With rain continuing to soak southern New England, City Council members met with residents Monday to review multiple issues germane to Cranstonians in flood-prone neighborhoods.
The agenda for Monday’s meeting included dam maintenance, marshland supervision and emergency policy. Flood committee members also addressed Mayor Allan W. Fung’s decision to an ordinance designed to provide an economic respite to flood-affected residents.
Record rainfall forced many Cranstonians to abandon houses near overflowing rivers in March 2010, and in November, the City Council approved an to establish a tax abatement for the displaced homeowners.
Mayor Fung, however, did not consent, and he wrote a to the Council on Nov. 30, outlining his decision to reject the plan.
Monday, Deputy Director of Administration Gerald Cordy attempted to reiterate the mayor’s response.
“There’s really nothing that we can do to pass that ordinance,” Cordy said, speaking to six committee members and 10 citizens in attendance at City Hall.
“It does violate state law… [and] there also needs to be some kind of an identified source of revenues to replace those assets.”
But, according to City Council President Anthony Lupino, the abatement could relieve the economically encumbered homeowners without reducing the city’s overall income.
“I think, initially, what some of the residents were looking for was at least some type of provision that the city could allow which would forego some of the fines, or penalties, for not paying taxes on time,” Lupino said.
“That doesn’t have a negative impact on revenues.”
The ordinance could be redrafted to satisfy the mayor and state lawmakers, but the committee is also examining alternative methods to pare the financial burden on homeowners in at-risk neighborhoods.
“Let’s explore the possibility of working this out with flood-risk districts,” said committee member Brian Dupont.
With specialized insurance, floodplain residents could be entitled to tax cuts, in accordance with Dupont’s plan.
“[If] you happened to live in Flood District 1, you’re going to get an exemption on your taxes. It may be 20 percent, 15 percent, 30 percent, whatever it may be. Flood District 2, maybe you get a 10 percent discount,” Dupont said. “I think it’s something we could put on the table, and still progress with the tax abatement issue, anyway.”
Lupino condemned new construction on the floodplain, and said that if additional homes are built, they must adhere to strict guidelines, similar to coastal regulations for flood preparedness.
“The floods will happen again. We cannot control Mother Nature. We are not controlling the cities and towns upstream of us [and] we have no control over the dams,” Lupino said.
Cordy argued against a prohibition on construction in at-risk communities, simply encouraging homeowners and buyers to conduct research and exercise prudence before occupying the land.
“There has to be some responsibility on the homeowner’s part,” Cordy said. “We’ve got the floodplain maps right in here…anyone can walk in any day, between 8:30 and 4:30 [to see the maps].”
He also said that Cranston is prepared for wide-scale flooding with a plan that incorporates the police and fire departments, public works officials and RIMA, Rhode Island’s Emergency Management Agency.
However, committee member Richard Martin urged the city to do something for the regularly flooded homeowners on streets like Fletcher Avenue, near the Dyer and Randall Ponds.
“We’re not asking for anything that other people don’t have. I want to be able to use my property 365 days a year, 366 in a leap year,” Martin said. “We want some form of tax relief. It’s just that simple. Let’s do the right thing, and let’s not put obstacles in the way.”