Ezovski ‘pursuing options’ for safety on Mowry Road

Ezovski ‘pursuing options’ for safety on Mowry Road

Administrator says wider road would cause more speeding

NORTH SMITHFIELD – Town Administrator Gary Ezovski says he’s exploring options for changes to a roadway where disputes over safety and land rights have put neighbors on edge.

Ezovski says he’s working with state resources, North Smithfield officials, leaders in Burrillville and local residents to devise a solution.

Resident Jason Richer has been lobbying officials to have the road closed to two-way traffic since 2013, pointing to speeders coming off of Douglas Pike and concerns about his well, which he says is 25 feet from the property line. A land survey reportedly showed that a portion of paved roadway in the previously wide entrance to the street actually belonged to his lot, and he’s since set up metal poles topped with American flags on the property line, with boulders and mulch below designed to reclaim the land.

Neighbors, however, are opposed to efforts to turn Mowry into a one-way road and representatives from six households met with The Breeze last month to outline their concerns, pointing to issues with trash and mail services. They noted that Richer’s poles have damaged vehicles, and that they felt their privacy had been violated by surveillance cameras he has pointed at the roadway, and the accompanying videos posted on YouTube.

Richer, meanwhile, maintains that he has broken no laws, and says that it is town officials who have dropped the ball.

“This whining from the neighbors is all about a detour to the next street that requires an extra 45 seconds to one minute to navigate,” Richer said in an email. “My family and I have been harassed here daily for over three years with cars peeling out and/or honking their horns at all hours of the day and night and I’m the one painted as a villain.”

Town officials briefly closed Mowry to two-way traffic in 2014 following a recommendation by the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. But the decision was reversed after Burrillville officials pointed out that North Smithfield has no authority over the neighboring town’s streets. Only about 420 feet of Mowry Road fall inside the North Smithfield town line before the street crosses into Burrillville, where no such traffic law had been passed.

Ezovski said that Richer has only placed mulch along “inches or fractions of an inch” of the paved roadway where residents say they are having difficultly passing through, and that the situation may be more common than people realize.

“I would venture to say that landscape maintenance overlaps into the public way covering the edge of paving in hundreds of locations across town but I am not aware of any other claims of this type,” he said.

In response to a July 27 article in The Breeze, Richer took offense to his neighbors’ complaints about his security cameras.

“Their suggestions of what I am recording are slanderous and portray me as some peeping Tom,” he said.

He also said that like many of his neighbors, he has offered the town land to remedy the situation.

“I was the first one to offer land to rectify this unsafe condition here and I placed no contingencies upon it,” Richer said.

Neighbors hoping the town will ask him to remove the flags placed at the edge of the property and rewiden the road may be out of luck. The entrance off a busy Route 7 quickly shrinks as Mowry becomes a winding country road, a problem Richer says is a safety hazard.

Ezovski pointed out that public rights of way as old as Mowry are not like the roadways that have been created since zoning and subdivision regulations were put in place.

“I believe the entire publicly owned right of way is only 16 feet wide at some points,” he said. “Today we require public ways to be no less than 40 feet wide with 22 feet of paved width leaving 18 feet to be split to the sides of the road.”

“It is also important to consider, and it is my opinion as an engineer, that increasing the width of Mowry Road will most certainly increase the speed of travel on the road and speed is one of the matters we need to mitigate,” the administrator said.

Ezovski noted that while the issue has public safety aspects, it also includes private property rights.

“Ownership of property is only able to be defined by land survey,” he said. “Obviously fencing can be located not just at the edge but on a property line.”

When the issue is brought before the Town Council, it will likely be a board of four, rather than five members voting on a solution. Councilor Daniel Halloran owns the home directly across the street from Richer, and says he would likely have to recuse himself.

Halloran noted that he feels there really is a safety issue, and said he personally favors the one-way solution.

“The traffic is bad there. For years it’s been a problem,” Halloran said. “I think it should be one way coming out.”

As for Richer’s poles, he added, “He’s my neigbor. I think things went better before the stuff was there, but it’s his property and he can do as he wishes.”

Ezovski said he expects to present a solution in the near future.

Comments

Those poles just jumped right out and whacked those passing cars! Who would have thought that flags and poles could do such a thing.

be like the Whomping Willow Tree from Harry Potter, the man is obviously a wizard.

I just wish that ALL my COMPLAINTS about speeding got as much ATTENTION as this guy on Mowry Rd and the cry babies on Old Smithfield Rd ! Someday me or one of my family will get KILLED pulling out of our driveway on Saint Paul St. due to the HIGH SPEED TRAFFIC that NOBODY will do anything about !