A Hummel Report Investigation
For more than a decade a Woonsocket homeowner has pleaded with myriad local and state officials to force her neighbor to clean up dozens of decades-old vehicles on his property - some of which are parked 50 feet from her front door. After watching last month’s Hummel Report investigation on a junkyard in West Greenwich - and the state’s response once we started asking questions - she asked Jim Hummel to take a closer look at her situation.
From her back deck Lorraine LeClerc has one of the nicer views in Woonsocket: tucked away on an acre high above the rest of the city, the land has been in her family for four generations.
This 200-year old house is where she grew up and still lives with her 93-year-old mother.
Leclerc: ``The land was beautiful, we got along it was nice and clean, then Mr. Gaffney moved in.’’
That would be Al Gaffney, Leclerc’s next-door neighbor, who for decades has been collecting and storing cars on his property. Dozens of cars.
Leclerc: ``All of a sudden we started car collections. It started with one, two, three and it got to the point where you see it now.’’
What you see - and she sees every day - is this: vehicles in various conditions and a view from her front door that Leclerc says is not only an eyesore but has ruined her property value. She has been fighting a seemingly endless battle to have Gaffney clean up his property, but run into repeated delays that have turned weeks and month into years and now, nearly a decade.
Leclerc: ``I’ve been communicating back and forth with everybody at City Hall, the mayor, the city council, three administrations, to get this resolved. I get nothing. I call D.E.M., cal the fire marshal, it’s a fire hazard, it’s a safety issue. Nothing. It’s supposed to be in Superior Court. We’ll, we forgot about it. So finally they sent it to Superior Court; it’s been in there since 2007.’’
Marcello: ``Why this sat for 10 years I have no idea, but it is definitely one of our top priorities since I’ve been here and we’re working on it.’’
Michael Marcello, who became Woonsocket’s city solicitor in late 2013, says Gaffney appealed to Superior Court a municipal court ruling that he violated local zoning ordinances. The state Department of Business Regulation - which oversees all junkyards - held its own hearing eight months ago. DBR ordered Gaffney to remove the cars from his property and he signed an agreement to have it done by the end of September.