbors.  Develop a neighborhood chart that includes the names and phone numbers of all members.  Ensure that each individual listed on the tree knows whom he is to contact should emergency or other important information need to be disseminated in a hurry.  Develop an alert plan reflecting the name and phone number of each household – e-mail distribution list or phone tree for notification of suspicious activity.

4. Greet new neighbors and invite them to join the program

5. Inform and distribute to group members any crime related information received from the police department.

6. Keep a record of break-ins, vandalism, graffiti, and/or any activity that becomes a concern for you and your neighbors. Provide this type of information to neighbors at your next block meeting.

7. Be the liaison between your “Block” and the CRWSN.  Attend meetings, as you are able.

8. Attend one of the Block Captain training modules offered throughout the year.

9. Gather and share information

Knowing your neighbors’ basic habits and belongings will help you to recognize unusual or suspicious activities. Basic information you might exchange includes:

-Home and work phone numbers

-Number, ages and identify family members

-Work hours

-School hours of children

-Number and types of automobiles

-Who has dog(s)?

-Planned vacations or visitors

-Scheduled deliveries or repairs

-Any other helpful information

10. Encourage neighbors to advise you concerning criminal activity. Your position as a Block Captain does not give you any law enforcement authority. You are the person who facilitates the unity of the group, disseminates information, and coordinates activities.

Group Members Responsibilities:

  1. Be alert to suspicious activities in your neighborhood.

  1. Notify Block Captain if your contact information changes.

  1. Learn neighbors’ names and be able to identify their vehicles and other vehicles usually in your neighborhood.

  1. Keep an up to date block map, roster, and other important group information in an accessible and secure location.

  1. Implement security measures suggested by your CPO or Block Captain.

  1. Notify police and block captain of any suspicious activity.

  1. DO NOT TAKE ANY PERSONAL RISK to prevent a crime or execute an arrest.  It is more important to have a healthy, injury free witness whose recollection of the incident is not tainted by fear, anxiety, or pain.  The safety and well being of every person in the group is most important.

  1. Attend the “Block” meetings.

Re-opening of the fountain in Lippitt Park

Rather than reiterate what neighbors are saying, here is exactly what they are saying…

Dear Jesse,    I went to the fountain dedication this morning… when we arrived the place was full of people …  sitting on the fountain rim, strolling about,  passing to and from the farmers market… the weather was perfect, not too hot… and the mood alight with the pleasure of summer in the park…

But though there was water in the basin,   it wasn’t running.  And that was because first there were speeches under the tent… when your name was mentioned and mentioned in recognition of your tenacious work and belief in the fountain.

And then the speeches were over, Mayor Tavaras led the countdown. and after a pause the water began to flow down the concave tower into the small basins out the mouths of those wonderful deco faces … and everyone clapped and clapped.

And Jesse,  I couldn’t believe it, but tears came to my eyes… it was like the stone had been brought to life again.

When we left the fountain was still rimmed with children cooling their feet in the water…what a quintessential pleasure, what a memory  of growing up in the city.

So this is to say thank you so much for making it happen… you and all the people who got behind the idea in so many ways.


-Elizabeth Grossman, Summit Neighbor

Congratulations Jesse and all those involved – it is such a beautiful sight

to see a neighborhood come together.   Your effort have not gone  unnoti

ced….and just think of all the pleasure people will receive in years to

come visiting the fountain and enjoying the park.


-Pat  Zacks, Summit Neighbor

Hi Jesse—-Well  your vision for the fountain paid  off-and big time—Although I never had the opportunity to see it  run  previously, I surely did

at the dedication.

I think you, as well as many of the SNA members worked very hard to make

this day of dedication a reality.  I was happy to be of help to you, in a

small way, as well as to  the SNA – trying to  recruit new members just

today.

I think Dean and his crew could not have done better-and I was happy for

the joint effort that so many people has shown.


Best,

Howie Gladstone, Summit Neighbor

Congrats Jesse. You should be proud. At long last this beauty is shining again. As a Summit resident I want to thank you for what I’m sure was a ton of hard work.


-Craig Borges, Summit Neighbor

Zoning Variance Denied for Clarke’s Florist Site

Zoning Variance Denied for Clarke’s Florist Site

Report on the March 16 Zoning Variance Hearing

by Summit Neighbor Elva Mathiesen

The drive-thru coffee shop proposed for the Clark’s Flower Shop site on Hope Street was the last item on the agenda.

When the neighbors finished filing into the hearing room, all the seats were full and many people were standing.

The lawyer for the developer proposing the coffee shop (“Brewed Awakenings”) presented and questioned a small army of witnesses, as follows:

The architect of the proposed new building, parking lot, and drive-thru lane; a civil engineer, testifying that the present building has deteriorated beyond repair; a traffic engineer with traffic flow studies, testifying that the drive-thru is not incompatible with current traffic on Hope Street, even at rush hours; a real estate agent, testifying that the new business would not bring down property values; Mr. Schartner, the owner of Schartner Florists, LLC., the current owner of Clark’s, who has owned it for only a few years, testifying that he can’t make a go of the business; and David Levesque, the developer, the owner of several other “Brewed Awakenings” coffee/sandwich shops elsewhere in R.I. which, he says are highly successful.  (He said the one near the Capital Grille downtown had to close because it was dependent on foot traffic, and there was no foot traffic during inclement weather.)

As I listened, it seemed to me that Levesque, the developer, was speaking out of two sides of his mouth:  on the one hand, he insisted repeatedly that his coffee/sandwich shop would be a place to eat, meet people, and feel comfortable staying a while; on the other hand, he said that 40% of his business would be drive-thru.

