Ruling good news to Tiverton crematorium opponents

By Ruth Rasmussen
Posted 2/22/24

A Newport County Superior Court ruled last month that opponents of a Fall River funeral director who wants to build a crematorium in the north end of Tiverton have a right to be heard in a legal …

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Ruling good news to Tiverton crematorium opponents


A Newport County Superior Court ruled last month that opponents of a Fall River funeral director who wants to build a crematorium in the north end of Tiverton have a right to be heard in a legal battle he is currently waging against the town.

Jonathon Ferriera’s company, Sakonnet Partners, LLC, has sought town approval to build a 2,960 square-foot crematorium on an undeveloped parcel of land at 730 Main Road.

A year ago, opponents of the proposal created a citizens’ group, Tiverton Residents Against Crematorium (TRAC), and hired a lawyer – Stephen J. Sypole –  to represent them in the fight. For the past year, TRAC members and others in the community have packed meeting rooms and school auditoriums to voice fierce opposition whenever planning or zoning officials had the crematorium application on their agendas. 

Opponents felt encouraged in May, when the planning board denied the company’s application and again in September, when that decision was upheld by the zoning board of appeals.

Ferreria and his company pressed on, however, submitting an appeal of the zoning board’s decision to Newport County Superior Court last fall. 

In December, Sypole filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of 11 abutters, all of whom own property within a 200-foot radius of the proposed crematorium.

According to the motion, if the project moved forward, the 11 named abutters as well as other TRAC members would suffer “irreparable injury in the form of, among other things, diminished property values, unsafe traffic conditions, visual pollution, and exposure to the toxic air pollution that would be emitted by the facility.”

In early January, the court granted the motion, meaning the abutters have a right to be involved in the court case through their attorney, who will submit relevant testimony, records, etc., on their behalf.   

Sypole said the case will have one of two possible outcomes. The court will either uphold the zoning board of appeals’ denial of Sakonnet Partners’ application, or it will reverse the board’s decision, in which case Ferreira and his company can go back to the town and pick up where they left off in the application process. Sypole was unwilling to make a prediction as to how long it would take for the court to issue its ruling.

A reminder from a regulatory board

In a related matter, a Mass. licensing board recently responded to a complaint filed by one of TRAC’s members last year that suggested Ferreira might be in violation of a Mass. law that prohibits funeral homes from operating their own crematories, even across state lines.

In a Jan. 8 letter to Ferriera, the Mass. Board of Embalming and Funeral Directing said it was dismissing the complaint “without prejudice,” meaning TRAC representatives may ask that the board reopen the complaint at a future appropriate date.

The board labeled its communication as an advisory letter, not a disciplinary action, issued to “clarify statutes, regulations, or practice issues.”

The letter said the board wanted to remind Ferreira of a regulation that “prohibits any person who…holds an ownership interest in…a licensed funeral establishment from engaging in or holding any ownership interest in any other business which is related to the disposition of human remains, including but not limited to, any crematorium.”

Commenting on the letter, retired law professor Anne Lawton of Tiverton, an opponent of the crematorium, said she did not believe the letter was sent to Ferreira as a mere formality.

“He is being told that the regulation prohibits him from owning a crematorium,” she said.

Ferreira’s attorney, Jay Lynch, did not respond to a request for comment.

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