Editorial: Tiverton farmhouse: Bad deal all around

Posted 3/12/20

The pending demolition of a pre-Revolutionary War Tiverton farmhouse should serve as exhibit A on why solar farms, which by and large are a good thing for us all, are earning themselves a tainted …

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Editorial: Tiverton farmhouse: Bad deal all around

Posted

The pending demolition of a pre-Revolutionary War Tiverton farmhouse should serve as exhibit A on why solar farms, which by and large are a good thing for us all, are earning themselves a tainted reputation.

Credit lack of imagination and stubbornness on the part of both town and solar developer for the fact that, barring some eleventh-hour burst of common sense, a part of Tiverton history will come tumbling down.

This is a simple house (most of its era were) in an out-of-the-way location that isn’t on the A-list of protected Tiverton structures. But neither is it some crumbling wreck, long-ago stripped of anything of authenticity and value.

The Wingover farmhouse is in good shape and blessed with period structural details — particularly the hand-hewn exposed posts and beams — that are remarkably well preserved. It is an intact representation of Tiverton’s farming past and more — the house was once home to Herb Cavaca, Tiverton fisherman turned rumrunner extraordinaire aboard his sloop Mary A, and boats Cachalot, Tramp et al.

With good reason, the town’s Comprehensive Plan makes preserving such good old houses, along with the town’s historic character, a top priority.

The sad thing is that saving this house (and the old stone walls) ought to have been no big deal. The property is plenty big enough to fit solar panels and farmhouse, while the mixed-use problem (dual uses, solar and residential, on a single lot) scarcely seems insurmountable. Had the will been there, a simple subdivision might have resolved that one. 

Developer Ameresco now has the apparent right to do as it pleases with both house and stone walls. But realizing by now how deeply many in Tiverton care about what happens to this farmhouse, the company also has an opportunity for good will.

Rather than pick up its demolition permit and wait for the clock to wind down, developer and town, perhaps with help from a group like Preserve RI  (which has offered assistance) could resolve to find a happier course. If all involved are serious and open to a bit of give and take, the task should be neither as daunting nor time consuming as some have made it out to be.

That house has stood there the better part of three centuries. Solar farms have a stated lifespan of around two decades. 

Tiverton and Ameresco should be capable of better than that tradeoff.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.