Letter: Proactive, decisive action need to head off Tiverton overdevelopment

Posted 11/18/20

To the editor:

    I recently read with great concern the article related to Tiverton’s projected population growth due to the expansion of the rail line and other pending …

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Letter: Proactive, decisive action need to head off Tiverton overdevelopment

Posted

To the editor:

    I recently read with great concern the article related to Tiverton’s projected population growth due to the expansion of the rail line and other pending development. While reading the article, I chuckled to myself when I read the reference to Tiverton’s tendency to “shut the barn door after the horses have already left,” and the admonishment to be prepared. Although I agree with those statements, the town is some 40 years late to the prom.

I hesitate to blame current town leaders and planning and zoning boards because there is ample blame to go around. You would think we would have responded to the many indicators over the years that made it clear where future town development was headed. Past town leaders were fully aware of the situation and warned of the consequences of inaction.  All of the remedies sought to this dilemma were much the same then as today, and they are no less unpopular.

Some pertinent points have been made by members of the town council regarding challenges posed to town resources and services. However, of equal concern are quality of life issues such as crime and safety, excessive traffic and the compromise of Tiverton’s rural character. The very idea that this concern is an overreaction is most unsettling.

The thought that Westport and Little Compton will share in the growth provides little comfort. Our focus should be on the future of our town. We should take a page out of Little Compton’s play book, whose development safeguards, such as multiple acre house lots, have resulted in one of the lowest tax rates in the state.

If these factors do not motivate us consider this; according to a variety of research studies, including the University of Illinois and the American Farmland Trust, communities with higher growth rates experienced increased per capita spending. Regardless of who conducted the research, the results have been consistent. For every tax dollar collected on commercial/industrial property, the cost to the town is 35 to 65 cents worth of services. For agricultural and open space, the cost to the town is 30 to 50 cents. For residential land, the average estimate ranges from $1.15 to $1.50. 

If we allow residential growth to continue at the current rate, the greater the pressure to broaden the tax base with more commercial development and perceived silver bullets like malls and casinos. If the trend continues unchecked, we will soon be at a tipping point, adversely impacting our idyllic rural seaside community atmosphere.

If we continue to procrastinate, the peril to the town will escalate and the consequence will be permanent. This is a challenge of awesome proportions that is not solely the charge of our town leaders. This is a responsibility of the entire community in a supportive role, as stewards of our resources and quality of life. We may not immediately benefit from our efforts, but instead consider the town we wish to leave to our children and grandchildren to experience and enjoy as we have.

Paul Amaral

Tiverton

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.