Judge orders Knight Street homeowner to remove last 11 cars

Judge orders Knight Street homeowner to remove last 11 cars

WOONSOCKET – A municipal court judge ordered the owner of a property at 472 Knight St. two weeks ago to remove 11 inoperable cars from his property within 15 days, and pay the city $1,135 for violations of city code.

Property owner Albert Gaffney still has the option to file an appeal of the decision in Superior Court, but had not done so as of The Breeze’s print deadline.

The news is the latest in a decades-long battle between city officials, who say they want the property cleaned up, and a property owner who has fought to keep cars on his land.

At one point in 2015, neighbors said Gaffney had some 60 vehicles on the 1.72-acre residential lot.

Many of those vehicles have since been removed, and the latest charges in municipal court aimed to address the final 11 vehicles. The recent case was tried over two dates in Woonsocket Municipal Court in August and September, and included testimony from neighbor Lorraine Leclerc, as well as Zoning Official Carl Johnson and Building Official Brad Ward.

“The city presented over 30 full exhibits, which for the most part were photographs of vehicles that were located on the defendant’s property,” states the order, sign by Municipal Court Judge Thomas Dickenson.

Gaffney faced several charges, including violation of a zoning ordinance prohibiting storage of vehicles in a front yard. The property has a Knight Street address, but officials argued that Gaffney exits and enters through a door in the back, where the cars are located.

He was also charged with storage of inoperable vehicles, and city officials were asked to prove that the cars had not moved for at least 90 days, or that they were covered with debris, rust, weeds or other growth.

“Ms. Leclerc said she was fearful of the vehicles because of the vermin that bred in them, including bees, feral cats, mosquitoes, snakes and mice,” wrote Dickenson in the decision.

Leclerc testified that one of the cars had not been moved in at least 10 years.

“Mr. Gaffney contradicted the city’s witnesses, but I did not find his testimony persuasive,” Dickenson wrote. “He claimed first that he lived at a separate Knight Street address, but the city was able to demonstrate that there was neither water or gas service at that address.”

The judge noted that Gaffney claimed all of the vehicles had current registration and insurance, but did not submit any documentation.

Dickenson imposed a fine of $100 per vehicle, plus court costs of $35. He also authorized the city to remove the vehicles at Gaffney’s expense and to place a lien on the property.

The property was among more than 130 listed on a tax sale advertisement published by the city last week, but had been removed from the list on an updated version provided to The Breeze this week.