At the April 23 Town Council meeting, four councilors struck a fatal blow to the private property rights of Tiverton landowners. Councilors Lambert, Leonard, Pelletier and Roderick voted for a resolution in support of H 7592/S 2870 legislation giving eminent domain powers to the East Bay Energy Consortium. With the enactment of this legislation, East Bay Energy Consortium would be formed as a quasi governmental entity and have power to take private property under eminent domain. All municipal land (i.e. Tiverton’s Industrial Park) is protected against eminent domain. Your private property is not. While three town residents spoke out against the legislation, eminent domain was only one of the concerns raised, but certainly one of the most important.
Eminent domain has been used before in this town by the state. The construction of Route 24 may not be in everyone’s memory, but it remains in mine. My grandfather owned property in the path of the planned state highway. Yes, the state offered money for the land and it was supposed to be fair value. But was it really? My grandfather didn’t think so and refused to accept their money. The state took the land anyway. In more recent memory is the construction of the new Sakonnet River Bridge. Maybe we should ask those folks affected if they got a fair deal. Let us ask the land owner whose bedroom sits almost on the off ramp if he’s happy?
To be fair, the argument for giving eminent domain power to EBEC is so they can issue bonds to build the proposed wind turbines in Tiverton. And in the future, to build other alternative energy sites whether it be more wind turbines, solar and/or geothermal sites. Could the next EBEC project be a solar panel site or wind turbine in your field on Fish Road or Stafford Road or Main Road? EBEC offers assurances that they would not use this power to take someone’s land. No one can see into the future. With this legislation, the point is that EBEC can invoke eminent domain. Can we afford to accept assurances that they won’t?
Some folks might say I’m just unhappy about the resolution passing. That I voted against it and lost. Darn straight I am upset and a little afraid. I believe part of our job on the council is to protect the rights of the citizens of Tiverton and we did not do our job successfully that night.
Joan B. Chabot
Tiverton Town Council
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