At tonight’s City Council meeting Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan (Ward 5) will be introducing an amendment to the Code of Ordinances that puts in place a series of actions to fully engage affected residents in areas where significant infrastructure projects may take place.
This amendment to the Code of Ordinances would not impact any road repairs such as potholes or general maintenance including paving, and restriping of roadway lines. What it does do is call for community engagement around proposals and plans that have a significant impact to the design of any city roadway.
“I often hear from my constituents that they were not notified about significant work being done on their streets which causes them delays that they did not plan for and concerns about not being included in the decision making process,” stated Majority Leader Jo-Ann Ryan. “Putting in place a process of notification and engagement will go a long way to help our neighbors better understand what is happening in their community, and allows them to have a say in how their street is designed.”
The proposed amendment calls for the following actions to be taken by the Administration’s Department of Public Works any time a new project is to be considered:
- Notice of Public Meeting: Whenever the Director of Public Works receives a request or is considering a project that would require the alteration of a street, including but not limited to, removal or expansion of on-street parking, installation of bicycle lanes, installation of traffic calming measures, or any change to the existing traffic patterns they must hold a public meeting/hearing.
- Written notice would be required to be sent to all property owners or tenants of the adjacent properties where the proposed project would take place.
- Notice must be sent to the Fire Chief, Chief of Police, Commissioner of Public Safety, the City Councilor in who’s Ward the project is to take place and all public utility companies with interests along the project corridor.
- A detailed notice of the project and public meeting/hearing will be published in the newspaper at least ten days before the proposed public meeting/hearing.
- Required Documentation: Before any project can move forward, the Director of Public Works must receive the following documentation:
- A detailed analysis of infrastructure challenges and how the project would impact those challenges.
- A maintenance plan which includes snow and trash removal.
- Written approval from a majority of the property owners along the proposed project corridor.
- If the project is receiving city infrastructure funding, they must provide a fiscal note outlining expenditures related to the proposed project.
- A comprehensive feasibility and public safety impact report for the proposed project.
Failure to comply with any of these requirements will result in an automatic denial, and no permits will be issued by the City in connection with the application.
Majority Leader Ryan continued, “When the City wants to change the direction of a street from two-way to a one-way configuration, they must obtain approval from at least half of the residents on that street to move forward with that plan. If residents wish to opt-out of on-street overnight parking it too requires majority rule. It only makes sense that if you are going to make broad changes to any street that you should require the same. Doing so creates consistency and ensures engagement with the neighbors that are impacted. As a Councilor, it is my responsibility to do not what is only in the best interest of the City, but what is also in the best interest of our residents. Changing streets whole cloth can have serious impacts on property owners from lowering property values to quality of life. This ordinance will ensure that our residents have a say in how their streets and neighborhoods are designed. Having proper planning protocol will ensure transparency and ensure that we are good stewards of precious tax dollars.”
Majority Leader Ryan further stated, “When the city adds bike lanes in a commercial corridor, they take away valuable parking for the small businesses in the neighborhood. It not only hurts the businesses bottom line, but in some cases may cause businesses to close. Going further to harm the quality of life for residents and those who’s livelihoods were dependent on that now closed business.”
Exemptions to this ordinance include:
- Alterations to sidewalks or curb cuts required for development on private property.
- Installation or maintenance of any public utility.
- Any projects implemented by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation.
The Ordinance will be sent to committee for vetting and public discourse.