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Town razes illegal garage

By Marcia Pobzeznik

Correspondent

A metal garage at 1640 Fish Road in Tiverton was knocked down Monday by a company the town hired to remove the structure, which violated setback requirements.

The owner, William McLaughlin, who lost appeals to the town’s Zoning Board of Review in 2011 and in Superior Court after that, has filed a suit against the town in federal court seeking $8.2 million in compensatory damages.

The town last November got a court order that gave McLaughlin 90 days to be in full compliance with zoning, and if he failed to do so by Feb. 7, the town could enter the property, remove the structure and charge the cost of demolition to the property owner.

The garage, built in 2008, did not meet setback requirements. The town’s Zoning Board in 2011 refused to issue a variance to allow the garage to remain in violation.

McLaughlin was issued a building permit for the garage in April 2008 after providing a site plan to the building official’s office, and received an occupancy permit for it in October 2008.

But the site plan reportedly was not correct because McLaughlin did not use the proper boundary lines. The garage is 16 feet from a side yard line, where 30 feet is required by town zoning, and 22 feet from the front lot line, where 40 feet is required, according to zoning documents.

Superior Court judges, acting on appeals and motions, agreed with the town during many court hearings and appearances over the years. Last November, Superior Court Judge Walter E. Stone gave McLaughlin 90 days to comply with the zoning.

The Town Council, in an executive session on Feb. 14, voted 5-2 to have Town Administrator Matthew J. Wojcik take action to comply with the court order.

“We’ve spent money. We have this court decision. We need to move forward with it,” said Town Council President Denise deMedeiros. “We’ve dedicated all this time and expense. It would be foolish to say we don’t agree with it. It shows people they need to comply with zoning.”

Around noon on Monday, Mancini Demolition of North Scituate, the low bidder for the job at $8,900, started knocking down the garage and concrete foundation.

McLaughlin has said many times over the years, to several judges, that he did not have the money to move the garage, and having to do so would bankrupt him.

He filed suit in federal court in Providence on March 2 against the town’s Zoning Board of Review, the Town Council and Wojcik.

McLaughlin said in his complaint that the issuance by the town of a building permit for the garage “gave me certain

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lawful expectations,” so he proceeded to spend money, time and effort on the building and subsequently was issued an occupancy permit.

His neighbor, Liz Cottrell, maintains that she tried to inform McLaughlin early on that he was using the wrong boundary lines.

In 2010, more than a year after the garage was finished, the town sent McLaughlin a letter informing him he had to seek zoning relief from the Zoning Board of Review.

McLaughlin’s suit claims “unlawful actions” by the town and cites the town’s “failure to protect my rights.”

Wojcik said the case has been turned over to the town’s insurance company, which will represent the town in court.

Tiverton@NewportRI.com

A North Scituate demolition company hired by the town tore down the garage at 1640 Fish Road on Monday. The metal garage, built in 2008 by William McLaughlin, was in violation of zoning setbacks. The case had been in the courts for several years.

Marcia Pobzeznik | Daily News photo

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