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Changing the streets in Providence

Hard News Cafe

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013

Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 12:02

 

 

PROVIDENCE — More than 25 citizens and community members turned out for a recent City Council meeting, referred to by several as “a heated exchange.” Public attention was set on the council’s discussion regarding removal of the cul-de-sac at the western end of 100 South, which would create a publicly accessible through road between 200 West and 400 West.

“What is unclear to me is why we’re having this discussion,” said Kent Dunkley, a resident who has lived on the street for 20 years. “What’s bringing it to the agenda after being put to bed for the third or fourth time since we’ve lived on the street?”

The closed street is something that has gone unresolved for years, Dunkley said. There have been many discussions between past city councils and the public in the past, most recently in 2006 when the council passed a resolution agreeing to build the 120-foot cul-de-sac in exchange for a 50-foot right of way to be used for insertion of new sewer and water lines. Street residents dedicated the property at no charge to the city under the condition they would be compensated if the dead-end road was opened up and a through street was created.

“There’s a long history of legal activity on that road,” said Mark Thompson, a resident who has lived at the end of the road for 20 years. “I have a whole file folder full of litigation that went on concerning that piece of property.”

Thompson was one of the citizens who met and negotiated with the council and Randy Simmons, former Providence mayor, in 2006. Thompson said residents never wanted a through street.

A quick-claim deed of the land dedicated by Thompson to the city includes a restriction that says Providence “may not use said land for road access to the east, adjoining 200 West.”

“One reason we went 50 foot is because that’s a little bit narrow to even push a street through for general public traffic,” Thompson said. “If the council’s willing to dig up an old bone, it’s going to take a big dog to get it taken care of.”

Dunkley and many of the citizens gathered at the meeting agree the city should uphold their end of the bargain with Thompson.

“Some of us believe that when people say ‘This is what we’re going to do,’ that should bind,” Dunkley said. “It should be a commitment and we should keep the commitments that we make.”

Each council member had a differing opinion on the 2006 resolution. Councilman Ralph Call said he believed the street should be open to the public.

“Should we stick to somebody else’s word?” Call said. “You’re not saying, ‘Somebody gives their word and sticks to it.’ You’re saying, ‘If somebody gives their word based on less-than sufficient research everybody that comes behind it should be bound by it.’ That’s foolishness. Everybody cannot be bound by the mistakes that somebody made in the past.”

Mayor Ronald Liechty felt differently than other members of the council.

“I don’t like the cul de sac there,” Liechty said. “But I feel the city made an agreement and the city ought to stand by it.”

The council postponed further discussion of the issue for their next meeting. Councilman John Russell said there was too much information the council wasn’t aware of and the members would need to research the matter further before any decisions could be made.

“For those of us who have come on the council after that decision was made in 2006, we have to make sure that we are fully aware of all the circumstances, all the decisions, all the promises that were made then,” Russell said.

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