Smithfield resident Cavanagh presents points in Leach case

Smithfield resident Cavanagh presents points in Leach case

I have followed with great interest the case of Robert Leach through his trial in Smithfield Municipal Court. Mr. Leach purchased his house on Austin Avenue in Greenville in 2007. He has been working to restore the house and historic apple farm to its original beauty ever since he purchased it.

Since 2012, Mr. Leach has received notices of violation of the town’s Property Maintenance Code. Sections 304.6 and 304.7 of the Property Maintenance Code are the only areas of the code remaining to be remedied. The entire roof of the main house and kitchen all have been completed with 24-inch red cedar shakes. Only the roof of the small porch, while not leaking, is voluntarily being replaced, but is included in the order, it will be completed by April.

Curious points.

1. Mr. Leach has agreed upon the order for completing the deficiencies. He has completed the first phase and is currently in compliance with the order. It seems as though someone with much less experience in preservation has decided that they can insist on an arbitrary time limit even though his work would exceed most standards of quality.

2. Mr. Leach would like to use his fenced-in pool as a source of water for his apple orchard. You would think the town government would be encouraging someone to preserve his orchard in “Apple Land.” The town officials are concerned that Mr. Leach is not using a cover. I have read the ordinance many times and I do not see reference to a cover. This matter is still debated because the matter was discussed in court and Mr. Leach has shown records where it has been dismissed.

3. The real explanation: The former owner of the house who no longer wanted it, and was responsible for the deplorable condition of the house before Mr. Leach bought the house and orchard is the individual who is complaining to the town about Mr. Leach’s violations. Seller’s remorse? He is also a competitor in the apple business right across the street. I guess it is a good thing to have friends in high places to help you go after someone who has offended you by your presence.

4. Has anyone heard of US code 1983 – Civil action for deprivation of rights?

Seems to apply here big time. Is there retribution against Mr. Leach for his staunch support of preservation in the face of developer pressure, even his defense against the town itself, that wanted to destroy historic structures? Time will tell. The action to remove Mr. Leach from the Preservation Commission may indeed have been instituted without proper protocol or procedure in keeping with the Town Charter. Mr. Leach did not receive a full hearing in closed session where he may be able to tell the real story of retribution and double dealing that has occurred. Have his rights been denied?

I was a member of the Planning Board and I am quite familiar with the Zoning Ordinance and Sub-Division Regulations.

Paul Cavanagh,