On January 29th, 2019 at 5:30 PM, the Committee on Ordinances held a regular meeting at 25 Dorrance Street, Providence City Hall to discuss various projects happening in the city as well as elections for the Chairperson and Vice-Chairperson. The event happened in a regular office room with desks on one side with the group gathered around a long table. The group was formed of mostly white middle-aged women and old-aged men who were all formally dressed for the meeting. They have received the meetings agenda and the amendments reviewed by the City Plan Commission (CPC) and were examining it, casually speaking about the weather and explaining the event agenda to the attended citizens. There were about 6 chairs were prepared for citizens including students from both RISD and Brown University, journalists and people who came to talk about the amendments.
The meeting started officially at 5:30 PM as all members spoke their name and checked the attendance. There were 4 present and 1 absent. Then, it went right into the Organizational Meeting for the elections. First order of business, they had a motion to elect a chairperson of this honorable committee. The leader of the meeting asked three times if there were any more nominations and with none nominated, Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan was officially nominated. According to the official site of Providence City Council, Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan is the Chair of the Committee on Municipal Operations and Oversight and serves on several committees including Finance and Ordinance. Next, there was a nomination for the Vice-Chair of the ordinance committee. Councilwoman Carmen Castillo was nominated and with the same procedure, was officially selected as the Vice-Chair of this term.
Following, madam Clark read the ordinance in Amendment of Chapter 8 of the Code of Ordinances entitled; “Courts”, amending Section 8-17- Tenure of justice; filling of the vacancy. This matter was introduced by Coucil Hassett and it basically allows for a succession plan for the housing plan for judges which is currently terms are expired the first Monday of January and the ordinance of amends the language to extend the term to the first Monday of March. Here, the leader asks the members if there are any questions or concerns. One of the members asks if this matter will be voted and the answer was yes. Also, another member expresses his view that over the years, they’ve had opinions on terms expired with different officials and permissions and it makes it clear that this amendment will cover their concern. Finally, this amendment had a motion to approve as the members moved to the next issue.
Next was the Ordinance in Amendment of Chapter 27 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Providence, entitled: “The City of Providence Zoning Ordinance’, approved on November 24, 2014, as amended, to amend the use of the definition of a Rehabilitation Center. City Clerk Lori Hagen attended the meeting to make the referral 3442-Petition to amend the definition of a rehabilitation center. The members were given an exhibit that was sent from the CPC as City Clerk Hagen stated that the above-referenced zoning charge was reviewed by the City Plan Commission (CPC) at a regular meeting on December 18, 2018. The CPC voted as described below to make certain findings of fact and to recommend that the petition is granted. The proposed amendment would broaden the definition of “Rehabilitation Center” in Section 1204 of the zoning ordinance. The CPC is proposing some changes to the amendment in response to comments received at its November 2018 meeting. The CPC was concerned that the ordinance was not specific enough, and could inadvertently affect the operation of, and include other types of doctors’ offices and/or make treatment more difficult to obtain. As a result, the CPC recommends that the definition for rehabilitation center be changed to only include facilities that are licensed by the state for the diagnosis and treatment of addictions, including on-site dispensing of medication.
When the change was initially reviewed in November 2018, it was the CPC’s opinion that the zones where rehabilitation centers would be prohibited in would restrict where they could be located. Therefore, the CPC is proposing that the change is amended to allow the use by right in the C-3 zone and by special use permit in the C-1 and C-2 zones. Based on their discussion and comments received at the December 2018 meeting, the CPC is proposing to further amend the change to permit rehabilitation centers bu right in the M-MU zone and by special use permit in the R-P zone. Also, the CPC found the zoning amendment, with its proposed revisions, to be consistent with Providence Tomorrow: The Comprehensive Plan as it clarifies guidelines for new development and specifies technical regulations which would, in turn, improve the built environment. The proposed amendment is consistent with Section 101 of the zoning ordinance, purposes of zoning, which requires that the ordinance contributes to providing for a range of uses and intensities of use appropriate to the character of the City and reflecting current and expected future needs.
The original proposal changed the language slightly in the use definition. The original definition of the rehabilitation center actually mandated that inpatient facility where people are receiving treatment. The original amendment generalized so is considered to be a bit broad and it could encompass not just facilities dispensing medication but also doctor’s offices that are providing services. In the new amendment, it is made very specific that a rehabilitation center is a facility where patients are provided diagnosis and medications but also may provide housing services. It is crucial to see this issue from the citizen’s point of view, especially those in need of medical help. After hearing about the issue, all the members of the committee revised and deciding its for the good of the city, instantly resolved to have an open hearing in March.
Where a rehabilitation center is currently allowed in the city was extremely restricted and they felt that there should be other other zones where doctor’s offices are allowed and also the centers given the fact that we have a problem and people should have free access to these services. To see the matter instantly put into account, and all members actively participating was very inspiring to watch. What was more intriguing was that instead of deciding by themselves, they also asked the participated citizens about our opinion and carefully listened to what we were saying. Local democracy grows by giving voices to the will of the people. But citizens including the members of the Committee should consider what form of things that will do that in the best way.