Following the , two Johnston Town Councilors voted unanimously to revoke the business license of the Raymond Acciardo Company, of 1133 Hartford Ave., over concerns that the owner had not met the terms of a court order imposed in June, 2010.
Council Vice President Stephanie Manzi and Councilman David Santilli were the only members left after Council President Robert V. Russo and Councilwoman Eileen Fuoco recused themselves from the hearing, and Councilman Ernest Pitochelli walked out of the following the approval of the fiscal 2013 budget.
During a phone interview on Tuesday, Russo explained that he owns three units in the Woodland Estates condominium development that sits next to Acciardo's land; Fuoco, too, is an owner there.
"Out of an abundance of caution, we felt it was appropriate to recuse ourselves," Russo said. "I'm an objector as well as [residents who testified Monday night], and I can't sit as a judge."
[Town Solicitor William Conley advised Manzi and Santilli that they could conduct the hearing since the night's meeting had begun with a quorum — that is, a majority of voting members — present.]
Monday's show cause hearing was the second one held on the Acciardo issue — town councilors considered revoking the license in May, but had to hold another one because Acciardo did not attend the meeting due to a death in his family.
As they had before, residents of Woodland Estates testified that they had observed heavy equipment, including a large industrial dirt sifter, being used on two residential lots behind Acciardo's commercially-zoned property.
Lauren Vierra presented the council with dated photographs showing the sifter parked on the residential parcels, and said Acciardo had been running the machine almost constantly.
"The only time the sifter wasn't running was when the police department was inspecting the area," Vierra explained.
Conley explained to Manzi and Santilli that the problem dates back to at least June, 2009, when a court order was imposed on Acciardo to stop using the residential land for commercial purposes — and continued through October, 2009, and again in June, 2011, when Acciardo was found to be in contempt of court.
Attorney Greg Acciardo argued that the company had never received "any citations for noise violations," and told the two councilors that Raymond Acciardo had been taking steps to comply with the previous court orders.
But Manzi and Santilli said they weren't satisfied with the attorney's explanation.
"Your client has not been a good neighbor," Manzi told him.
"It took you two and a half years to come into compliance," Santilli said, "and you're still not in compliance."
Citing the fact that the use of large equipment ike the sifter is prohibited on land zoned B-2, and saying that he was "not happy with the arrangement," Santilli made a motion to first suspend, then reconsidered and made a motion to revoke Acciardo's license.
After he and Manzi voted in favor of stripping the license, the dozen or so Woodland Estates residents in attendance applauded and thanks Vierra for her work.
Vierra said during an interview after the meeting that she didn't see the council vote as the end of a battle she's waged since 2009.
"It's a huge relief — I don't expect that it's going to end here," Vierra explained. "I assume that he's going to file an appeal, which is his right — this is just one step in a very long process, and it's so wonderful to hear someone understand and see that he's not in compliance."