It seemed to me that Levesque was overly sanguine about how many cars would be “stacked” in the drive-thru lane.   Orders would be placed at one window and picked up at another.  Levesque said that cars would have to wait at the pick-up window no more than 45 seconds, but I wasn’t able to follow his reasoning.

(If one car in the stack wants to turn left on Hope Street, it’s going to be idling a lot longer than 45 seconds, and so will all the cars behind it!)

Throughout the testimony of the developer and his witnesses, I couldn’t help but be struck by how careful they all were to avoid mentioning the day care across the street (1/2 block to the north) and the public elementary school one and a half blocks west.  The traffic engineer made no mention of the fact that during morning rush hour, prime drive-thru coffee time, parents would be parking and dropping off babies and toddlers, and kids would be walking to school.

The traffic engineer admitted that he hadn’t factored in bicycle traffic.

Anticipating one argument of the neighbors against the project, the issue of “intensification” of commercial activity, one of the developer’s witnesses (or the lawyer, or the developer himself, I don’t remember which) said that the stretch of Hope Street between Rochambeau and Olney was a neighborhood “in transition” between residential and commercial.  As evidence for this statement he cited the double- and triple-decker houses lining that part of Hope Street, saying that they were “four-, five-, and six-family houses, and one 7-family house.”  This was news to me!

(The few businesses in this mile of Hope Street have been there since before I came to Providence 44 years ago; and if there are residential buildings with four to seven dwelling units each, I haven’t noticed them.)

Sixty-one people came to the hearing and I estimate that at least half of them testified, all against the project.

A lawyer (hired by a neighbor) and Jesse Polhemus (vice president of the Summit Neighborhood Association) led off, Jesse quoting the Zoning Ordinance’s section on granting variances.   One of the qualifications for being granted a variance is that “intensification” of business activity does not occur.   (Providence’s Comprehensive Plan also forbids intensification of business activity on this segment of the Hope Street corridor.)

Many abutters testified, expressing their concern about the noise and fumes from idling vehicles in the drive-through lane, and the lights in the parking lot.  (“Brewed Awakenings” would stay open until 10 p.m., and until 10:30 on Friday and Saturday nights.)

Some people asked:  why couldn’t the property, already zoned R-3, be subdivided and dwellings put in?  (On the tax rolls, it’s already two lots.)

One person suggested that rather than being razed, the greenhouse should be preserved as a valuable community resource for people growing their own food, especially in this time of rising food prices.

Asher Schofield, who owns Frog & Toad, directly across the street from the Citizens Bank parking lot and drive-thru, and Robert Mathiesen, who lives at 45 Lauriston Street, three houses from the Citizens Bank drive-thru, testified that the Citizens Bank drive-thru is noisy and hazardous.

After the neighbors’ testimony, the lawyer for the developer summarized his arguments and droned on for half an hour, accusing the neighbors of NIMBYism and not buying enough flowers.

In my view, if the coffee shop and drive-thru go in, the 12-foot-high arbor vitaes touted by the architect are not going to shield the abutters from the noise, lights, and fumes.  And, regarding the fumes, one abutter testified that she has an asthmatic child.  In fact, the abutters’ quality of life would deteriorate drastically.

After the lawyer had his say, the developer himself took the floor and harangued us for at least 20 minutes about how his coffee shop would produce jobs (25 – 30, most of them part-time) and generate more tax revenue.  He got very emotional toward the end… but I don’t think his last-ditch appeal changed anyone’s mind.

The Zoning Board of Review’s deliberations began with one member’s stating that he counted 61 people who showed up to testify, the most he’d ever seen at a hearing.

Myrth York, the chairman, held up a stack of letters and a stack of e-mails, each at least one inch thick.  Summarizing them, she said that all expressed opposition to the variance, including letters from our state representative, our state senator, and our councilman.  (She did not mention phone messages.)

In addition to the universal opposition to the project, the Board’s deliberations focused on the issue of “intensification” of commercial activity in that location, which was explicitly discouraged by the neighborhood charettes and forbidden by the Zoning Ordinance and Providence’s Comprehensive Plan.

In the Board’s view, the drive-thru aspect of the project constituted “intensification”.

A motion to deny the variance passed 4 o 1.

A second variance, regarding dimensions of signage, was also denied.  (It became moot when the first variance, to raze Clark’s and build a new building with a drive-thru, was denied.)

Elva Mathiesen

45 Lauriston Street

<elvamath@gmail.com>

Want to serve on the SNA Board?

The Summit Neighborhood Association’s nominating committee is hosting a meet and greet for those interested in serving on the SNA board for the year beginning in February.  If you are interested in learning more, please come by the event:

Asian Palace

1184 North Main St.

Saturday, January 22 at 3pm

Hope to see you there!

Representative from RIPTA to discuss potential new bus route in Summit

A representative from RIPTA will attend the next SNA Board meeting to hear our neighbors’ thoughts and answer questions on the proposed new bus route in Summit.

If you took part in the survey we posted, or if you have other thoughts, concerns, suggestions, or questions, please come present them on Monday, December 13.  The meeting will begin at 6:30pm with regular business, and the RIPTA representative is on the agenda to start at 7pm.  Regular meeting business will continue after.

The meeting will be held at Summit Commons (99 Hillside Ave) in the cafe (not the main dining room).  Enter in the front entrance, go right after the front desk and the cafe is on your left.

Here is some info on the subject, with comments below.

Hope you can make it!