1) This article has been updated with comments on Cindy Fera’s Airbnb public comment issue from Mayor Scott Avedisian.
2) A previous version of this article misidentified the Ann & Hope building on Post Road. The article has been edited to correct the error.
WARWICK, RI — The Warwick City Council heard a request for emergency services to review their use of sirens on Post Road and a complaint of unfair treatment from an Airbnb host Monday night at City Hall before approving a waiver to allow 48 new units at Cowesett Hills Apartments, which would otherwise not have the required 2 parking lots per unit at the apartment complex.
During the public comment segment of the meeting, Councillors heard from John Cockroff, who said he lives on Post Road near the Ann & Hope building and is often disturbed by what he described as constant use of sirens by emergency vehicles traveling through the area.
“There just seems to be a constant flow of sirens going up and down that road, every single day,” he said. “I can’t imagine there are that many emergencies.”
Cockcroff said he suspects emergency vehicles might be using the sirens for swifter passage through street lights. However, he said, he would appreciate a review of the use of sirens with an eye toward reducing unnecessary noise pollution. “That’s all I’m asking,” he said.
Next, the Council heard from Cindy Ferra, who told them that Mayor Scott Avedisian’s office sent her a letter demanding she make renovations to her home, which she had started using as an Airbnb site, to meet city regulations on small hospitality businesses such as Airbnb participants. She said she spent two years and $2,000 to meet the requirements, but this year she noticed about 20 other Airbnb locations throughout the city, “None of which were made to do any of the things that I was,” she said.
Ferra said she’s attempted to ensure the other Airbnb locations are held to the same standard, bringing the matter before both the Zoning Board and the Mayor’s office, but said she hasn’t been listened to. “I was treated rudely. Really rudely, especially by the Mayor’s office,” Ferra said.
Ferra told the council she has taken the matter to the RI ACLU in hopes of a resolution of a situation she says places her at a disadvantage with her competition. “I’m really being held back by the Zoning Board and the Mayor of this city,” Ferra said.
Mayor Scott Avedisian, contacted after the meeting, said Fera’s incorrect when she claims to have an Airbnb license. The license she obtained was for a bed and breakfast, which required the renovation investments she made to her home.
Avedisian said the license is necessary so the city and police are aware there may be people staying at the house if they’re called there for a disturbance and need to determine if they’re guests or intruders. He said Fera’s demand that the city license all Airbnbs isn’t feasible, since it’s not possible to locate the exact addresses of Airbnb locations in the city without booking the rooms.
During the main part of the meeting, the Council held a public hearing on the request of a waiver on required parking lot spaces per unit presented by House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) in his capacity as a lawyer representing Cowesett Hills Apartments LLC.
The company intends to add 48 units to the existing 458 units for a total of 505 units. The request asks to assign only two parking spots per unit instead of the required 2.5 spaces.
The Council approved the request, with an amendment offered by Councilman Steven McAllister requiring the company to work with the planning department, the neighbors, to put up a fence along the property line, to set up a maintenance plan for the fence as well as landscaping care for the area, speed bumps, and moving of a car vacuum from the area.
The Council approved the amendment, as well as the request for the waiver, unanimously.